The Best Habits of Women in Their 40s That You Should Have Too

If you’ve found yourself thinking, “Wow, youth really is wasted on the young!” then this article is for you.

We’ll try not to generalize too much here, but to speak from a *little bit* of experience and fill in the void with some expert advice we’ve found. If you’re like us, you spent your 20s (and a chunk of your 30s) figuring out who you are, what you want, and creating the steps to get it.

Then, there is this sudden whiplash as you near the fifth decade of your life, your 40s. Suddenly, you wish you were back on the family cellular plan.

Instead, you’re told your pregnancy is considered geriatric (lol), your thyroid is being an absolute jerk, and you’re suddenly at an increased risk for bone loss, a variety of cancers, and heart disease.

Oh, and get ready for menopause—or perimenopause. Okay, but getting older is actually amazing—here’s why.

This Is 40

Things have changed—a lot—in the past 20 years. Contrary to what all those aughts romcoms taught us, 30 years old is not old. 40 is not old. You don’t need to be the romantic lead to have “made it.”
There is wisdom in a life lived, and even if you’re not old by the time you’re blowing out 41 candles on your birthday cake (one for good luck!), you have learned things. You have lived through heartbreak, mistakes, loss, gains, and you have the advice to give.

What we’re saying to anyone in their 20s or 30s is: listen to advice. Pick out the advice that resonates with you and move through your life. Without further ado, here are our favorite habits and practices from women who have reached mid-life.

1. They Prioritize Health

As women age, there is increased attention to screening for breast cancer with mammograms, calcium deficiencies and osteoporosis, cholesterol, and general prevention of health issues that affect women.

While you can hold out on those specific exams until then, there are many other reasons to see your physician once a year before that time. Women of every age should seek an annual gynecological exam, which typically includes a clinical breast exam, a pelvic exam, and a pap test to screen for cervical cancer.

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And if you feel like you aren’t financially able to swing it, familiarize yourself with your health insurance benefits—you might even qualify for a health coach who can help you determine what checkups are best.

2. They Prioritize Self-Care

Self-care is an extension of healthcare. Mental health feeds directly into your physical health. Self-care is not the weekly massage, the chemical peel, or the shoes. I mean, it could be, but the point is as follow: Self-care does not have to equate to spending money. 

Think of self-care as being cognizant of how you spend your time and energy. Focus on getting sleep, doing less doomscrolling, reading more, watching a movie that makes you happy, and spending time with people who make you laugh.

3. They Get More Confident

In our favorite study ever, research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found that women’s confidence increases as they navigate their lives. While women are less confident than men in their 20s and 30s, by age 40, they catch up to men’s confidence levels, but that’s not all.

While men stagnate in their confidence levels, women continue to become more confident—and women are actually more confident than their male counterparts by age 60. Tell that to a red sports car!

The advice here? Setbacks are tough, but they are ultimately learning experiences. Regard your missteps, re-routes, and your perceived failures as stepping stones to your success—and formulate the advice you can give to a younger person in the future.

4. They Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods

Anyone who hit puberty in the midriff era knows a thing or two about counting calories and foregoing a calcium-rich ice cream for a box of Snackwells, which had low calories and even lower nutrients.

Yikes, dark times.

With a good handle on nutrients over calorie counting, women of a certain age know it’s much more important to eat food with calcium, vitamin D (because apparently, we’re all deficient), and foods that boost metabolism (like fruits, vegetables, fish, and lean meats). What can’t be derived from foods on a daily basis (perishable food = expensive food) can be filled in with supplements or daily vitamins.

Okay, it doesn’t have to be salmon, but women in their forties realize that eating vitamin D-rich foods will help suppress depression and stress, both of which are more likely to spike around this time.

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So, get used to eating salmon in your twenties, and you’ll avoid the winter blues for decades to come.

5. They Wear Sunscreen

By this point, we have all grown up knowing that sun protection and skin preservation are crucial to our health. If you’re spending $80+ on moisturizer and neglecting to layer sunscreen over it, you’re wasting money and endangering your skin.

And if they didn’t in previous decades, they regret it now that they’re facing skin cancer screenings. They also tend to buy more expensive skincare products with their expendable income.

Since you don’t necessarily have those extra funds in your twenties and thirties, we’ll try and make it simple: just wear the sunscreen.

6. They Spend Time With Their Parents + Family

“But I just moved out!” We know.

Spend time with your parents, your siblings, or your chosen family. That’s right. Not all blood relations are great for your mental health, but your chosen family is important, too.

These are the people who know and love you. They’re the people who enrich your life, who make you belly laugh like nobody else. And spending that extra time with them? A recent study shows that spending more time with advanced-age folks will actually help them live longer.

7. They Adopt a Work-Life Balance That Fits

Women in their forties have spent their twenties and thirties pleasing others and saying “yes” to far too many things.

So by the time they’ve reached this decade, their ideals and values are enough established that choosing family over fun and long trips over long hours are sure-fire ways of achieving balance.

8. They Embrace Change

Unlike many of us, women who are 40 know that life is full of unexpected twists and turns. By now, they’ve learned that lamenting over change is counterproductive and we’d do well to learn that, too.

9. They Save Money + Spend Wisely

Yes, women in their forties likely have a little more money in their accounts than most 22-year-olds.

By the time they have reached their mid-career point, if a woman in her 40s has avoided the perils of lifestyle creep, she has some extra money to put away. And she does!

Financial Rule: Start Young, Not Big

Learn more about HYSAs, 401Ks, Roth IRAs, and savings templates. The biggest myth about building a financial future is that you have to start big. The reality is that it’s much more advantageous to start saving early, even if it’s five dollars a month.

10. They Take Professional Development Into Their Own Hands

While you’re searching for a mentor, women in their 40s are unintentionally mentoring all day long.

As a young professional, we highly recommend finding a mentor, taking an online class, even watching a webinar, and doing what you need to do to pave your own way and personally invest in your professional development.

11. They Re-Evaluate Their Lives

When Oprah turned 40, she not only reassessed her show, she reassessed her life. For many months, she acknowledged she’d “been guilty of doing trash TV and not even thinking it was trash.” So she intentionally shifted the premise of her show away from what was popular and back to what she set out to do.

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Re-evaluating your life should be a regular practice. What “worked” for us at age 22 is likely not going to fit into our lives by the time we’re 40 years old.

Some ways to pre-plan or re-plan your life can include:

    • Making (and editing) 5-year plans
    • Removing toxic elements from our life (bad jobs, bad friends, bad partners)

In Conclusion—Don’t Wait

There’s a common feeling of being young forever, then waking up to midlife quite unexpectedly. Suddenly, we feel behind on the healthy habits that keep us alive and well.

The saying goes that youth is wasted on the young. Let’s not waste our 20s and 30s ignoring the advice of beautiful women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond.

Also, call your mom.

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