LAUGH AND SMILE
You hopefully already do this, but as you get older, you may have lost some of your cheery disposition as you’ve aged and responsibilities have required you to get more serious. But getting into the habit of smiling when you enter a room and laughing easily and openly when you appreciate something is not only contagious—leading others to follow your lead and putting more positive vibes out into the world—it is also healthy for you, picking your mood up, reducing stress, and even improving your heart health.
Take the time to point out the things you like about others—friends, coworkers, cab drivers. Just a quick approving comment about someone’s shoes or the way they told a story or the work they are doing will leave both of you feeling better. Getting into the regular habit of handing out compliments like they are Halloween candy will also raise your own status in the eyes of those you’re speaking with.
When was the last time you took a trip? While saving is important, you should also be budgeting for some memorable travel at least a couple times a year. “Travel outside your zip code, travel outside your country, and most importantly, travel outside your comfort zone once in a while,” urges Pedalino. “Go see how other people live and learn from their culture. You’ll learn things like ‘you can actually make half as much money but be twice as happy.’”
Another habit that provides major benefits—mental, physical, and more—is meditation.“Our world is far too fast-paced and there are far too many perceived threats in it for our amygdalas to manage,” says Jonathan DeYoe, author of Mindful Money and founder of DeYoe Wealth Management. “Remember, there was a time when we could be awakened by a saber-toothed tiger and we would have to defend our family from being eaten. Our brain is designed to be ready for that. This is why our ‘Loss-Aversion Sensors’ tend towards overreaction to perceived threats. Mindfulness practice can slow our natural reactivity and help us think through better solutions.”
BUILD AN EMERGENCY FUND
If you are on top of basic savings and spending goals (squirreling cash into your 401k, paying down your credit card), consider adding another worthwhile habit: setting aside some money into an “emergency fund” that would be there to rescue you if something seriously debilitating were to hit—a job loss, severe illness, or otherwise.
Timothy Wiedman, associate professor of management and human resources at Doane University suggests setting aside at least three months’ worth of living expenses for this.“If you’d be temporarily eligible for unemployment benefits, figure the estimated amount of those benefits into the total amount of emergency funds that you’d need,” he advises. “Try to keep those funds in a separate FDIC-insured account that pays a decent rate of interest, but keep an eye out for any ‘strings’ attached to the account that might reduce (or negate) the advertised interest rate.”
“Sitting really is the new smoking because living a sedentary lifestyle increases inflammation and inflammation is the root of most chronic disease,” says Walter Gaman, co-author of Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health. “Most of the jobs that people in their 40s have call for heavy computer work. While your fingers may be going ninety to nothing, your large muscles are sitting stagnant.”Get a standing or treadmill desk. Take microbreaks throughout the day to stretch or walk around the block. Do what it takes to avoid getting into sedentary mode.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR GUT HEATH
While you want to eat wisely to help keep your weight under control, it’s not just the size of your gut that you should be concerned about.“Eighty percent of your immunity is in your gut,” says Gaman. “Protecting your microbiome should be top priority. Do this by avoiding artificial sweeteners and increasing your intake of prebiotic and probiotic rich foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, asparagus.”
KEEP TECHNOLOGY OUT OF THE BEDROOM
In a few short years, smartphones have moved from novelty to new appendage for many. But as much convenience and entertainment as these devices provide, they can also be dangerous to our mental health and development of good habits.“When it comes to sleep, 40 somethings are the worst,” says Gaman.
“Most of their sleep disturbances come from overuse of technology—the blue light emitted from smart phones, computers, and televisions disrupt the natural circadian rhythm because it inhibits the production of melatonin. Avoid electronics two hours before bed and opt for a great novel instead.”
SPEND THE MORNING THINKING BIG-PICTURE
Another good reason to keep smartphones out of the bedroom: it will help you to stop checking your email first thing each morning. Once you’re in your 40s, you should be using those first minutes after you wake up to focus on your goals for the day, and think about longer-term hopes for the day and the weeks ahead—rather than immediately getting caught up in the latest news or a random text you received at night.
SCHEDULE FUN FIRST
You have your set work schedule and always add professional obligations and meetings to your calendar. But once you get into your 40s, it’s a good time to start considering whether you are making time for the things that really make your life meaningful.“Most people in their 40s have schedules filled with things they barely want to do, or outright hate, like work, meetings, and appointments,” says David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert who runs the website The Popular Man. “Start scheduling good things, like meeting friends, going on a hike, visiting a relative you haven’t seen in years, etc. You’ll find that if you start scheduling positive things, you do more of those positive things, and feel better.”