"I Didn't Discover It Until My 40s": Adults Over 40 Are Sharing The Life-Altering Habits They Wish They'd Formed When They Were Way Younger

It's never too late to start new habits, but it's not uncommon to wish you'd started them sooner. Recently, I asked adults of the BuzzFeed Community to share a habit or routine they do now that they wish they'd started younger, and I'm taking notes. Here are some of the practices these older adults are doing now that have ultimately benefited their health:

1."Better diet. My grandmother raised me, and if I didn't want to try something new, she'd make me whatever I wanted. I never learned how to eat nutritiously or cook, so I live on quick meals. My idea of cooking is tipping the delivery driver, and fast food is moderately part of my diet."

Person lounging on a couch is using a food delivery app on a smartphone. The screen displays various food options
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2."Therapy. I regret waiting so long to take that first step to find the right therapist for my issues."


3."At 72 with over $50k worth of dental costs over the last four years, I wish I'd been brushing and flossing my teeth. I now use salt water to rinse my gums and a gentle toothpaste and soft-bristle brush for my teeth. I do this routine twice daily, which takes me about eight minutes. Give a damn about your oral care — it'll save you so much pain and money over time!"

Person receiving dental treatment from a dentist in a clinic


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4."Stretching regime. I dabbled in my 20s and made stretching a daily morning habit in my 30s. When I hit my 40s, I had to start doing it on the weekends, and once I was in my 50s, I stretched in the evenings, too. My regime has kept me upright and vertical despite my back and joint issues. It's the best accidental habit I made."

—French, 50, United States

5."Using sunscreen for skin cancer concerns, for sure. But on a more shallow note, using it to help with skin wrinkles, texture, etc. I also wish I'd started using tretinoin in my skincare routine much, much earlier."

An older woman is applying lotion to her face with one hand, looking upwards with a thoughtful expression
Patricio Nahuelhual / Getty Images

6."Sobriety. Ideally, I would have never started drinking; I wasted 20 years with booze. Oh well. I've enjoyed decades of alcohol-free living, and it has been the best thing in my life so far."


7."Taking time off work. I used to take a week off every six months, but I'd burned out in between. Now, I try to take at least a day off every five or six weeks. I also take a week off once a year to do all my annual medical checkups. Additionally, I'm more likely to call in sick than I used to be. I don't go to work with a dreadful cold anymore — I wait until I'm no longer contagious."

A person smiles joyfully while floating in a stream surrounded by grassy hills. The image conveys a sense of relaxation and happiness in nature
Sam Spicer / Getty Images

8."Take. Care. Of. Your. Back."


9."I wish I'd realized how important fiber is. I realized the hard way how important your digestive and gut health is. I'm 52 and had nine inches of my colon taken out last year and almost died as a result of my terrible eating habits while growing up."

Person washing handful of raspberries under running water in a sink

—Cindy, 52, Oklahoma

Freshsplash / Getty Images

10."I was just diagnosed with ADHD and OCD in addition to my already-diagnosed anxiety and depression. At 48, this was a shock, but at the same time, it wasn't. If I'd sought help for my mental health problems when I was younger, I would have been better equipped to handle life's ups and downs. I probably would have made better decisions, been further in my career, and would most likely be a better person in general."


11."I wish I'd pursued the hobbies and extracurriculars I wanted to when I was younger. I was always deterred from joining ballet and cheerleading because I had body image issues and didn't think my body was 'good enough.' While I was growing up, the whole 'body positivity' movement wasn't really a thing, and I really wish I'd learned how to accept myself. Now, I go to salsa dancing classes and have tried out tap dancing. It's not cheerleading or ballet, but I feel like I can take up space now."

People dancing energetically in a bright studio, led by a person with long braided hair wearing a black tank top and floral leggings

—Jessica, 56

Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

12."I wish I'd worked on healing some of the shit from my childhood abuse sooner. I tried but got discouraged. Take care of your mental health; don't distract yourself and pretend it's all okay. Sometimes, it's not."


13."Regular exercise! I was mercilessly bullied in gym class in the '80s, so I thought I hated physical activity. It turns out that I really enjoy hiking, biking, all kinds of water activities, and more. But I didn't discover that until my 40s, so my body isn't always on board. Find an enjoyable way to move your body while you're young!"

Two people, one younger and one older, smiling and wearing outdoor jackets, embrace in front of a blurred waterfall and greenery background
Ippei Naoi / Getty Images

14."In terms of friendships, I should have practiced quality over quantity. I bought into the idea that I needed to be part of a 'girl gang' to feel a sense of belonging. I've come to realize that feeling like you belong only comes when you simplify your life and spend time with people who are truly your people."


15."I wish I'd rejected diet culture and ate more food. I wasted decades in a fog of hunger, thinking that's how things were supposed to be. When I finally started eating enough, the boost to my energy, mood, stamina, and concentration felt like I'd leveled up. I also wish I'd understood earlier in life that you can move your body just for fun and that it's good for you. I gave up on so many activities I'd enjoyed because they weren't 'working' in helping me lose weight."

A person with a striped sweater enjoys a slice of pizza at an outdoor table

—Anonymous, 47

Yana Iskayeva / Getty Images

16.Lastly: "I wish I had started reading more when I was younger. I always hated school, so it made me abstain from reading. The older I got, the more insecure I felt whenever I conversed with people my age. They always seemed smarter than me because they used words I didn't know, and I was always just a little jealous and wanted to be seen as smart, too. One of my buddies recommended me a book once because he thought I'd like it; I wasn't too sure at first. He gave me his copy to borrow, and I thought, 'What's the worst that can happen?' and started reading it. This is going to sound dramatic, but it changed my life for the better. At 51 years old, I realized that reading can be fun and that there are books about everything. I read a lot of sci-fi and historical fiction, which helped my imagination, vocabulary, and self-esteem. Books are important!"

A man with gray hair wearing a yellow shirt sits in a cozy living room, reading a book. There are plants and artworks in the background

—Warner, 57, Colorado

Fg Trade / Getty Images

The power of reading is truly unmatched, and I'm definitely going to read after this. If you're an older adult, what habit have you recently picked up that you wish you'd started sooner? Let me know in the comments, or you can anonymously submit using this form!