Lordy, lordy, I'm hittin' 40!
September 26, 2008 2:56 PM   Subscribe

So I just turned 40. Rather than treating it like a midlife crisis, I'm viewing this as a new opportunity to get my second wind - to kill old habits that have left me sedentary and overweight, and to start new habits that will help me live a healthy and enriching life.

I'm going to start with the basics - more water, sleep, exercise, etc. - but over the next year I'd like to incorporate other things to help use my time more wisely and just get more done (less TV, more time with kids, clean house).

What other things can I do to live a better life? I know this is wide open, but I'd like to hear a wide variety of things - habits that will help me, my family, friends, even the world around me. I got some good ideas from this post.
posted by adverb to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not 40. Am I still allowed to contribute?

Besides sleep, exercise (or at least not sitting all day), and cutting out refined foods except for occasional treats, the thing that makes my life more meaningful is cutting out half my activities.

I overbook and then whatever I'm doing, whomever I'm speaking to, I'm thinking about the next thing instead of what's in front of me. If I underbook I'm less stressed and have the mental bandwidth to fully participate. Plus if there's a bored dog or kid that needs playing with, I can fit it in.

This morning I spent 15 minutes watching a crew pour concrete into the foundation of a new skyscraper which, it turns out, is a hell of a big project and totally brings out my inner 8 year old.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:09 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

Read. Every day. ten minutes, an hour, whatever you have. And don't waste your time reading generic stuff like Tom Clancy/John Grisham/etc. It's entertaining, but it's not truly great literature. Read stuff that is: Oscar Wilde, Plato, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Flannery O'Connor, etc. You might expect Machiavelli's Mandragola to be impenetrable or Thomas More's Utopia to be exceptionally dense, but they really aren't. In fact, they're actually entertaining Imagine that.

It sharpens your mind and makes you a more thoughtful person than reading yet another suspenseful spy novel (which are good if read only occasionally)
posted by Autarky at 3:12 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

This isn't going to work unless you make it fun, too, and right now I'm seeing a lot of chores: more water! more sleep! more exercise! less tv! clean the house! Okay, more time with kids is good, but a bit abstract.

How about some hobbies? If they can incorporate some of the chores above, like exercise or kid-spending-time, then that is a bonus, but they don't all have to. What have you always wanted to do that you've always been too busy for? A sport, something woodworky/crafty? (Men can be crafty; it's the 21st century. And crafting/building has a lot of practical use re:household organizing.) You probably already know this, but if you want to bring the kids into your new hobby, you should approach them carefully - depending on your exact dynamic with them, the idea of a new Family Thing with Dad can be either really cool or absolutely revolting.

Personal example: when I was in my mid/late teens, my dad took up scuba diving. Over the next couple of years, he convinced the rest of us (Mum, older brother, me) to take lessons and get our PADI licences. Now we try and go diving for a week every two years at least, and it's a great way for the family to spend time together - it's also been very important in shaping how I see the world and the environment around me. I also suspect it's been very helpful for getting him in shape for his other sport of choice, mountain hiking/climbing.
posted by bettafish at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Teaching Company has great courses on a wide variety of topics. Spend your daily commute listening to something interesting and educational rather than music or "morning shows".
posted by flexiblefine at 3:22 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Develop a ritual where you spend quality time with your kids. Go to the library every Wednesday. Friday night movie and game night. Go to breakfast every Saturday. Go for a walk every Sunday, etc. Pick something you all like doing and stick with it. You and your kids will remember this ritual fondly.

Have a standing date night with your significant other.
posted by Fairchild at 3:46 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

give of yourself. Find something you are good at and can tutor/mentor someone in, an age group you connect with easily, a project you find worthy, and then jump in. If you can find a way to do this and include your family, even better.
posted by agentwills at 4:22 PM on September 26, 2008

Welcome to the club! I turned 40 yesterday.

I'm focusing on eliminating things that don't improve my life. Yesterday I cleaned out a drawer in my work desk. Today I deleted some blogs from my feed reader that just don't give me anything any more. I don't know yet what I'll pitch tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to finding out.
posted by shiny blue object at 4:29 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm right there with you.

First, it's just a number. You are only as old as you think you are, yada yada. That said, it's a good milestone to tie some introspection/goal-setting/behavior changes to.

