5 Ways to Stay Positive in Retirement

Many retirees struggle with an isolating and unchallenging retirement.

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Retirement literally means a removal or withdrawal from service, often into privacy or seclusion. Retirees withdraw from a world they have been entrenched in for many years when they remove themselves from the working world.

However, I do not believe that the goal of those attaining age 65 is necessarily to hide from the rest of the world. Few retirees-to-be would describe their plans in terms of seclusion. While escaping the hectic nature of the working world is a commonly shared goal, retirement is also seen by many as a time to turn the page and begin a new chapter. Retirees are not done with life. They are just changing gears as they re-channel their energies toward new passions and experiences.

Unfortunately, there are some people who will experience a retirement that may accurately be described as secluded. Elderly people who have not prepared for the changes that are part and parcel of retired life may find themselves alone, uninspired, unchallenged, and living in a seclusion that is not their choice.

Many people underestimate the challenges of living a fulfilling and happy retirement. A 2011 National Public Radio, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard School of Public Health survey found that about a quarter of retirees say life is worse after retirement. To avoid falling into such a predicament it is helpful to pursue positive goals as we transition into retirement:

1. Enjoy your grandchildren. What can be better than spending time with an energetic bundle of smiles and hugs, especially when their able parents can quickly be called upon to step in when their attitude becomes negative? Grandparents get to enjoy all of the good things about children, and hand over the reins when the bad comes along. A true joy of spending time with grandchildren is you can be part of first-time experiences that result in wide-eyed wonder and amazement. Sharing these new experiences not only brings back personal memories but bonds you together for a lifetime.

2. Get up and get out. When you move around your body and mind benefit. Sitting in one place for too long dulls the mind and slows the body. Rather than looking for the path requiring the least effort, get moving. Walk to the store rather than drive. After dinner, don’t flop in front of the TV until you have taken a journey around the block on your own two feet. And when you do watch TV, why not add in a little stretching or sit-ups or push-ups.

3. Smile. It is difficult to feel badly when you have a smile on your face. Being happy improves your quality of life and perhaps also the quantity of life. A British study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that older people who reported feeling happy and content during a typical day were 35 percent less likely to die during the course of the five-year study. And if smiling doesn’t work, what do you have to lose?

4. Watch or read something funny. How bad can things really be if you are laughing? I am a sucker for slapstick comedy, so The Three Stooges are the perfect tonic for all that ails me. Their antics may be a little low-brow for your tastes, but you probably have a particular comedian or actress that can always give you a chuckle. With all of the suffering we hear of each day, a little laughter can go a long way to improve our outlook.

5. Do something nice for someone. When we put the needs of another ahead of our own there is an inner satisfaction experienced that is hard to describe. A little thing done spontaneously without expectation of any reward can bring a smile to the face of the recipient as well as the giver. It is easy and opportunities present themselves with great frequency. You just have to be tuned in and ready to act when the moment arises.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.