For the last 30 years or so, you’ve likely had the same consistent routine, Monday through Friday. Now, all of a sudden, you don’t. Retirement is a life change that not only shakes up your daily pattern, but also your psyche. You may feel confused, scared, or even a bit down. You may feel like you’ve lost your sense of purpose. What do you do now?
Actually, the answer to that is entirely in your hands. And that’s a good thing. If you feel you’ve lost your fire, there are plenty of ways to reignite it. With all the time and freedom that retirement has to offer, you have total control over forging a new, purpose-driven identity.
Are you in a retirement rut? When you’re faced with the question “Where do I go from here”, you can rely on this list of tried-and-true mood boosters to give you a powerful sense of self. To uncover the keys to finding your purpose after retirement, keep reading…
Try Something New
Self-discovery is a great way to unearth greater purpose and appreciation for life. Is there an activity you’ve always wanted to try — piano, painting, tennis — but didn’t have the time? Is there a hobby or a skill you’re really good at that you’ve always wanted to develop further? It’s very hard to feel down when your brain is actively engaged in a pursuit you love. There’s never been a better time to do the things you’ve never done before, so pull out that ‘bucket list’ and get started.
Over time, social isolation and loneliness can take a toll on your health. One of the most basic human needs is to feel that you belong and you’re part of something bigger than yourself. Regular human connection is a good way to prevent feelings of loneliness from taking a hold over your life. Who do you have strong and reliable relationships with and how can you keep them going during retirement? Retirement is a time for celebrating, not for hiding. Host a backyard barbecue, game night, or trip to the zoo with your grandchildren. During retirement, you own your schedule and how you fill it, so log some meaningful time with friends and family every week.
Open Your Heart
Could pet adoption be the solution to uncovering a higher purpose? We’ve all heard the positive research about pet ownership and the benefits that a dog or cat can provide to their owners. Pets are a real form of stress relief, reducing not only blood pressure, but also lowering damaging stress hormones like cortisol, and boosting beneficial ones like oxytocin, the happiness hormone.
If you’re an animal lover, and can take on the responsibility of care, adopting a dog or cat can be a fulfilling next step. Opening your heart to an animal in need often brings out the best in people. Those daily walks and cuddles can certainly give you something to look forward to every day.
Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you’re no longer needed. Volunteering for a cause close to your heart can help you build bonds with others, and see yourself as a person who can really make a difference in the community.
There are countless ‘causes’ that you could help. To narrow down your choices, think about what you value and what you’re passionate about. Is it animals? Children? The environment? Other retirees just like you? Then, do some online research for volunteer opportunities in your area. The right fit is out there.
Connect with Nature
It’s easy to feel refreshed and anew when you’re surrounded by nature, so schedule some green time whenever you can. Visit a public garden, hit the cycling trail, or give your own yard a little TLC. Mulch beds, plant summer blooms, or sow seeds for a vegetable garden. The rewards are more than aesthetic. Our world is awe-inspiring and, if you take the time to really connect with it, you’ll soon feel your stress and worry melting away.
Tidying up can be a powerful way to freshen up your space. But it can also give you a sense of control and focus. Resist the urge to go room by room, which can make you feel overwhelmed. It’s best to go category by category. Start with your wardrobe. What clothes no longer fit your new lifestyle? Donate professional attire to a charity that serves people entering the workforce. Move on to books, sporting equipment, and kitchen tools. You may find treasures you didn’t know you had.
Get Moving Every Day
Want to stay ahead of the aging game and maintain a healthy weight? Make time to move. Short, but consistent, workouts can be your secret weapon to looking and feeling younger than your years. Even if you only exercise for 15 minutes a day, you can enjoy the benefits of a happier mood, a healthier heart, and a fitter body. The key is intensity. Can you alternate between strength training and cardio? For example, can you do a set of bicep curls and then jumping jacks? Can you do walking lunges and then jog in place? If you’re a first-timer or haven’t worked out a lot in the past, start slow and take it easy. You can always work your way up to more repetitions and higher intensity as your body gets stronger and your mind is filled with a can-do attitude.
For extra bonus points, find a workout buddy. You’re more likely to stick with your daily walks, yoga session, or water aerobics class if you have a partner to keep you motivated.
Embrace Your New Identity
While it’s true that a career can give you a sense of identity, retirement can reward you with a new one — one that is marked by freedom, creativity, and a different kind of joy. Don’t look at retirement with fear; recognize it for what it really is: a time of boundless opportunity. All you have to do is take the first step.
If you try one or more of these activities but you’re still struggling, talk with your doctor. The sooner you get out of your rut, the sooner you can experience all the joy that retirement can bring.