How Better Self-Care Leads to Happy Retirement

Written by Jessica Hegg

The sunny horizon of retirement glows with hopes and ideals of a work-free, pain-free, worry-free life. A happy retirement, however, depends on how you prepare in the decades leading up to your Golden Years. Outside of working hard and bolstering savings and investments, attention to regular self-care is a must for building a happy future.

Self-care literally means “taking care of yourself.” Amidst working, setting goals, raising kids, running errands, and essentially just functioning on a day to day basis, we can lose the drive to actually live and flourish in our experiences. Self-care is the little voice that tells us to pause, breath, be alone with ourselves and tune into the love and attention our bodies and minds are begging for. Don’t miss these quick self-care tips for promoting a happy, well-rounded retirement:

Regular exercise: The coincidence of retirement and old age means plans and dreams can easily get blindsided by health problems. Regular exercise now, and into retirement years, bears innumerable benefits, from combating Alzheimer’s and dementia to warding off weight gain, high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes. Retain muscle strength, flexibility, and balance with routine fitness as well, which helps prevent falls and common injuries that plague older adults.

Mini-meditations: Mini meditation can happen through yoga, tai chi, or simply taking a few minutes to sit still and practice deep breathing and body awareness. Checking in to your emotions and thoughts without the distractions of devices, chores, or work is vital to understanding your own needs and state of happiness, now and in the future. Body and mind awareness also make you a better communicator and partner in relationships. Understanding how you are feeling and vocalizing your wants and needs with honesty will benefit your social connectedness and relationships you have in retirement with your spouse, family, and friends.

Dealing with aches and pains: Sore muscles and chronic back pain don’t just disappear once retirement rolls around. Recognizing day to day pain and developing a daily care routine that helps address it means a stronger, healthier pain-free you in retirement. Your self-care practices to deal with pain may include daily stretches, weekly baths, self-soothing techniques like rubbing lotion on your hands or applying heat and ice to your back.

Routine check-ups: Preventative check-ups and treatments are a bit of medical self-care that you can find assistance with from your doctor. Yearly exams, physicals and preventative tests (i.e. blood tests, prostate and breast exams), give you control over your future, help you prevent disease and illness, and provide peace of mind knowing that there are no mysteries surrounding your health.

Finding time to play: Take five to ten un-orchestrated minutes of your day to literally play. Goof around, dance to your favorite song, roll around with your dogs – being actively unstructured in just being you is great practice for a happy retirement and promotes mental wellness. In retirement, you start working at living, no longer the other way around. Letting loose to play, relax and simply enjoy the fun of life is the type of self-care that will inspire you in retirement.

Cleaning house: Your mental clarity and physical well-being can often reflect the state of your own environment. Feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Look around your room, house or office – is there disarray, piles of paper, dirty dishes, simply loads and loads of “things” you have collected over the years? Prep for a happy retirement by taking time to declutter your surroundings. Make it a monthly practice to donate gently used items and clothing that you no longer use or that don’t truly bring you joy. Self-care of your own space builds a positive foundation for a happy retirement.

The Key to an Easy Retirement…

Self-care nourishes your body, mind, and soul; helping you feel more connected to yourself and the world. While your working years are so often devoted to others – your kids, your job, your house – retirement is a time of reawakening and rediscovering the simple pleasures in life. Take care of yourself and retirement will take care of you!

Preparing To Retire Is All About the Details

If you hope to realize the retirement you imagine and deserve you need to prepare. Leaving the details of your second act to chance is a good way to miss out on what should be a glorious time to explore your interests, passions and hobbies. It is not possible to foresee all of the twists and turns that lie ahead but you can improve your odds by proactively planning for your post-career journey.

What it will cost to live the life you want?

Careful budgeting is a cornerstone to any successful retirement plan. If you don’t know the net of how much you have coming in compared to how much you spend each month you put yourself in a precarious position. While you may skate by in the early years when your funds are relatively higher you will eventually find yourself running in the red.

As you begin your calculations try to figure your cost of living based not just upon getting by. Retirement is your time to enjoy. Build in sufficient expenditures to allow you to do so. Often times there will be tradeoffs so it helps to prioritize those most important components of your retirement wish list.

One area that caught me unprepared was the incredible cost of healthcare. All those years working for companies that paid for health and dental and vision as part of employment are but a distant memory. In retirement each of us assumes the burden of insuring our own health. Not only are the rates monumentally high to begin with but the costs are trending ever upward. I find it frightening knowing our advancing years bring with them the likelihood of numerous health challenges whose corresponding expenses are only increasing.

My wife and I did our research and ultimately opted for a mid-level plan through Blue Shield with significant deductibles, intimidating out of pocket maximums, and confusing coverage options, all for the not-so- cheap price of more than $2000 per month. And that excludes dental and vision. As you prepare to live a fulfilling retirement, don’t underestimate the bite healthcare costs will take out of your nest egg.

What do you want your retirement life to look like?

If things go as expected you can hope to spend your retirement days doing the things you have always wanted to do. You control how you choose to spend the hours and days and weeks. Freedom of choice is a wonderful reality. By the way, have you thought about how you might want to spend all that blessed free time?

Recent retirees often share how they worked hard all their lives to earn their retirement only to discover they are not sure what to do once they arrive. Imagine you are in the early days of your second act only to find yourself bored with the life you live. With nothing to look forward to it can sometimes feel challenging to even get out of bed.

The time to plan is before you retire. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself what it is you would like to do with the next few decades.

Is travel an important ingredient to your happily-retired list or are you content at home?

Do you get antsy without people to interact with or can you entertain yourself?

Do you like to try new things or are you set in your ways?

Do you have a lot of interests/hobbies to explore?

What do you enjoy most doing?

Do you have any specific goals set?

Look ahead to the lifestyle you hope to live as a retiree. Then take those actions now that can better assure you realize those dreams.

How does your vision of retirement compare with that of your spouse?

If you have a significant other retirement will include both of you. If you have never spent 24/7 together for an extended period this is your chance! The well prepared retired couple takes time to better understand each other and individual ideas of retired living. There will be plenty of time to do things together but it is equally important to have time alone. You can avoid possible conflict by deciding who does what around the house and garden. Since retirement is dynamic open communications as you navigate your journey together is a must.

What does your spouse most enjoy doing?

What things do you like to do together?

Are you both okay with spending time apart pursuing personal interests?

Where do your plans regarding retirement differ?

A happy spouse means a happy house so make sure you are on the same page to get the most out of your mutual retirement.

Have you found your “happy place”?

I remember times on the job when all that kept me sane was the thought of someday retiring from the rat race to live a more enjoyable existence. I pictured a peaceful spot away from the noise and stress where I would do what I wanted – as little or as much as I liked. My ultimate happy place found me sitting on a beach, waves rhythmically breaking along the shoreline while seagulls squawked above – not a care in the world and not a better place to be.

Now retired, I have discovered quite a few happy places. The beach continues to reign supreme. But I love sitting on a bench in the garden or walking a wilderness trail. I am totally at peace strolling the downtown or driving along country roads. How about a mid-day coffee at the local java shop watching the rest of the world scurry by? The best part is in retirement I no longer only imagine time in my happy space(s) – I get to spend time there whenever I want. When did you last visit your own happy place?

I sometimes get slightly obsessive about planning. I like to know what is next on the agenda, where we are going, when we will arrive, you know the drill. When it comes to retirement that planning obsession might be a positive. Although no one knows exactly what to expect – which can be kind of exciting in itself – the more we anticipate the details of how our retirement will roll out the fewer unexpected surprises we will face.