How I'm Trying to Pretend I'm Not a Man Over 40
In the two years since I turned 40, I noticed some changes.
I was waking up tired. I was having trouble remembering details and maintaining concentration. I was getting stiff and sore for no reason. My energy level was sometimes lower than normal. I was becoming more prone to injury from high-impact activities like running and for the first time in my life I had to watch what I was eating or risk gaining weight.
It turns out that these issues, and more, are pretty common for men over 40.
Over the past year, I've developed a few strategies that have helped me a great deal.
They do take time and commitment, but the result of these changes is that I've lost weight, gained some muscle, improved my focus and concentration, increased my energy level, and ... well ... I'm happier.
If that sounds like something you'd benefit from, read on!
Several studies have now suggested that social media use has a direct and significant negative impact on mental health.
I Started Meditating & Reducing Distractions
I make money with my brain and the way that I interact with actual, living humans in person. Therefore, improving my focus, mood, and concentration was a top priority for me. I did some research and learned two things:
- Several studies have now suggested that social media use has a direct and significant negative impact on mental health. Here's a link to one of those.
- Dozens of studies point to positive mental health benefits of meditation, including focus and concentration. Here's an article discussing that.
First, I started using an app on my phone for 10-20 minutes a day called . I love Calm because it's quick, simple, doesn't send me notifications, and doesn't pressure me to use it. It's just there. I made it a part of my morning routine and then later I started using it again to get back into a calm frame of mind before heading home. Calm
My next step was to reduce social media use, but it quickly occurred to me that the problem isn't just social media. Every app which sends me notifications, is an app with permission to interrupt me when I'm with my wife and children.
So I looked at my phone's notification settings and realized that there were more than sixty apps bugging me throughout the day, many of which have no reason at all to bother me, ever. I turned almost all of them off. Then I deleted Facebook.
Now, I decide where to direct my attention, and that has made a hugely positive impact on my life.
- Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity - Mayo Clinic
Improve your heart health, mood, stamina and more with regular physical activity.
I Started Exercising Daily
My next focus had to be my physical health. Regular exercise has benefits for physical, mental, and emotional health. I actually enjoy exercise, but I always find a way to talk myself out of going to the gym. I decided to short circuit that process by finding ways to exercise at home. I have absolutely no extra money to build or outfit a home gym, however.
I tried a few things, including apps and workout plans I found on the internet, but I eventually settled on the programs and I'm a huge fan of T25 as a starting point. But there are nearly unlimited options out there. Beachbody on Demand
My goal has been to exercise at least 30 minutes per day, at least five days per week and, of all the changes I've made, exercise has had the most significant impact on my life. It has led to improvements in every area mentioned in this post and some that aren't.
I Started Eating More Vegetables
I know "eat vegetables" seems like obvious advice to give, but I'm on the road a lot. It's usually far easier to grab a sandwich and eat it while driving than it is to grab a salad. Besides, I don't really like salad.
The breakthrough, for me, came with the realization that a large bowl filled with two big handfuls of leafy greens (NOTE: think kale, spinach, or chard - not lettuce) is two servings of vegetables, but it cooks down to just four bites. Even if you hate vegetables, you can eat four bites a day, can't you?
As for multivitamins and supplements, I've never been a big advocate of supplements in general. I've always responded to suggestions that I take supplements with something like "No thanks, I'll just get what I need by eating better."
Eating better would have been a great strategy, if I ever really had any intention of doing it. I didn't. A Multivitamin is a good way to pick up the slack.
Within a week of adding more vegetables to my diet, I was feeling a lot better on all fronts.
Quick & Delicious Microwaved Leafy Greens
- 4 Cups Leafy Greens (not lettuce)
- 1 tsp Water
- 1/2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- To Taste Salt & Pepper
- Place two huge handfuls of spinach, kale, or other leafy green mixture (not lettuce) into a large microwaveable bowl.
- Add 1 tsp of water and microwave on high for 90 seconds.
- Remove from microwave and add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
I Started Taking Care of My Skin
I'm an Army veteran and spent a good part of my youth working outdoors, not on a farm exactly, but doing similar sorts of work. Nothing in my childhood or my young adult life pointed me toward the idea of using sunscreen, moisturizer, or anything other than soap and shampoo.
That may have been fine when I was young, but 40+ skin is different than 20 year old skin. Moreover, a lot of the soaps and shampoos on the market contain various sulfates that can irritate your skin.
I was given some samples of some natural skin and hair products at the mall one weekend and forgot all about them until my next business trip, when I threw them into my Dopp kit. I used them the first day and noticed a difference immediately. My face felt tighter in a good way and I didn't itch so much. My beard was softer. Me eyes weren't quite as puffy. It really was an amazing change.
I've since made taking care of my skin, especially my face, a priority. People have noticed.
At a minimum, start using a high quality daily face lotion with some sun protection in it.
But I Still Can't Sleep...
I've struggled with insomnia my whole life and never made any lasting progress. Meditation and exercise have the greatest impact, but I still have trouble getting to bed on time.
What has helped, a bit, is forcing myself to get up obscenely early. Now I accomplish a lot, early in the day, and it's easier to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. But all I've really managed to do is shift my waking hours back a bit. I'm still getting less than 6 hours sleep a night. If you have ideas on how I could improve my sleep habits - I'd love to hear them in the comments!