It takes a while before feeling entirely happy in retirement. This is because, after living and functioning in the fast lane for forty+ years, you are not going to learn how to slow down all at once. It is stressful to suddenly change old habits, no matter how beneficial the change is. In fact, many new retirees feel a version of “survivor’s guilt” because they find it stressful not racing around with the usual urgent sense of purpose. Your mind has to become accustomed to thinking more slowly. It’s almost like decompression after deep sea diving.
These aren’t empty statements; I am speaking from experience. Now, after being retired for several years, I can look back and see what has worked for me in retirement and which attempts at finding fulfillment were empty exercises in futility.
My main piece of advice to the new retiree is that retirement is an huge life change, and it’s going to take some time for you to re-gain your equilibrium.
Being retired doesn’t mean giving up a routine. There are still housework tasks to be done, bills to pay, a lawn that still needs to be mowed and a long list of other everyday tasks that will still be around during retirement. Only, now, you don’t have to rush around doing them.
When I retired, one thing that really helped me was taking classes in college. I even carried a full class load. For me, this was not nearly as stressful as going to work every day. It may not be the same way for the next person, but it did work for me.
When I was finished with school, I began writing full time at home. Now I attend morning mass every day, write, and do housework. But now I also have the freedom to adjust my schedule to fit in lunches with friends, visits with my daughter and grand-children, telephone calls, and doing fun activities with my husband who also works at home but is not retired. Now, if I want, I can drop what I’m doing and do something else. So for me, retirement isn’t sitting around all day watching soap operas. Instead, it is the freedom to do what I want, when I want.
If you are undecided about how you would like to spend your retirement time, here are some ideas:
•Clean out all your closets;
•Plant some petunias or re-landscape your front yard;
•Take college classes or get your high school diploma — if you haven’t already. Some colleges offer seniors a discount on tuition;
•Learn American Sign Language and volunteer at activities for deaf people;
•Do crafts. There are a zillion of them to choose from;
•Travel — even short day trips to your local mountains or city attractions;
•Crochet blankets for the homeless;
•Volunteer to teach reading through your library’s literacy program;
•Rock newborn babies at your local hospital;
•Take your dog to agility training;
•Grow your own veggies;
•Crochet blankets for newborns at your local hospital;
•Walk your dog(s);
•Take up painting and sell your work at art fairs;
•Take a photography class;
•Raise a few farm animals (if your property is zoned for it);
•Walk the entire shopping mall each morning before it opens. (The seniors in my city literally take over the mall an hour before the stores open. It’s a huge, daily social event!);
•Write online through an online writing group;
•Volunteer to be a noon aide at your local elementary school. (With recent government cutbacks, the school might jump at the chance to use you. The same thing applies to being a school crossing guard.);
•Learn tennis or piano or something you have never tried but always want to;
•Spend one afternoon a week antiquing with a friend;
•Take your grandkids to the park;
•Become a coupon queen;
•Train for and run a marathon;
•Become a mystery shopper.
These are just a few of the things that you can do in retirement. You can probably add many of your own.
If you are retired and find yourself feeling depressed or cut-off from others, now is the time to take action and find happiness and fulfillment. Let this spur you into action.
The Dali Lama said this about the times that we are unhappy:
“Wretched Creature — Blessed Teacher”
Treat this time as an opportunity to learn new things and cultivate new friendships. Soon, you will view your retirement as one of the happiest times of your life.