Once you retire, you probably won't miss the usual stressors of a demanding career. What you might miss, however, is the built-in social and support structure of a work environment, which can contribute to mental and emotional health.
Losing workplace social connections can lead to social isolation and put an individual at greater risk of depression and impaired cognitive health, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). On the other hand, engaging in meaningful, productive activities with others can help you live longer, boost your mood and provide a sense of purpose. Maintaining mental and emotional health and wellness can also help a person meet life's challenges, adapt to change and navigate difficult times.
To make sure you stay on top of mental wellness in retirement, consider practicing these five healthy habits regularly.
1. Maintain Social Connections
Without a social circle of coworkers and colleagues, it can be easy to neglect developing and maintaining social connections. This can negatively affect your mental and emotional health, so make a point to keep in touch with old and new friends alike in retirement, and take time to chat with even casual acquaintances at the gym or in your neighborhood.
Social connections tip: Volunteer for a cause you believe in or an organization that helps older adults, teens, homeless people, shelter pets or another population you care about.
2. Nurture a Positive Attitude
Developing and maintaining a bright outlook on life, relationships and the world around you is key to mental wellness, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Having a positive attitude can help you experience fewer negative emotions, let go of troubling thoughts sooner and remain resilient after a setback or loss.
Positive attitude tip: Keep a daily gratitude journal where you list some things for which you are grateful. Doing so can help you see the positive aspects of your relationships, goals and life.
3. Get a Good Night's Sleep
One of the best things you can do for your mental and emotional health is to ensure you get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. Without adequate sleep, a person is more prone to depression, irritability, slow reflexes and poor concentration, according to the NIH. On the other hand, a restful night's sleep can improve focus, boost mood, provide more energy and help you maintain a positive attitude the next day.
Sleep tip: If you have trouble falling asleep, try adding more exercise early in the day with relaxing walks or a yoga class.
4. Practice Self Care
Taking care of an aging parent or another relative during your retirement years can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are organizations with volunteers who can shop for groceries, mow the lawn or offer an afternoon of respite care so you can get out of the house. To locate volunteers, contact local senior services agencies or do an online search for caregiving volunteer resources.
Self care tip: Remember that the body and the mind are interconnected as you practice self care. You can satisfy the needs of both by taking daily walks to relieve stress, increase your energy and provide space for thoughtful meditation.
5. Remain Mindful
You don't have to sit cross-legged on a mountain top to enjoy the mental and emotional health benefits of mindfulness, a form of meditation based on living in the moment with total awareness of your emotions and surroundings. Practicing mindfulness diverts attention away from negative or random thoughts and can result in less stress, reduced anxiety and increased mental wellness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Mindfulness tip: Utilize all your senses in your daily activities. Fully taste the food you eat, notice how the light changes throughout the day and feel the earth beneath your feet during a walk. When you have negative thoughts, consider closing your eyes, breathing deeply and focusing on your breath.
Make Mental Well-Being Part of Your Retirement Plan
Taking care of your mental and emotional health is crucial to enjoying your retirement. Try adding some of these habits to your daily routine to keep yourself sharp, energized and happy during your golden years.