CONFRONT YOUR VICES
Your bad habits are no doubt deeply ingrained by the time you are in your 40s, but by this time you also have a clear sense of the kind of damage and distraction they can bring to your life satisfaction. Now is the time to take a closer look at your behaviors and get impatient with your vices.“If you smoke, drink more than you should (more than one drink for women and two for men per day on a regular basis), gamble excessively, use drugs, or struggle with other forms of addiction, it is critical to confront those bad habits and take action,” says Lisa Doggett, a family physician based in Austin. “The consequences of unchecked vices can increase with age, and reaching out to a physician, supportive friend, or other resources in the community can make a big difference.”
MAKE PREVENTIVE HEALTH CARE A PRIORITY
“Rates of chronic disease increase significantly as we age,” Doggett adds. “Conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension can be detected early through routine medical visits, and early treatment reduces the risk of heart disease and other complications. Cancer rates also rise as we age, so screening tests become more important in our 40’s.”Schedule annual (or semi-annual) physicals with your physician and be sure you are following the doctor’s orders.
UPDATE YOUR SKILLS
Whatever industry you are in, by the time you are in your 40s, things have changed significantly since you started—and they will just keep on changing. To remain valuable in your work (and make you more attractive to future employers) you need to do what Srini Pillay, a Harvard psychiatrist and author of Tinker Dabble Doodle Try calls “Developing a re-skilling mindset.”“Gone are the days when your basic qualifications and learning are enough. Learning has to be a lifelong process,” says Pillay. “And tinkering and dabbling will help to energize you by activating the explorer in you, while also helping you to discern what skill you next want to learn and develop.”
This might sound like the sort of thing you’d want to stop doing, and it’s true that just staring off into space when you should be working or doing work is not the most productive way to spend your time. But practicing what Pillay calls “positive constructive daydreaming” — i.e. daydreaming while doing something low key, such as knitting or gardening — will “refresh your focus and also help you to become more creative.” So set aside some free time to let your mind wander and you might be surprised what it stumbles upon.
SET ASIDE SPACE FOR YOURSELF
With work, family, friends, and all your other obligations, it can be easy to forget about yourself. Get in the habit of setting aside a few minutes each day to set aside all your other obligations and just consider how you are doing at that moment and how you are progressing on your longer-term life goals.“Whatever stage you’re in, it’s likely you may have lost sight of your own self, goals, or priorities,” says Julia Colangelo, therapist and clinical social worker. “Try to revisit how you’d ideally like to spend your time and create a space during your day to give yourself time to focus on yourself. This can be in the form of revisiting a hobby you thought you didn’t have time for, trying something new, or beginning a new routine for yourself at sunrise or sunset.”
WAKE UP EARLY
Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about: early risers do tend to get healthy, wealthy, and wise. Waking up early not only gives you an ideal timeframe to meditate, exercise, or get some reading in, it sets the tone for the rest of your day—you’ll find yourself arriving to work and other appointments early, finishing up projects earlier than you expected to, and enjoying a higher level of energy throughout the day.
Whether it’s going for walks in the park, admiring the stars in the night sky, or taking in the sunset, it’s good to get in the habit of appreciating the natural world. Spending time in nature has been found to reduce stress and improve life satisfaction—the physical exercise of going for a hike or mountain bike ride also doesn’t hurt, either.
EXERCISE IN THE MORNING
Whether it’s a full-blown workout or just a few minutes of stretches, get active as part of your morning ritual. It will sharpen your mind and have you feeling at once more relaxed and more focused throughout your morning. One killer exercise regimen to make part of your morning?
GO TO CONCERTS
The noise, the lack of personal space, the beer that will probably spill on you; there are numerous reasons why going to live music shows loses its attraction once you hit your 40s. But when you stop caring about pop culture or getting outside your comfort zone for an evening every now and then, you start losing your edge. You don’t want to be the old dude trying to pass as a twentysomething, but you don’t want to lose your sense of discovery.
ALWAYS HAVE A BOOK IN PROGRESS
It can be a novel, biography, self-help manual, or anything else, but you should always have a book that you are in the process of reading. This not only provides you with all the obvious benefits of a literate life—inspiration with new ideas, sharper reading skills, expanding knowledge—it also gives you a great conversation topic for any conversation. “I was reading about…” is an easy opener whether talking to a boss, friend, or a stranger in line at the grocery store.