Remember that Beatles song “Can’t Buy Me Love?” It’s now playing from the radio station archives of my mind. And you know, there’s something else you can’t just buy: happiness. For retirees, money is certainly a ticket to comfort, pleasure, novelty and distraction, but happiness? No matter how you slice it, that’s another matter.
If a happy retirement is your desired location, read on…
Check your attitude
Optimism contributes to greater life expectancy, lower cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions. If that isn’t reason enough to work on your attitude, then how about the simple fact that negativity is simply a downer – for you and for those around you. If you are inclined to see the downside in situations and possibilities, stop feeding the tendency. Instead, google “optimism” and snag some helpful tips on how to cultivate it. Case in point: be sure to notice and acknowledge good things when they happen.
Make health and wellness your priority
If not now, when? A lifetime of work and family-related busyness may have stood in the way of prioritizing how and what you ate, and how well you slept, while your fitness took a back seat to everything else. I get it. But now, you can bump your health and wellness to the top of the list. Start with being optimistic, talk to friends who are already making this shift, check out the mostly-free health and exercise options at the local Y and other facilities. And while you are googling, try a search such as ‘how to eat healthy in retirement,” then start to make small changes that make a difference. Now you have something new and tangible to notice and acknowledge!
Claim your purpose for this life stage
Your family and your career may have been at the core of your sense of purpose. At this stage, you have a new opportunity/challenge: defining what will make this stage meaningful to you. Studies show that the novelty of doing whatever you want whenever you want after you’ve signed off from the old 9 to 5 dissipates. Because pleasure, at any life stage, is never enough in itself. Humans crave meaning and purpose. I am inspired by my husband who has picked up the brush again and paints and exhibits with passion; by my nearly 80-year-old friend who still runs her antique clothing business; by my deeply wise and spiritual friend who is writing a book from her collection of well-followed blogs. Who inspires you? What’s calling you? Take a step in that direction and see where it leads.
Stay connected – even if you are an introvert
Isolation wreaks havoc on us – physically and emotionally. Humans thrive on connection with others. The good news (optimism, you see?) is that you can connect on your own terms. My extroverted friends have a full dance card, while those inclined toward introversion create a balance of engagement and personal time. The “formula” is whatever works for you: virtual and in real time. Reach out to old friends, drive over to the local library, visit the senior center. You don’t have to commit; just watch and see what clicks. Right now, my calendar says: Zoom call with book writing friend tomorrow; yoga and pizza with exercise friend on Friday.
Use your brain!
Never, ever stop learning. You can prevent cognitive decline by keeping your mind active with new stimulation – not the same old stuff. Check out The National Institute of Aging website or AARP for ideas; or simply do (yet another) google search. Many of the brain-enriching activities you’ll find are both stimulating and fun! A shout out to my friend who has spent the past six months teaching herself conversational French for an upcoming sojourn to Quebec City!
And while you are busy jump-starting or reigniting your retirement happiness, take that all-important pause to simmer in gratitude for all that you are, all that you have, all that you are giving. The simple but profound practice of gratitude increases soul satisfaction and decreases the desire for materialistic gratification. You read that right. Thanks mom, for living this one, 100%!