Many people can’t wait to retire. They may not realize the toll retirement can bring.
According to the Institute of Economic Affairs, “A ground-breaking new study has found that retirement has a detrimental impact on both mental and physical health over time.”1 The study also claims “Retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40%”1
Why? If so many people are looking forward to retirement, shouldn’t clinical depression decrease after retiring?
The simple truth is retirement often turns out different than we hope it will. Even for retirees in a financially-sound situation, the loss of a full-time job and work community means less time interacting with others.
In fact, the majority of people spend so much time at their jobs that work becomes the main purpose of their lives. That purpose gives their lives meaning. The psychologist Victor Frankl said humans crave meaning for themselves, and they often find that by committing to an outside purpose.2
But in retirement, that purpose is removed once retirees are no longer working. That can make retirees feel like their lives no longer matter, which leads to depression.
If work is no longer in the picture, then retirees need to find a new avenue for purpose and meaning. Plenty of retirees prepare for this by assuming their new purpose will be spending time with loved ones, including kids, grandkids, and more.
However, while life slows down in retirement for retirees, it probably won’t slow down at all for their loved ones. It’s common for retirees to feel they don’t get to see their families as often as they first thought.
What to do? Here’s three ways you can find new meaning in retirement.
The first step is to know the purpose of each day ahead of time. It can be a simple mission like walking the dog, getting out of the house, or doing chores. It can also be more complex projects or catching up with a friend. Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to decide your day’s purpose beforehand. Now that you’re not working, you can make that purpose whatever you want!
Maybe you’ve had a dream for years, but you had to delay chasing after it. Many retirees use their new free time to dig deeper into hobbies and projects they’ve always wanted to complete. Coupling this with the point above, your purpose for one day could be, “Today I will finish a painting,” or, “Today I will learn more about woodworking.”
One of the greatest uses of your retirement can be to focus it on other people. Helping loved ones, friends, neighbors, and also strangers can offer the greatest satisfaction through purpose and meaning in retirement. You can get creative with ideas like cooking dinner for someone in need, helping a neighbor with yardwork, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Whatever you decide, using your retirement for others is one of the best ways to find a new meaning.
Whether you’re already retired or looking to retire in 2021 or beyond, make sure you’re ready for retirement in more ways than one. Financial planning is crucial to have prepared before you retire, but so is “purpose planning” for your own happiness and wellbeing.
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