Kourtney Kardashian is having an existential crisis about turning 40. Candace Bushnell regrets the road not taken. Anyone with a big birthday coming up—perhaps the kind that ends in a zero—can probably relate. But there’s still time to accomplish so much! Here’s a list of 25 positive life changes you can make, no matter how many candles are on your cake. Consider it a #goals list for the ages.
1. Let go of a grudge
Poets and philosophers say forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, and that forgiveness is divine. Doctors say it leads to less anxiety, depression and better immunity. Oscar Wilde said: “Forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.” So really, there’s no downside.
2. Make amends
As the great Justin Bieber asks, Is it too late now to say sorry? Justin, it is not. “I’m a big believer in making amends for yourself and your own personal growth,” writes Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out. She advises to “get clear on the primary reason you’re apologizing: are you doing it mostly to repair a broken relationship, or because you feel a personal, moral obligation to own your mistake?” Prepare yourself for the possibility that forgiveness may not be granted. Then apologize anyway and forgive yourself. (See #1.)
3. Improve your sleep
Womp womp alert. We pick up our sleep habits in childhood and by adulthood, they can be really tough to change. We also tend to have more trouble falling and staying asleep as we age. But there are tons of easy tricks you can try to retrain yourself—starting tonight: 1. Write down your anxieties in a worry journal, thus transferring them from your mind to the page. 2. Dock your phone in a different room. Even the blue light from a charging device can be stimulating. 3. Open the door, lower the temp to 67, and bring in an air-purifying plant. 4. Institute a consistent, soothing bedtime routine (reading, meditating, self-caring galore). 5. Stick to a sleep schedule, meaning you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (less Saturday snoozing = more time for all that reading and meditating). 6. If all else fails, lie awake in bed and try really hard not to fall asleep. It’s called paradoxical intention and the only thing more surprising than the concept itself is how well it works.
4. Study an instrument
You may have seen classical pianist Chloe Flower owning the stage with Cardi B at the Grammys, but her work with the neurology department at Massachusetts General Hospital promoting lifelong musicianship is equally impressive. Of learning an instrument as an adult, she’s said, “It’s never too late start, or to start again. One hour a week really is good for you.” Learning to play—even trying and playing terribly—exercises your brain, improves memory and may help prevent dementia. Say it with me now: All Cows Eat Grass…
5. Learn a new language
6. Delight in being alone
Reading, writing, exfoliating, bubble bathing, binge watching, maxing and relaxing—the list goes on of things best done alone. Research indicates that single folks are living longer, happier, healthier, sexier lives than married people. Singlehood, introversion, solo time—it’s no longer stigmatized; it’s celebrated. And even if we’re in a committed relationship and eating sausage in the shower to escape our children, we can all embrace the upsides of solitude.
7. Fall in love with your spouse all over again
We love this pearl of wisdom from marriage research hub The Gottman Institute: “There is profound drama in the micro-moments of love…Love is cultivated during the grind of everyday life. It’s the seemingly meaningless little moments”—a hug for no reason, an empathetic ear about some work drama, packing the kids’ lunches without being asked—“that are the most meaningful of all…Helping out with work around the house is likely to do far more for your relationship than a two-week vacation in Tahiti.”
8. Become a more empathetic, present parent
This advice from “Toddler whisperer” and director of The Center for Toddler Development at Barnard College, Tovah Klein, is game changing—and applies to raising kids of all ages. If you mess up as a parent and damage your relationship with your kid (by yelling, by saying something regrettable, or by just generally losing your sh—) making up matters more than the mistake: “It may sound odd, but the mishap is not the problem, so long as there is a positive reconnection, a repair,” says Klein. “The key at times like these—when their needs collide with ours—is how you reconnect with your child. Coming back together again, without blame, lets them know you are here for them, always, even when bad moments happen.”
