*You can’t beat custom 40th Birthday Fallout Level Up art from Chuck Regan. Love this guy.
“Life really does begin at forty. Up until then you are just doing research.”
– Carl G. Jung, Individualist
At seventeen years old I was a long haired, semi-rebellious but good hearted guy who hung out with “the bad kids” and had aspirations of helping them with their problems.
Now I’m forty.
Our culture has some unkind opinions about that milestone age. Our bodies give out. Our minds begin to drift. We’re officially “over-the-hill” and rolling towards the grave. The best of life is over. I remember my Dad’s 40th birthday party. They said much the same thing. I also, more recently, remember his last birthday party—around 20 years later—and they’re still saying it! As though at some point “old” will kick in and life will fade. Over the course of those 20 years I saw the same man, living the same life, and in many ways, still improving. That’s still true at this moment.
This past week I had the same old jokes played on me, said to me and gag gifts given to me—some by my dear ol’ dad!—but I find that for myself and my contemporaries, none of those sentiments above are true. Through the course of informal peer interview I discovered that forty isn’t the new…well, any other age…because keeping an emotionally healthy view on forty makes it a pretty great milestone in itself.
Healthily, Happily Forty
“At 20 years of age the will reigns; at 30 the wit; at 40 the judgement.”
– Benjamin Franklin, Rebel
There’s not much research on how to turn forty happily, unless you want makeup tips, cream sales or vitamin supplements. Fear not! Our article on keeping a Power Perspective on life works equally well with turning any age. As we recall, emotional health prevents stress on the body, mind and spirit and is achieved by getting enough rest, staying grateful and making sure that our “belief or meaning systems” are balanced in time and expectation. As we read “if you can look fondly at the past, enjoy yourself in the present, strive for future goals and hold these time perspectives simultaneously (and don’t go overboard on any one of them) you’re likely to be a happy person” (Karabin, 2015).
As noted, much of our culture resigns the “growing old gracefully” at forty to ways to avert the decline of our bodies. That makes sense, it feels like the thing we have the least control over. However, we found that most interviewees took a greater interest in their health in their thirties so that in their 40s the focus was on maintaining or increasing that health. We went from talking about booze and crazy things to eat, to our exercise regimens or fun conversations about vegetables. As Mr. Franklin said above, as “the will” of the twenties began to wane, “the wit” of the thirties started to notice a new level of abilities which are now beginning to be executed in “the judgement” of the forties.
Consistent healthy sleep, the first cornerstone above, will make us look and feel younger than any cream while keeping our mind sharp and our emotions in check in facing things like menopause and midlife crises. But just like anything in life, sleep comes easier to some than to others. If the cornerstone of sleep is bringing down your emotional health, check out this article.
Defiantly, Delightedly Forty
“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which mean never losing your enthusiasm.”
– Aldous Huxley, Mystic
The other two cornerstones of emotional health, gratitude and balanced perspective, go hand-in-hand to combat the media steeped, cultural degradation of what it means to be forty.
Many people struggle with finding things to be grateful for when focused on an aging body, caught up in the grind of a career that’s lost its shine, unable to find a career as midlife looms, or trying to catch a moment to themselves amid the fast-paced life of a family in its prime. Gratitude can be doubly hard when much of our culture affirms those stressors rather than focusing on the joys.
But, as Dr. Eamons noted people with those very same lives “felt fully 25% happier – they were more optimistic about the future, they felt better about their lives” simply because they changed their perspective on them (Karabin, 2011). It’s called a positive reframe in psychotherapy, but it essentially is looking at the bright side of things. Every difficulty of the forty year old can be positively reframed. Turning forty itself has been reframed by the legendary psychiatrist, Carl Jung above, as the true beginning of a well-researched life.
Perhaps the reason forty is not a crushing life event for myself and my peers is that we take Huxley’s advice to the now forty-something; be a genius and carry on our childish spirt. Our gift to you, at forty, here at KeithKarabin.com, is this secret of youth; we keep our child’s perspective by looking at the “hardships of our life as a present challenge, not a constant threat.” Picture the child you may have (as a 40 year old) that you keep having to tell to get down off of every tall precarious object. We see threat, children see challenge (Karabin, 2015). Aging is not a threat, it is a challenge, and winning that challenge, according to gratitude experts and the revolutionary patriarchs quoted, is to keep our youth alive in our minds and in our hearts, defiant and delighted.
For me, as I said, at seventeen years old I was a long haired, semi-rebellious but good hearted guy who hung out with “the bad kids” and had aspirations of helping them with their problems. As a teen psychotherapist, I’m still a long haired, semi-rebellious but good hearted guy who spends his days talking with “the bad kids” hoping helping them with their problems. And that is a positive.
Happy Birthday Bi-Centennial babies. Turn forty, but stay rebels, true to yourself.
Karabin, K. (2015) Our power perspective. KeithKarabin.com. Retrieved from: http://keithkarabin.com/2015/11/06/our-power-perspective/
Karabin, K. (2015) Body at rest, life in motion. KeithKarabin.com. Retrieved from: http://keithkarabin.com/2015/08/28/body-at-rest-life-in-motion/
Karabin, K. (2015) Gratitude doesn’t suck. KeithKarabin.com. Retrieved from: http://keithkarabin.com/2010/11/25/gratitude-doesnt-suck/