The secret of health for both body and mind is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly
Well-being most often refers to ideas such as happiness, fulfillment, quality of life or living a good, meaningful life. Spiritual leaders, psychologists and economists have developed various measures to score well-being. Many countries, including Canada, calculate a population-based well-being index according to scores on variables including standard of living, health, education, use of leisure time, quality of the environment and participation in democratic activity.
National well-being scores are becoming important measures of civic life. Many economists scrutinize scores of well-being as carefully as they scrutinize GDP (Gross Domestic Productivity) scores. Happiness, job satisfaction and productivity are linked to perceptions of well-being.
Many of the well-being indexes emphasize measures related to quality of work, job happiness, and career satisfaction. These measurements are insufficient for retired people who no longer worry about job and career related factors. But retirement doesn’t mean that other aspects of well-being should be ignored; in fact, achieving high levels of well-being during retirement paves the road to contentment, happiness, prosperity and overall health.
Multiple factors will influence well-being in retirement
Multiple factors will influence well-being and happiness in retirement. Ultimately your retirement well-being score will be a subjective evaluation of your life situation. You might use a formal index of well-being to attain a well-being score or you can score yourself informally as many of the formal measures place undue emphasis on work related areas.
- Social/Cultural. In retirement it is essential to take part in close relationships where you feel engaged, affirmed and valued. The social support from a friend or a spouse/partner is invaluable on those days where life’s difficulties make for a heavy heart. Social relationships keep you involved with interesting activities that allow for a general satisfaction with life’s opportunities. And positive relationships within your own family make for happy times as well as cushioning those rough patches.
- Environmental. Living conditions influence well-being. Basic requirements for nutritious food, clean water, safe streets, shelter and access to quality health care are often taken for granted in Western cultures but nonetheless form a foundation for well-being in retirement. Achieving pleasure from the comforts within your four walls — however luxurious or spartan they may be — forms the basis of an overall sense of satisfaction with life.
- Personality. We all approach our lives differently — adapting to life events and reacting to good or bad situations. Our moods and emotions will influence how we evaluate our life experiences and how we adapt to changing circumstances. Personality and attitude sway our feelings about life. Have you received the important things you want from your life? What are you doing to achieve your retirement goals? Do you experience most days as pleasurable times that leave you fulfilled and happy when you go off to bed in the evening? Your personal approach influences the lens through which you view your world and the circumstances of your life. You can choose to focus on experiencing pleasure and not waste time on negative aspects of life.
- Biological/health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Certainly the absence of disease is an important aspect of health. As the years speed by, we realize that health can no longer be taken for granted as the bodies we took for granted no longer move so easily. We value our memories and mental capacity more than ever as we read the alarming statistics on dementia and Alzheimer’s. We take care of our health by attending to nutritional needs, physical exercise and to activities that keep minds active and alert.
The factors of well-being are interdependent and each influences all the other factors and each factor is, in turn, influenced by the others. Keeping these factors in balance and continually choosing to regard life as worthwhile and meaningful will lead to positive scores in all aspects of well-being and in overall life satisfaction.
Attending to well-being in retirement is crucial
For optimal physical and emotional health it is desirable for retirees themselves to think that they are living ‘good’ lives. Rating the quality of every day experiences as worthwhile is essential for feeling happy and content with life. And we know that happy people are more likely to live longer, to stay engaged with community/volunteer activities, to have better health and to be liked by others. Greater happiness and life satisfaction will be the rewards for retirees who take control and actualize personal well-being.