When I was in high school, I thought that by the time I reached my 40s, my life would be set. I expected that my professional life and my love life would be clearly defined by this age, that I’d have a steady partner and a steady income.
I was wrong.
Fortunately, I don’t think I’m alone. What maturity has taught me is that we never really “arrive.” Life isn’t static. We all go through stages. One phase of life ends and another begins. If we’re growing, we’re always starting over and reinventing ourselves, if only in small ways.
The decade when most of us begin examining our lives more closely is the 40s, perhaps because we’ve lived long enough to know what isn’t working by that point, but we’re still young enough to make changes that can have lasting results.
“We typically face a crossroads moment in the 40s,” says clinical psychologist Maria Sirois. “Maybe we’ve had a recent diagnosis or our work is no longer fulfilling. Maybe our children have left home, our marriage or partnership has fallen apart, or we’re retired from one profession and wondering what’s next. We’re looking to make wise choices about where to put our time and energy so the second half of life is healthy, happy, and meaningful.”
It’s not uncommon around the four-decade mark to want to reclaim our lives—to make them an honest reflection of who we are at our core, so we’re living authentically rather than from someone else’s script.
Maria says reclaiming our lives means choosing health, well-being, and joy over depression, worry, self-criticism and pessimism. “On a practical level,” she explains, “it means loving yourself as best you can each day. It means asking how you can elevate your day by even five percent, because every time you nourish your body, mind, heart, and spirit, you have more positive energy and vitality to bring to this world.”
Are you at a crossroads moment? Here are Maria’s recommendations for rejuvenating and reclaiming life after 40—but they work for all ages!
- Practice mindfulness in the form of meditation, yoga, prayer, or mindful writing. “In addition to its relaxation benefits,” Maria says, “mindfulness also increases awareness of two crucial questions: What do you need in this moment? and What do you want?”
- Embrace your choir. “Spend more time with like-minded folks and less time with people who are toxic,” Maria says. “This bolsters happiness and resilience.”
- Exercise. Engaging in a physical activity that you enjoy is key. “Exercise is a fantastic antidepressant and anti-anxiety tool that’s crucial to overall well-being,” Maria notes.
- Ask yourself, “What could I do to make my day five percent happier?” “Doing something that brings you pleasure or meaning will alter your experience of your day,” Maria says. In order to make positive transformation happen, we have to behave as if we’re our own best friend, and act from a place of positive self-regard and self-care.
My 40s have been a rollercoaster ride—a divorce, a love affair, two cross-country moves, more work than I can realistically accomplish, not enough work to pay my bills, lots of solitude, buckets of tears, and a healthy dose of personal growth.
I’m definitely looking to reclaim my life so that it more closely mirrors my deepest desires, so that it feels more meaningful and authentic. For me, that starts with the willingness to turn inward and listen to my inner voice instead of my “should” voice. My inner voice knows that the foundation of the life I long to live can be found in simple things: healthy food, walks in nature, adequate sleep, supportive friends, a loving partner, and unstructured quiet time to feed my spirit. And from there, the world is my oyster—I can create anything I want!
Join us to Reclaim Life After 40!