Retirement14 February 2018

How to be happy when you stop working


When you retire, the pace of your life changes. You’re no longer getting ready for work every morning, and you might find it strange not to have people setting deadlines you need to rush through.

This change of pace and sense of freedom is a natural part of retirement, but it can also be a big adjustment.

Retirement is a major life change that comes with many mental health risk factors and, for many, one of those challenges is getting used to not going to work and having a sense of purpose that comes with that.

Don’t rush to fill in your time

While you might hear other retirees raving about how busy they are – for example, ‘I don’t know how I found time to work before’ is a common statement – try to remember you can set your own retirement day pace. Once you commit to something, whether it’s volunteering for a not-for-profit organisation or taking part in a social activity, you’ll be expected to continue that commitment regularly. Giving consideration to what you really want to do before rushing in just to fill time is a useful process. Trying things on a trial basis can be a good way to see if it’s really fulfilling and fits in with other ways you’d like to spend your time.

What do you really want to do?

If someone asked you about your goals, dreams and desires, it’s unlikely you’d respond saying ‘I just want to be busy’. Research shows finding purpose is a major retirement motivator, and this is known to be a strong protector against mental health challenges.

There may be things you’ve always wanted to have time to do, whether that’s building on skills, undertaking a new career, or exploring a new hobby. The SuperFriend report, Planning for a Mentally Healthy Retirement, shows this sense of purpose as a positive retirement aspect to reduce stress. As a bonus, this sense of purpose and self-acceptance has been shown to increase your life expectancy.

Set boundaries

It’s easy for others to see you as having all the time in the world when you retire and you often hear about retirees who spend it looking after their grandchildren. Whilst many love this opportunity to spend time with the little ones, it’s important to place boundaries around those time commitments. The vital aspect of it is to have control over where your time is being spent.

You can still achieve things

It’s important to recognise the difference between rushing around each day and having ambitions. Of course, there will be things you want to accomplish and new challenges you want to undertake, but it’s possible to do those at a pace you set for yourself. This sense of accomplishment can help maintain retirement control and happiness levels, and may remove some of the worry, self-criticism and negativity that increases depression risks.

Create an action plan

beyondblue recommends using action plans during retirement to help you achieve your goals. This can help you to find time to accomplish many worthwhile things while setting your own timeframes.


SuperFriend report: Planning for a Mentally Healthy Retirement

Healthy retirement literature review, provided by SuperFriend

Causes of depression: Accessed 17 January 2018

General: Accessed 17 January 2018

This article was provided by SuperFriend®, a national health promotion foundation that helps ‘all profit to member’ super funds to promote and support improved mental health and wellbeing for their members, through the workplace. SuperFriend provides easy to understand information about mental health and mental illness, tips on how workplaces can create supportive work environments and importantly, where to find reliable help if you or someone you know needs assistance.

Planning how to spend your ret...

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