The idea of a midlife crisis is so widespread that producers often use it as the storyline for TV shows and movies. You have probably seen an episode about a middle-aged man impulse buying a red sports car or remember a joke in a film blaming a character’s affair on a midlife crisis. You’ve probably seen it in real life too, or at least heard it talked about a lot when someone’s behavior suddenly changes.

One thing that might surprise you is a midlife crisis isn’t a mental health diagnosis. Experts have been debating whether midlife troubles are valid, though there’s still no good answer. We do know that there’s some evidence that reported happiness appears to drop for people between ages 40 and 60. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also says that this age group has the highest rates of depression.

Why are rates of depression so high? And where did the idea of a “midlife crisis” come from? There are a few answers to these questions. One reason is that midlife is the first time many people can no longer think of themselves as “young.” This change in thinking can force people to rethink everything about their lives, including their marriages and careers.

Fortunately, midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis at all. Midlife is a great time to make positive changes in your life. So rather than impulse buying a sports car, try following these tips to make the most of midlife.

Learn new skills.

There are numerous advantages to learning something new. It can keep your mind active, give you something to be excited about, and give you a fantastic sense of pride and accomplishment. That’s why mental health professionals highly recommend it for people in midlife. It’s also a great way to take a break and take a little time.

You can learn an overwhelming range of things from the comfort of your home. You can learn to speak a new language or write computer code. You can take courses from top universities in just about any subject. Some online course programs even allow you to earn credits or certificates.

If you’d prefer to get out of the house, try starting at your local community college. Most community colleges offer a full slate of courses for adult learners who’d like to pick up a new skill.

Pick up a healthy habit.

Little changes can go a long way. You don’t have to revamp your entire lifestyle, but you can pick a small change and stick with it. You’ll get the health benefits of the change and the satisfaction of maintaining a new habit. That means mental health and physical health boost for a single action, and it’s hard to beat that.

You could begin taking the stairs every day at work, bringing your lunch from home, eating fruit every morning, or drinking plenty of water. You can also think about cutting out some less-than-healthy habits, like drinking soda or smoking.

Focus some energy on yourself.

It’s normal for people in midlife to feel burnout. You might feel overextended or stressed taking care of your children or an aging parent. You may also be juggling your relationship with finances and other difficulties. It can be hard to stop and breathe no matter what you’re juggling. You might even feel selfish about taking time for yourself, but you don’t need to.

Mental health experts agree that concentrating on yourself is incredibly important. Taking the time to ask yourself what you want and how you’re feeling can be the first step to knowing if you need to make a change.

So, before you do anything else, take some time to think about how things have been going for you in the past few years. It’s the best way to get started on your midlife refresh.

Reconnect with loved ones.

Therapists and researchers strongly suggest that social connections are essential for mental health. It can make a vast difference in your life to have people you can share good times and celebrations with, people you can call for a good talk, and people you can count on for support during hard times.

It’s also common to feel lonely, especially in midlife. Reaching out to family and friends and trying to stay connected can help. You don’t have to plan a party or significant event to reconnect. It’s best to start with a simple hello, whether by sending a text message to your sister, a Facebook message to a local friend, or an email to a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.

Make time for your love life.

Sadly, marriage difficulties and midlife are usually linked together. Divorce, affairs, or a cooling down of romantic and sexual feelings are commonly reported to therapists.

Still, that doesn’t mean the decline of relationships is an inevitable part of midlife. Marriage and family therapists recommend that you take some time at this point to think about what you want from yourself, your life, and your partner. If you’re still dedicated to them, it might be a good time to find new ways to celebrate one another.

Actions like planning a romantic vacation, going on date nights, or taking time to appreciate each other more, can go a long way on the road to a happy midlife love life. You may decide you want to download that dating app or swallow your nerves to tell someone you’ve seen casually that you’d like something more serious.

Midlife is a beautiful time to revive things that might have felt a bit stuck in your life. Whether it’s your relationships or your health, you can take control now and make encouraging changes.

Midlife is the most fantastic time to take steps that enhance your life for years to come. You don’t have to let midlife be a disaster that drags you down. Instead, it would be best to spend some time outside, call a friend, go on a date with your spouse, pick up your guitar again and consider making an appointment with a therapist to help you through it all.

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