If you want to be happier in middle age, say goodbye to these 9 habits

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When I was in my 20s, the concept of being middle-aged sounded so alien and far away.

I suppose it’s part of the “folly of the youth”, when you feel like the world is your oyster, there are no limits, and you’ll be young forever. 

Fast forward a few decades later, and here I am, smack in the middle of middle age, and I have to say this:

I sure wish I’d been more careful in a few things when I was younger. I wish I’d known what habits to avoid so that happiness could have come more easily to me.

Today, that’s what I’ll be sharing with you – 9 habits to let go of if you want to be happier in middle age.

Let’s dive in!

1) People-pleasing

First up is people-pleasing, and any other habit that involves you living your life according to someone else’s standard.

Why is people-pleasing such a happiness sucker in the long run? Because it sets you up for a lifetime of regret.

In her book “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying,” palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware cites this as the #1 regret people have at the end of their lives: 

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I myself have a friend who passed away with this regret.

Once she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was hit with a wave of grief – not for the life she was leaving, but for the life she didn’t live. 

I don’t mean to be morbid or to sound like some harbinger of doom, but in middle age, mortality is no longer just some vague concept – it’s close enough to be real.

It’s close enough to give you a sense that time is running out.

So, whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, I hope you’ll realize that being yourself and living an authentic life should always be non-negotiable.

Whether people like you or not should not be your measure for decision-making.

Neither is…

2) Comparing yourself with others

How many times have you done this? Once? Twice? It’s a common habit and one I’ve done too many times.

In fact, in my 30s, I had a long spell of the blues because I felt like such a failure. 

I wasn’t as rich as my peers. I wasn’t as accomplished. I hadn’t traveled around the world as much. 

And when social media came along, these “failures” were even more highlighted.

Suddenly, I could see how everyone else was thriving while I lagged behind.

Some people go to the extreme of living their lives in order to “measure up” to others.

They go into debt buying expensive things, jump into the wrong relationship just to not be the single one in the group, and all that.

As for me, it was a long process to get to a place of self-love – one where I could see how my inner worth shouldn’t be tied to all of these standards.

I now see my own strengths and I’ve redefined my idea of success so I could be happier and live life on my own terms.

If this is a habit you struggle with, I urge you to look inwards so you can see your own self-worth, too.

That is a habit that will make you much happier in middle age.  

3) Spreading yourself too thin

Middle-aged people are in quite a difficult spot, as far as life stages go.

They are literally stuck in the middle, between caring for their children and caring for their aging parents.

Not to mention having to manage work responsibilities and maintaining a decent social life.

But if you’re smart, you can make the decision early on to edit your life well so that you can focus better on what truly matters.

You don’t have to be everything to everyone. If you insist on doing that, I assure you, you’re setting yourself up for burnout.

And possibly, a midlife crisis.

It can get so overwhelming that you eventually feel it’s all meaningless and unfulfilling. Which by the way, is why most midlife crises develop.

If you want to be happier in middle age, it’s pretty simple – choose quality over quantity. This brings me to my next point…

4) Not being picky with the friends you keep

As they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

Looking back at my own life, I can see clearly which people shouldn’t have been in my life longer than they were. 

I wasn’t very choosy. I hung out with people who didn’t have much of an ambition, who always chose easy over difficult, who handed out backhanded compliments

I could go on and on about the different types I allowed to sap my energy and affect my drive and self-esteem.

But the truth is, it was my fault for not being more discerning, wasn’t it?

Fortunately, I did learn this lesson in my mid-30s, at which point I started stepping back from those who didn’t have the same values as me.

Today, I’m much happier because though my friends are much fewer, they’re all of excellent quality.

Take this as your cue to look at your own circle and really assess who deserves to stay in your life. 

5) Sacrificing relationships for work

I’d be lying if I said I was the perfect friend or mom or partner or daughter myself, though. 

I’ve been guilty of flaking out on dinners with friends because of work.

I’ve lashed out at my husband and kids when stressed out due to a deadline.

I get it – work is essential. There are bills to pay and retirement to save for.

There are career ambitions that call for commitment and discipline.

Still, it shouldn’t get in the way of our relationships. In the long run, this habit will actually make us less happier.

Studies show that “social connectedness can lead to longer life, better health, and improved well-being.”

Besides, do you really want to add another regret at the end of your life? That’s right, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” was #2 on Bronnie Ware’s list! 

6) Clinging to the past

Do you have grudges you can’t let go of? A “peak era” you constantly think about wistfully?

The past can come in many forms – nostalgia, unresolved pain, moments of glory…and we can’t deny it, it’s part of who we are.

However, looking back and holding onto what was prevents us from having open hands towards the present and the future.

Just because you’re middle-aged doesn’t mean your life is over.

For many people I know, this life stage is actually their best!

And it got to be so because they have the wisdom to let go of the past and reach for the joys available to them today, and each day that they’re blessed with. 

7) Getting stuck in your comfort zone

Like I said, middle age doesn’t mean you’re over the hill. Don’t stay in valleys and pits just because society says that’s where you belong.

In fact, I’ve said this before – middle age is a lovely stage of life because, if you’ve lived your life right, it’s when:

  • You care less what people think
  • You’ve been through enough to know you can bounce back from adversity
  • You have the wisdom to make better choices

All of that should give you the courage you need to step out of your comfort zone.

You start to understand that life doesn’t have to be about settling or slowing down unless that’s what you choose.

Instead, it can be a time for reinvention and for taking risks (this reminds me of Madonna, who at 65 is still pushing the envelope for herself).

If you want a career change, a new hobby, a trip to somewhere you’ve never been, go for it.

It’s a surefire way to be happier in middle age! 

8) Neglecting financial planning and preparation

Of course, this has to be said. Money, after all, can make the difference between a comfortable and stressed life.

Middle age is much more enjoyable when you aren’t worrying about money.

If you started financial planning and preparation early, then it gives you the freedom to explore new avenues for personal fulfillment.

That freedom can open up a world of possibilities.

Financial stability allows you to focus on what truly matters to you and to live life on your own terms. 

9) Neglecting self-care

Finally, self-care should always be a priority, no matter what stage of life you’re in right now.

More than money, health is the real wealth.

You could have gazillions in your bank account but if you’re hooked up to a machine, that’s gonna have a real impact on your quality of life and happiness.

Okay, maybe that was too extreme an example, but you get the point.

There’s just no substitute for a healthy body and a sound mind.

Staying active, eating right, getting enough sleep, and managing stress give us more energy, clearer thinking, and the ability to enjoy all life’s moments.

All the better to stay awake for everything life has to offer in middle age!

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