Retirement and having time to pursue our interests is a great opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Many studies demonstrate that we are actually more genuine when engaged in leisure activities. We are stimulated to follow our interests and satisfy our curiosity, find our humor and open ourselves for new experiences.
Yet, self-concept and careers are so intertwined in our culture, that after retirement, the identity is missing. So much of our jobs characterize us that, when gone, we are at a loss to answer what we are. Defining ourselves with career identity is harmful to our health and outlook on life. A tremendous stress befalls us when we cannot distinguish ourselves from work. According to research by Mark Cullen from Stanford Medical School, super successful executives felt worthless within days of retirement despite the level of status and money that they had amassed.
“They feel they are nothing. After a lifetime of working, for a time when they could live, they didn’t know how. They had no leisure skills,” said Cullen.
Psychologists designate your work identity as a persona or social face that describes your role in society, but it’s not the true you. So how do you ensure that you don’t become susceptible to the approval of others for your self-esteem as you transition into retirement? Here are 9 ways to stay healthy and active after retirement.
1. Enroll in classes
Is there a degree that you always wanted to get but never had the time? Well, now is your chance! If you don’t want a degree but want the joy of learning (and becoming more interesting to your circle of friends), audit some classes. There are many universities that have “lifelong learning programs” for seniors in a huge range of classes from philosophy and psychology to music, science and film. No homework or studying is required.
Local community colleges allow seniors to audit classes for free. Engage in conversations with young students for extra stimulation. Get involved in a project that will provide a sense of achievement.
2. Join the local gym
Promote health by eating properly and engaging in regular exercise. Feeling that you’re in good shape boosts your moral. Engaging in vigorous physical routine causes an outpouring of endorphins, neurotransmitters found in the pituitary gland and nervous system to raise the mood.
3. Participate in a hobby or club
Keep your mind active by taking part in hobbies that you enjoy. Bone up on your bridge or canasta. Sharpen your skills in photography or computer usage. Join a book club or discussion group. If you haven’t cultivated a hobby, join your friends in their pursuits. You can cultivate the same interest to spend time with them.
4. Compete in a sport
If you were very competitive in your job, and miss that stimulation, transfer your joy of rivalry into a sport like tennis or golf.
There’s no greater feeling of usefulness than volunteering. Help others less fortunate in a nursing home or hospital. Become a puppy walker and help raise a dog for the blind. Build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Help children or adults to read. There are countless opportunities awaiting you.
6. Use your business skills to assist others
Join Executives in Retirement to advise new, fledgling business owners and give them the benefit of your experience. Teach a class in your field or mentor a student.
7. Get a part time job
Turn the page. Now you have the chance to enjoy temporary positions in other fields that utilize your social skills or expertise. According to a report published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, retirees that worked in a temporary or bridge job had less major illness than those who were completely retired.
“Expand your horizons” with exposure to new places and new cultures. This increases your knowledge and gives a new perspective on the world at large as well as your place within it.
9. Strengthen bonds of family and friends
Now is the time to visit grandchildren and enjoy bonding with playtime. Renew bonds with children and their significant others. Stay in touch with friends. They have a shared history with you, encourage you to be better, make you laugh and share your feelings.
The best satisfaction comes from a sense of purpose, of achievement and worthiness. This decreases stress and promotes good health.
People are happier and healthier when they are active. Now you have the time to enjoy what you choose to do. You are only limited by your imagination. Go out, play and have fun!