Whether you're newly retired or still thinking about when you'll want to hang up your office keys, the next chapter of your life is full of potential. To start, with work obligations no longer taking up time during the week, you'll have more time for friends, family and other pursuits that add to your happiness, from achieving mind and body wellness to hobbies or volunteering.
However, it usually takes a bit of time to adjust to the newly retired lifestyle, because without the structure and purpose of a full-time job, it's easy to become bored or restless. The good news is that it's also easy to create new activities and routines that can lead to a fulfilling retirement. Here are a few tips to get you started with your new lifestyle.
Create New Routines
Whether you rolled out of bed at 6 a.m. every workday for the past 40 years or clocked in at 3 p.m. for the night shift, your body and mind may initially miss those daily rituals. Rather than abruptly revamping the daily schedule you've lived for decades, begin by making gradual adjustments to familiar routines. For example, if you're used to arriving at work by 8:30 a.m, create a new early morning ritual such as meeting friends for coffee or breakfast at that time. If you're a former night-shifter, join a walking, reading, crafts, book or film group that meets in the evening.
Join a Group Fitness Class
Now that you no longer have a social circle at the workplace, it's important to make some new friends to avoid social isolation. Besides the clear health benefits of exercise, joining a group fitness class is a great way to meet like-minded people since it puts you around others who are also seeking a healthy, positive lifestyle.
In most cities, you'll find yoga (including chair yoga), aerobics, Pilates and other exercise classes geared toward baby boomers and older adults at local YMCAs or senior centers. To find classes, try searching online and on social media for group fitness, yoga and exercise classes.
Focus on Mental Wellness
Now that you've stepped off the career track, you'll want to stay healthy and enjoy retirement. There's more to fitness than just the muscles in your body, however. You can also benefit from meditation, a mind and body practice that focuses on breathing and quieting the mind.
Meditation can reduce blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, pain, anxiety, depression and insomnia, according to the National Institutes of Health. Meditation doesn't just mean sitting cross-legged for an hour, either. There are all kinds of ways to meditate, including walking or sitting quietly in nature. In fact, your deepest mediation could even take place at the end of a fishing pole or behind the clippers as you tend to your garden.
To get started on meditating, try following along with meditation videos on YouTube or sign up for a group meditation class at a local library, gym or wellness center.
Add a Big Project to Your Life
Setting goals for a major project can be fulfilling and rewarding, and unlike many major work projects, those pursued after retiring can be just for your own enjoyment. For example, have you wanted to explore your family history but never had time? Genealogy is a time-consuming but rewarding project requiring online research, records requests, library visits and maybe even travel to the home country or town where your ancestors lived.
A good place to begin is Ancestry.com, where you may even stumble onto a distant cousin eager to share his or her own research and offer tips for finding relatives from long ago.
Perhaps you've always wanted to learn more about wine or take up knitting, or maybe you've been meaning to renovate a part of your house for years. No matter what you take on, a new project can be a rewarding part of your life.
Find a Part-Time Job You Love
Once you've parted ways with the full-time work world, why not take a part-time job that doesn't carry the pressures of a demanding career? Easing out of the full-time workforce with a part-time job adds continued structure to your days while opening the door to new friendships and supplementing your retirement income. Lots of businesses hire retirees to work at least a day or two each week, so look for a part-time job doing what you love.
Lend a Hand by Volunteering
Worried you'll miss your peers from work? Retirement is a great time to make new friends through volunteering. Whether you foster homeless pets at a local rescue, cultivate gardens at a city park or deliver groceries to homebound seniors, volunteering is one of the best ways to have new experiences and meet people of all ages, especially fellow retirees.
Consistent volunteering can also improve your overall health and well-being, according to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The report found that volunteers in the Senior Corps — an organization where volunteers tutor and mentor students, assist older adults and offer support in the aftermath of natural disasters — were healthier, less depressed and less socially isolated than people who didn't volunteer.
To find volunteer opportunities, perform an online search for local nonprofit charities and organizations. Look into national volunteer opportunities such as the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), U.S. National Park Service or the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Cultivate a Social Network
One of the most important things you can do once you retire is strengthen the social network you already have while adding new friends to your support system. That's because maintaining strong social connections provides significant health benefits and helps you cope better during times of stress, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In addition to meeting new people in the usual ways while volunteering or participating in a book club or other group, consider joining an online forum that's focused on your favorite hobby or a specific interest, such as history, crafts or film. If new friends are fellow retirees, they can also offer perspectives on adjusting to a retirement lifestyle and share resources for volunteering and learning opportunities.
Embrace the Retirement Lifestyle
You paid your dues for decades carving out a career path, and now it's time to enjoy your retirement, pursue new interests, travel and make new friends. Who knows? Maybe you can one day be a mentor to another retirement newbie.
Until then, make the most of the freedom that comes with the retirement lifestyle. After all, you've earned it.