9. Switch careers
Former figure skater and magazine editor Vera Wang decided to become a bridal designer at 40. That’s the same age high school English teacher Joy Behar was when she tried standup comedy. Director Ava DuVernay used to be a publicist. And before she was 32, Julia Child had never cooked a dish: “Up until then, I just ate.” Need more inspo? Here’s a list of successful women whose careers took off after they had kids.
10. Simplify your life
Did you know we only wear 20 percent of what’s in our closet, but that women are more susceptible to compulsive buying disorder? That too many extracurricular activities can actually harm kids’ development and well-being? And that in 2019, the World Health Organization officially recognized burnout (another mental health challenge that hits women harder) as a legitimate syndrome caused by work stress? It’s official: JOMO is the new FOMO.
11. Think more positively
Two words: gratitude journal. Write down things that you’re grateful for. That’s it. And if you need some assistance, try a Panda Planner!
12. Change your relationship with alcohol…or sugar…or caffeine
In a post about (mostly) giving up booze, happiness expert Gretchen Rubin writes: “It’s one of the most important secrets of adulthood: Just because something is fun for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s fun for me—and vice versa.” Play around with what actually works for you via elimination.
13. Make new friends
Oh my God there’s a Bumble for friends, and it’s called BFF. According to celeb ambassador Jameela Jamil, nearly half of all Americans admit to feeling left out often. Yikes. Making friends, researchers say, is like a muscle; it’s a skill that can atrophy, but it can also be strengthened. If you’re more of an analog friend-maker, a Cup of Jo reader offers this motivation to ask an acquaintance out for coffee: “What’s more flattering than having someone say they think you’re great and would like to meet again? Friendship starts with friendliness, not coolness.”
14. Move to a new city
People are switching cities in record numbers. And millennials are twice as likely to move to a new county as the average American. So you won’t be the only one doing it. But don’t worry, you also won’t be the oldest. “I’ve definitely seen an uptick in people post-50 who have made the decision to move to New York,” real estate sales manager Joan Kagan tells the New York Post.
15. Push your style
“Someday” is not the day to try leopard, sneakers with a dress or a neon green hair-tie. That day is today.
16. Eat more plants
We’re not saying you have to do the full Beyoncé. But trying to incorporate one of our 15 most nutritious vegetables into your next meal is a perfect way to start.
17. Break up with your phone
Kevin Roose wrote about his screen dependence for the New York Times and we felt seen: “I found myself incapable of reading books, watching full-length movies or having long uninterrupted conversations.” He discovered remedies like a “digital sabbath,” when you go phone-free one day a week, and changed his lock screen to prompt him with three questions every time he went to access his phone: “What for? Why now? What else?” We could probably all benefit from asking ourselves the same.
18. Break up with a toxic friend
Researchers say we tend to stick with friendships we’ve invested lots of time in, regardless of whether they continue to benefit us. We say life’s too short. So if you see the signs of a toxic relationship, it’s probably time to cut the cord.
19. Go blonde
20. Go back to school
The average age of the American graduate student is 33. 40 percent of female grad students are over 35. In short: Get it.
21. Get your finances in order
Financial therapist Dr. Brad Klontz swears the first step is reading a book—any book—about personal finance.
22. Build a habit of meditating
“It took me 20 or 30 years of trying, but I finally have a meditation practice thanks to meditation apps,” author Elizabeth Gilbert said recently. “God, if they’d always had apps I would’ve been able to meditate years ago.”
23. Stop killing every plant you touch
And if you do continue to kill them all, just go for a great faux plant. No shame.
24. Start exercising
This woman trained for her first marathon at 60. Just sayin.
25. Like yourself
Here’s Gwyneth Paltrow summing up aging, menopause and losing the sense that you are—by societal standards—still a sexual being. "Luckily, what’s happening at the same time in parallel is you just start to like yourself. I think you get to a point where it’s almost like your sort of pulchritude is waning in a way and your inner beauty is, like, really coming out.” Here’s to late bloomers.