How to Retire Happy

How to Retire Happy... some great ideas here!

I read an article in Oprah magazine and I need to write about it. As a retiree, I'm really very happy and content. I am worried though that I still may become disillusioned with retirement as so many do... thus my Happy Retirement article here!

The article that prompted this article is: “5 Things Happy People Do” by Gabrielle Leblanc who is a writer and neuroscientist in Washington, D.C.

We need to start our our retirement lives being HAPPY with being alive, with having all the time in the world to pursue whatever makes us happy, giving back to our community, and what makes us uniquely ourselves.

Why waste even a single day in the dumps? There is so much we can do, so much to pursue in life, so much happiness -- if we only stop to think about what makes us happy and how to get there.

1. Happy Retirees find their most golden self.

What do you envision your retirement to be? Busy with part-time work and volunteer work? Long lazy days of gardening and grandchildren? Hiking the desert of Arizona with your loved ones and photographing everything you experience? Reading all the books you never managed to read when you were busy working? Taking yoga classes to return to a more peaceful, less stressful lifestyle?

We all see retirement very differently. How will you retire happily? Who are you? What do you want to see in your retirement? Who do you want to be? Transform and transition yourself into the new you... so many possibilities!

As a child, I wrote. I've always written letters, stories, then later, I transitioned into boring business letters for 30+ years. Yikes. That sure steals any ounce of creativity from you. BUT websites were my saving grace... here I can be creative as much as I like. I found my happiness in writing websites!

What do YOU like, from childhood, that might be an intricate part of who you really are deep down? What new challenges are you looking to experience? What do you want to learn (never stop learning).

2. Happy retirees design their lives to bring in joy.

In my previous Pre-Retirement Planning classes, I used to start with:

Many folks spend more time planning for a two-week vacation,
than they do for their own retirement...”

Just think -- retirement could last 20-30 years, not 2 weeks of vacation!

Have you stopped to consider what you'll do in your retirement? You suddenly have nothing to do.. and 24/7 to do it in ! Grin! You need to think and plan your retirement days.

Before you retire, we are kinda “stuck” with work. Whether you enjoyed your work, or not, you could either continue to work, or find another job, that could be better or worse... but work you had to do. Many end up in the wrong occupations for a lifetime. Stuck. Perhaps they just THINK the grass is greener in a different occupation. Either way, they are unhappy for years.

Same thing with your partner/spouse, your home/location, and anything else I life... we sometimes just carry on as thinking about options just doesn't seem possible. Who has time?

In Leblanc's article, she talks about a study they did with 900 working women asked to write down everything they'd done the day before, how they felt about each activity, and how much time they spent on things they didn't even care to do. They never thought twice about how much of their day was spend in unhappy work and never considered their options either.

Just think, you are now retired! You can think about what makes you happy and make changes, big or small, so that happiness thrives in your life.

Make SMALL changes to start, they are relatively easy, right? Sometimes that's all it takes. Meet for lunch with old friends, get out of the house and go for a walk, join a book club at your local library, sit on the deck with a cup of iced tea and stop thinking for just a few minutes... Taking action is key.

The minister at Heritage church, Pastor Jeff, always says: "If you go where you've always gone, you are going to get what you always got." (or something close to that.. grin!) You have to make changes to go elsewhere.

Just THINK about what you can do today – ANY small change could make the world of difference in you, today and tomorrow!

3. Happy Retirees avoid "if only" fantasies.

Life is simply never perfect. Eckert Tolle in “The New Earth” talks about not dwelling in the past... there is little you can do with the past. It is what it is. Period.

Many of us think that when something special happens – the world will align and we'll suddenly live life as we were meant to live it. When that guy on the white horse comes dashing in, or we lose 20 pounds, or whatever our brain thinks will make the ultimate lifestyle. Oddly enough, my excuse for the past 30 years was "When I retire, I'll........."

Leblanc pointed out that the “latest research shows that we're surprisingly bad at predicting what will make us happy.... the brain's natural dimming effect, which guarantees that a new house won't generate the same pleasure a year after its purchase and the thrill of having a boyfriend will ebb as you get used to being part of a couple. Happy people are wise to this...”

This makes so much sense to me.. so many look for that “feel good” moment but expect it to carry on, and it just can't if it's about “something” and not about us. We need to generate our own happiness, by digging down deep into who and what we are.. and what we should do about that. It seems to me that there is something in everyone what should be shared with the world – something you have, something you know, some gift you can share. THAT brings happiness!

4. Happy Retirees put best friends first.

Do you have friends? Are they co-workers or real friends?

Often co-workers are just that.... it's unfortunate, but after you stop working together, there is little in common. While working, you could talk business, complain about the work place, whatever – but suddenly, retired, you are different. It's hard to explain until you are there.

So do you have friends? If not, start making some. Call old friends and have coffee to see if you still have lots in common, and find new friends via clubs, volunteering, neighbors.

My parents were too busy for friends for many years, they worked, and they didn't socialize all that much. At retirement, whether they found friends purposefully or not, I'm not sure.. but suddenly, they went to lunch/dinner with retired neighbors, played cards at each others homes, met friends of their neighbors, even traveled with some of them. I was amazed at how they changed into this social couple in retirement... it's a good thing!

5. Happy Retirees allow themselves to be happy.

Hmmm... that's rather profound!

We WANT to be happy and ALLOW ourselves to be content, happy, joyful? Wow!

You probably know folks who go out of their way to be unhappy, crabby, just never content with much in life. Don't be that person. Don't sweat the small stuff in life. Don't worry and fret over every little thing, every decision... it is what it is. Most of our daily fears never amount to much. Life goes on .

If you tend to be unhappy, or fret too much – do something to help others. Feel internal happiness by bringing some help to others who need it.... whether its simple acts of helping a neighbor or your family, or larger acts like being part of the Red Cross disaster team. Helping folks always feels good.

The last line of Leblanc's article is this: “So, for any die-hard pessimist who still needs persuading, just think of how much more you can help the world if you allow a little happiness into your life.”

Don't Worry -
Be Happy!

There is happiness in retirement... it just depends on your definition of happiness and what you want out of your life.

One shoe doesn't fit all.. what size is your happiness?