Some great suggestions for new/better habits above, and I suggest picking some small/med/large size goals to go after, and then update your processes/habits to support. It's fun to identify the goals, and you can track your progress around/toward them. And if they're not working for you, change them up.

Yes, yes, it's all about the journey, but it helps to have a destination in mind.

(and don't forget to stop and smell the roses, and appreciate each day. No matter how old you are...)
posted by noahv at 4:45 PM on September 26, 2008

I got some good advice on quitting one time and now might be a good time to apply it. "Don't quit because something is hard; quit because it isn't taking you where you want to go."

Go where you want to go. Reduce/eliminate that which takes you elsewhere.

[making reminder note to self]
posted by trinity8-director at 4:47 PM on September 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

You are only as old as you think you are, yada yada.

PSA: On behalf those of us still doing the online dating thing, if you are 57 DO NOT advertise yourself as 40 "because age is just a number." Thank you.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:50 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

The main thing you have to watch out for is slipping into a lazy pattern and gradually forgetting about your new healthy targets. Parents got into that habit.

So, my advice would be to take up a few weekly classes; they don't have to be active as such, just something to keep you up and about and entertained by something than other than the idiot box.
posted by jhighmore at 5:40 PM on September 26, 2008

Embrace your inner midlife crisis but in a positive way. Do something you've always wanted to do like learn to ride a motorcycle, start writing a novel or playing guitar.

As someone on the wrong side of 40, I decided to learn how to play guitar. I don't know that I'm helping the world around me but you should see my 4 year old's face light up when I play the "Imperial March" on my dirty little fender amp.
posted by cjets at 6:04 PM on September 26, 2008

Try to see more sunsets. (This might get you out walking, too.)

Try to deepen more friendships.

More reading, less tv, yes.

Make more things from scratch; find out more about how things work.

Trust your own experience.

I'm aiming for all of these and more (I'm a few months shy of 40, myself).
posted by Riverine at 7:28 PM on September 26, 2008

Happy birthday, I just turned 40 a few weeks ago and I was sort of pleased that a late-30's breakup kicked my ass into gear to do soe of the stuff you're thinking about a few years ago. It was really nice to enter 40 in the best shape I've probably been in for the last 20 years and you can look forward to looking back at 40 and saying "oh hey it just gets better, how cool..." in a little bit.

First off I totally concur with the making times/dates for kid time and spouse time. It's easy to make little schedules like library visits and 15 minutes of reading or whatever that are things you can do for you [hey reading more is okay for you as well] and gives you together time with the kids. Scheduling means you can also set things like when the TV goes off [or TV free days] and/or when you cook meals together or go for after-meal walks.

I'm with Riverine that working on friendships is a really good use of sort of "middle age" time. You and your friends have kids and families and responsibilities and it's easy to lose track. Find ways to stay in touch even if it's just to tell friends you're thinking of them, or planning a bike ride together. These things are good for your heart which in turn is good for the rest of you.

I also think it's good to aim for small/medium/large as noahv says. One year I was just feeling crappy and I made just a few plans for myself but they were useful

- get enough to eat, and eat well
- get enough sleep and sleep well
- try to destress
- be around things that smell good

and these helped me sort of guide things that were "helping" and things that were not. So, it's okay to start small and put a few things on the hrizon like dropping 20 pounds or whatever. Just think as you go "am I getting closer to these goals or further from them..." and have that in mind as you move forward. Don't beat yourself up if you slip or have a week of all TV and popcorn, just get up and move forward.

Above all forgive and love yourself and those around you. Having a mind and brain free of anger, regret and spite is really one of the best ways to clear a path to do other improvements (I've heard). Good luck and happy birthday again.
posted by jessamyn at 7:41 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

What Aurtaky said.

posted by Mephisto at 6:00 AM on September 27, 2008

Excellent advice above.


* learn something. Me, I like learning languages and musical instruments. This is a great time to review your internal list of things you always wished you had time to learn - and then buy a book or sign up for a class. (By the way, the Teaching Company courses mentioned by flexiblefine absolutely rock, and many libraries carry a few, so you can get your feet wet that way.)
* start keeping a journal or log, even if it's brief. When you start making changes, it can be easy to lose sight of how much you've accomplished. The log keeps your successes in front of you.

Happy Birthday!
posted by kristi at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2008

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