Turning 40 can often come with a feared, maligned and ambiguous decade to follow. It can feel middle-aged because, statistically, it is in the middle. That’s how these things work.
But, you typically know yourself better and can be more at peace with life. And it’s an opportunity to make the rest of your life better, adapting based on the lessons you’ve learnt.
So, here are a few suggestions for little ways to tweak your life at 40 for the better – from someone who’s already half way through the decade.
Put yourself in places where conversations can happen
Firstly, make time for a real conversation. By real conversation, I mean in person or on a phone call, but it’s about the substance of the conversation, too. While messaging is fine and practical for so many reasons, there’s really no substitution for actual chats that allow for more nuance.
Make time for this by putting yourself in situations where conversations can happen. Rather than gigs or films, for example, go to the pub, host a meal, arrange a picnic. Or go to the gig/film and allot a couple of hours afterwards to discuss it. Conversations makes us better, smarter people who are more connected.
It’s very easy and comforting to disappear into our phones. You can have very basic conversations on Twitter or in group chats, but nothing gives those synapses a workout like having to listen and respond to live words. The old adage rings true – it’s good to talk.
Eating less of certain things means you should eat better
Eating less and eating better is important, too. There’s no escaping that after 40 your metabolism decides that it’s going to put its feet up more and more. This doesn’t mean that you can’t stay healthy and in shape, though. It does, however, require a little more effort on the exercise front and a little more discipline with watching what you’re eating.
It’s really about tweaking to eat less of certain things, which in turn, means you should eat better. And better doesn’t necessarily mean a diet of shoots and sprouts seasoned with nothing but best intentions. It means really good food, from the finest fish to the juiciest burgers, and the creamiest of ice-creams, just less often.
When you get into yours 40s, you get to eat better food because you can afford it more, you get to enjoy it without guilt, and you get to appreciate those moments. It’s a healthier relationship all in.
Committing time to a good cause will expand your horizons
It’s also a good time to care more. In your 20s and 30s, we tend to focus on finding our way in the world. We want to have fun, carve out a career, maybe find that special person or special people in our lives, think about having kids, think about not having kids, try to buy a house, and so on.
By the time we hit 40, we’ve either done a lot of this or decided that we really don’t want to do it. Wherever you are, you should hopefully have more time on your hands.
Committing that time to a good cause of some sort will also expand your horizons and make you feel a much better about yourself – and those you help. And let’s face it, there’s a lot of people/animals/planets that need our help right now.
Use your emotional capacity for things that are worth your energy
Paradoxically, we should also care less. Care less about what other people think of you, care less about looking cool, care less about trying to please people, care less about ruling the world and care less about filling our bank accounts. It’s a time to let some of those less important or logical cares go.
Because it is possible to get compassion fatigue. The more emotional capacity you have, the more you can direct your emotions towards things that are worth your energy, making others and yourself happier.
It’s also good to be open to learning. It’s very tempting, after four decades of absorbing the world, to think you know as much as you’ll ever need to. But that’s not correct. And it can be unhealthy. Not because you should try to “be down with the kids” but because it helps you understand different generations, nationalities, schools of thought and the like.
You can change career and learn something new
This doesn’t mean ignore your experience. Not all that’s newer is better, but it is important to stay open and receptive to different lessons and skills that might come your way.
This also covers the notion of change. You can change career and learn something new. Why not? You’ve been working for about 20 years and you’ll be working at least another twenty, so why not try something new if you fancy it?
In 10 years, you’ll be an experienced pro – and a much happier one – meaning you can start a new relationship, travel, take up a hobby, relocate, change your name, all with the confidence of age.
Walking is free and it encourages you to get up and moving
Taking up exercise is hugely beneficial, too. And walking is one of the most practical and enjoyable forms of it. You’re not exercising for the sake of it because you’re en route to somewhere. You can walk to a black-tie event in December or a beach party in July. It’s eco-friendly, it’s free and it encourages you to get up and moving.
It’s also really enjoyable. It’s hard to type on your phone while you’re walking, so you’re more likely to listen to a podcast or music, have a conversation or just enjoy the benefit of movement. No chat, no videos, just you and the world around you. And if you get a dog it can become even more enjoyable.
And, finally, say yes because you don’t want to be putting things off if you don’t have to. It’s definitely accurate that time is, as it currently stands, unstoppable – as is the ageing process.
New experiences expand the mind and give new perspective
This also means you only have a certain window to do things you want to do and that window can be even smaller for anything that requires your body to exert itself physically. Saying yes is a way to a happier healthier life and being a more rounded and interesting individual.
If all of your days are the same for the next 40 or 50 years, it can be easy to feel stuck. New experiences expand the mind, give new perspectives and are good for your mental health.
A bit of risk, getting out of your comfort zone and into the unknown, is healthy, no matter what the result. You don’t have skydive or take a trip to Antarctica (although there are some great reasons to join a group tour in your 40s). It could be as simple as joining a choir or taking up knitting. Whatever it is, just say yes to the adventure.
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Images: Flash Pack