When you’ve got a family to look after and provide for, finding meaning and purpose in your life isn’t an elusive concept. It smacks you in the face each morning as you hustle to get the kids off to school, head to work to keep a roof over your head and food on the table, and generally be a productive member of society. Then before you know it, your children grow up and start careers and families of their own. Finally, you have the time and opportunity to do all those things you’ve put off for one reason or another until retirement.
Well, now that the day has come, what are you going to do with your life? Maybe you just want to play golf or head to the beach with a book in one hand and a pina colada in the other. That’s fine if that’s what makes you happy. But if you’re like most people, leading a life of leisure in retirement does not guarantee happiness.
The key to a happy retirement for most older adults is finding purpose in retirement. As it turns out, doing things that make you fulfilled is not only good for your soul, it’s good for your health and well-being. Studies have found, for example, that older adults with a strong purpose in life have a 22% reduced risk of stroke. Purposeful living has also been linked to longer life, lower risk of disease, a stronger immune system, better sleep and less depression.
To help you live your best life in retirement, consider the following tips:
To find your purpose, search your soul. Think of past experiences that filled your heart with gladness. Maybe it was a religious service, volunteering, or time spent alone in nature. Perhaps you’ve put a hobby aside during your working years that you’d like to pick up again. What activities make you want to get out of bed in the morning? List things you haven’t had time for, things you like to do, places you’d like to visit. What are your strengths and skills, and how do you want to use them?
Find a routine. Having free time on your hands sounds wonderful, but too much flexibility can be more stressful than pleasant. You’ll be happier if you fit a few regular activities into your schedule. It could be a walk with a friend or picking up a grandchild from school every Tuesday. Whatever the activity may be, having some kind of schedule prevents you from getting bored, depressed or lonely. And just because you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to get to work on time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stick to a sleep schedule. It’s important to get up and go to bed at the same times each day to get a good night’s sleep.
Stay socially connected. For many older adults, staying connected isn’t as easy as it used to be. They’re not going into the office anymore. Their children have their own busy lives or have moved away. And mobility problems, hearing loss or poor vision make getting out more difficult. Left unchecked, social isolation poses serious health risks, including heart disease, stroke and dementia.
The remedy is to get out and meet people. Volunteer, do part-time work or join a group activity you enjoy. Try a dance class or yoga. Consider joining a walking club at your local mall. Perhaps there are people in your neighborhood or church who are alone and who would appreciate a call from someone they know — like you.
Keep on learning. Research shows that challenging your brain in new ways can help keep you mentally sharp. In fact, your brain responds to learning by growing new connections and pathways, much like your muscles respond to exercise. So to keep your brain in tip-top shape, challenge it regularly. Do crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Learn a new skill, like playing an instrument or painting. Taking (or teaching) a class is another good way to challenge your mind and promote brain health. Simply walking in nature has been linked to an increase in mental health. And when we’re able to travel freely again (hopefully soon!), exploring new places can open your mind to new ways to see and think about the world.
Enhance Your Quality of Life in Meaningful Ways
At Canterbury Court, we know how important it is to do things that have meaning and value to you. That’s why we offer a wide range of activities for residents to continue growing, learning and enjoying life. To learn more about our lifestyle, and what makes it meaningful for residents, hear their stories. You’ll meet people who know that happiness and purpose in retirement are two sides of the same coin.