Retirement can be the best time of your life unless you make this common mistake
Retirement isn’t about giving up on life, it’s about embracing a new chapter.
Here’s how to make the most of it.
Your daily routine has gone and you're no longer socialising with people all day – retirement can seem like a confusing and lonely time.
But with careful planning and structure, it can be one of the happiest and most fulfilling periods of your life.
Here, Celia Dodd, author of Not Fade Away, explains how to make the most out of your golden years…
Develop at least one new activity in the run-up to retirement – the more sociable the better, says Celia Dodd.
Playing in a band, taking an evening class or joining a book club can form bridges between the old and new you.
It’s important to reinforce this new identity with other people.
Rather than apologetically saying, ‘I used to be a…’, it feels much more positive to say, ‘I’m studying French.’
LOOK BACK TO GO FORWARD
It can take time to discover a new focus.
The first step is to think about what you genuinely enjoy.
Your past can provide clues, from what absorbed you when you were younger to unfulfilled ambitions and roads untravelled.
SET NEW ROUTINES
A routine allows you to enjoy your new freedom more.
Many people feel overwhelmed by free time, and it’s a relief to have fixed things you don’t have to make a decision about.
So perhaps get up at the same time, do a bit of exercise before breakfast, buy the newspaper and read it in a coffee shop.
JUST DO IT
The important thing is to get out the front door.
When you talk to people you open yourself up to new possibilities.
Challenge your assumptions – that something’s not right for you, you couldn’t do it, or it’s too late.
And don’t be afraid to make mistakes – they often lead to interesting new directions.
DON’T TAKE ON TOO MUCH
One of the biggest mistakes people make is biting off more than they can chew.
‘Find one cause you really believe in.
'If you’ve still got time, pick up something else.
'But then stop,’ advises Professor Ian Stuart-Hamilton of the University of Glamorgan.
BUT DON’T PROCRASTINATE
At the other extreme, some people have no idea where to begin.
Set time limits on mundane tasks. Paying the gas bill can take all morning if you let it.
The same goes for the internet. Stick to a list of what you want to look up.
Declutter your email box: unsubscribe to anything that isn’t relevant.
Put structure into the week with one or two regular commitments.
Set targets and dates to complete them. Telling a friend makes it more likely you’ll stick to them.
Make lists to help boost motivation.
SHOULD YOU VOLUNTEER?
Volunteering has been shown to decrease mortality and improve self-rated health, mental health, self-esteem and life satisfaction.
The most important thing is to find a role that resonates with your values and interests, and work that you feel is worth doing unpaid.
THINK ABOUT GETTING A PET
Pets are great for providing structure.
Dogs get you out of your pyjamas and off to the park first thing, and they force you to be sociable and take exercise.
If they’re a new addition, the training is a retirement project in itself.
The downside is you can’t be spontaneous.
This needs careful consideration if you’re in two minds about getting a pet.
Friendship networks can grow after retirement
Don’t be nervous about getting back in touch with friends you haven’t seen for ages. People understand long absences – they have their own lives too.
Write letters. It may seem old fashioned, but writing and receiving letters is one of life’s great pleasures.
Remember birthdays, and mark other significant anniversaries in friends’ lives, such as the death of a loved one, with a note or a card.
Think up new ideas for outings with a friend or a small group. Make a regular date and take it in turns to decide where to go.
Join classes or volunteer. If you’re shy, try a walking group. Many people find it easier to talk shoulder to shoulder.
– Adapted from Not Fade Away – How To Thrive In Retirement by Celia Dodd, £12.99, Green Tree.
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