After devoting decades to your work, you now have the freedom to attack life with gusto. You can live wherever you want; you can revive the pursuit of your passions that may have fallen by the wayside because of work, family and other responsibilities that are no longer on the table. Retirement offers so many possibilities and the chance to live your life exactly as you want.
But, for many, the transition to this new stage of life is anything but glorious and exciting. It is wrought with feelings of loss, lack of purpose and plain old boredom. A study last year by Harvard University found that people who retired were 40 percent more likely to have suffered a stroke or heart attack compared to people still in the workforce—these health problems were particularly prevalent in the first year of retirement. But, other studies have shown retirement has brought improvements in health or had no effect at all. These mixed results may suggest how a particular individual approaches this new phase of life can make all the difference. Generally, you want to look at retirement not as a single event, but as a process. Here are some tips for being happy and healthy in these years.
Maintain a Strong Social Network
Retirement may mean a change in your social landscape. You probably had your work friends, but now that you are not going to the office every day, you will need to make a greater effort to maintain those relationships. Reach out about setting up standing get-togethers, such as a weekly lunch. Look into volunteer opportunities and other activities where you are likely to meet people who share similar interests as you. If you are considering moving to a new location, you may want to consider a retirement community, where you will be surrounded by other retirees—these communities also tend to organize social events for the residents.
Not only will keeping fit help you enjoy a happier and healthier retirement, you can stretch your nest egg a bit farther when you do not have as many health problems. If exercise is not already a part of your regular routine, it is time to change that. Lack of time can no longer be an excuse, and the good news is, you do not have to worry about strenuous workout routines or hauling yourself to the gym every day. It is more about regular physical activity in any form. Ever notice something about the studies examining longevity in different parts of the world? The healthiest people tend to have jobs that involve lots of regular physical activity—they are not pumping iron or hitting the treadmill at the gym. They may be doing something as simple as walking a few miles a day while herding their sheep. Also, working out in three 10 minute increments is just about as beneficial as a straight 30-minute workout, so if you need to ease in slowly, aim for these three short bouts before moving on to longer sessions.
Keep Your Brain Active
Harvard University conducted a 73-year study on aging, and one of the most common threads in the happiest and healthiest retirees was a commitment to learning and keeping their mind active. You can take classes at the local college or purchase some Rosetta Stone software to learn a new language. Learn how to knit or build something. It does not matter what it is, just as long as it engages your brain.
Find a Sense of Purpose
One of the struggles of retirement is feeling a lack of purpose; for many, they found that through their work, and now that it is gone, it is easy to feel a bit lost. Finding purpose when we are younger is easier—you embark on a certain career or have children. When you are retired, you may feel like there is nothing out there for you. But, no matter who you are, you can find a sense of purpose. Think about what matters to you, what issues are important to you, what your passions are. It may take some time to find something that really clicks, but you will eventually if you keep at it.
Kelli Cooper, writing for Lakewood Manor, is a freelance writer who blogs about a variety of issues related to retirement and aging.