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Three Proactive Ways to Combat the Potential Negative Mental Health Effects of Retirement

Three Proactive Ways to Combat the Potential Negative Mental Health Effects of Retirement

December 17, 2020

Retirement benefits are numerous. From finding new hobbies to enjoy to being able to spend more time helping others to having the time to travel, retirement is typically considered a more relaxing and less stressful time in our lives. With plenty of things to enjoy during this phase of life, many retirees are likely to rate their overall health as satisfactory. On the contrary, a decline in mental health is also a risk during retirement due to contributors such as a lack of daily structure, loneliness, and even changes in our brain circuitry. Therefore, below are three proactive ways to combat the potential negative mental health effects of retirement that can enhance your retirement preparation efforts.

1. Make sure you are ready for retirement.

If possible, wait to retire when the time feels right for you personally. Studies prove that, in general, voluntary retirement is better for your mental health. Additionally, seek proper therapy and financial advisement in order to accurately plan for your retirement transition. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help with any situational depression you might experience about retiring or getting older. Early financial advisement can help navigate your retirement plans, social security, and financial goals. In the end, retiring on your own terms and working through any concerns you may have about retirement beforehand could be helpful to your overall mental health in the long run.

2. Make sure to keep your relationships active after retirement.

If not proactive, retirement can accidently result in social isolation. Since studies show social isolation can expedite both physical and mental health issues, make a concerted effort to keep your family relationships, friendships, and past work-related relationships active as much as your new schedule will allow. This is particularly important if you are either single or widowed at retirement. While living alone can contribute to social isolation, it is important to know that it does not always produce it. Remaining socially active, even at reduced levels, can keep social isolation at bay.

3. Make sure to stay mentally and physically active after retirement.

Daily full-time work or childrearing activity schedules, while seemingly mundane, actually keep your brain healthy. Reducing work and activity, subsequently removing those routines at retirement, can have negative consequences on your mental health. Therefore, it is extremely important to initiate a new daily routine full of stress-free activities, such as engaging in new hobbies, starting new mentorships, volunteering at nonprofits, or even working part-time—whatever defines your post-retirement purpose. These purposeful activities will keep your brain processing at healthier rates.

Of course, proper exercise, nutrition, and sleep, along a reduction in stress, also helps to support your overall health during retirement. If an exercise regimen has always been a part of your schedule before retirement, being able to sustain or even increase it after retirement can be valuable to your mental health. And, if you never had time for proper exercise before, it is never too late to begin—many gyms and activity centers have specific programs for retirees.  

Appropriate planning, purposeful activities, and social engagement—three proactive ways to combat the potential negative mental health effects of retirement—can help pave the way towards a happier and healthier life after full-time employment or childrearing.