Happiness in Retirement — Build Your Resilience

Achieving happiness in retirement becomes easier if you build resilience. When work stops and retirement begins, an important life change happens.

As a life event, retirement is significant.  Your perception of who you are as a person and your sense of worth in society changes — as does your lifestyle.

Regardless of whether retirement happened by choice or whether retirement was forced on you through layoff, down-sizing, or ill health — life will be different.

Many retirees find themselves feeling under-appreciated especially if they held positions involving high status. Very often, people feel overwhelmed, especially when retirement was a forced change.

Perks of employment are gone, relationships with colleagues are lost, financial circumstances may be a challenge, time needs to be managed differently, spousal relationships change.

The way people respond varies as does the rate at which the adjustment to retirement happens.

To respond positively to the life change that come with retirement, resilience is important.

Build your Resilience -- Resilient Tulips -- photo courtesy of Iowa_spirit_walker
Build your Resilience — Resilient Tulips — photo courtesy of Iowa_spirit_walker

Resilience Defined

Websters dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.

Definitions found online refer to resilience as the ability to recover quickly from difficult conditions or to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma or tragedy.

Happily, for most people, retirement is a positive life change that doesn’t involve misfortune or tragedy. Nonetheless, even in the most positive circumstances, retirement creates reactions that may include sadness, anxiety, anger, grief and fear.

Resilience will support you

Building resilience will help to manage reactions to the life changes of retirement.

Resilience is a natural quality found in all of us.  Life has taught us how to deal with change — how to ‘roll with the punches’.  Life has also taught us how to be limber in the face of change — and how to ‘bounce back’.

A resilient response will involve managing behaviours, managing thoughts and taking actions.

Skills and strategies developed in the past will help you respond to rough times.  These skills likely include problem-solving, keeping a positive attitude, reaching out to family and friends for support, accepting that change is part of living, and taking a long view into the future and not over-reacting to a short-term event.

Managing Behaviours

Managing behaviours will involve making plans for a happy retirement.  Some people find that setting goals — both short-term and long-term — helps to make the days meaningful and provides the structure that was lost when work stopped.

Moving toward goal achievement maintains a sense of purpose.  And what a wonderful feeling it is to achieve a goal!

Last year I vowed to improve my swimming by learning to breathe properly and by strengthening various strokes.  For weeks I took lessons and practiced in the pool at my gym.  The payoff was on multiple fronts. I am a better swimmer but most of all, I had a boost of confidence from this accomplishment.

Learning new skills and challenging yourself helps to build a sense of purpose and an ability to take charge of life events.

Managing the behaviours involved with taking good care of yourself including eating nutritious meals, exercising, sleeping enough, and seeking spiritual fulfillment often forms the beginning of developing resilience in retirement.

Managing Thoughts

One of my yoga mentors often says,  “what you think about, you bring about”.  It’s her way of encouraging students to think positive thoughts — about themselves, about others, and about life situations.

Sometimes changing a thought pattern from negative to positive helps to put things in perspective. Refusing to think negatively, suspending judgement and rejecting negative thoughts requires self-awareness and continual monitoring of thinking patterns.

As someone who spent many years as a ‘black hat’ thinker — looking for obstacles, finding faults and scanning for problems, I have had to force myself to keep reaching for positive and proactive approaches when thinking about life changes.  Awareness of my own emotional reactions and thinking style has helped me to become more optimistic, to stay hopeful when faced with challenges, to control my emotional reactions, and to view setbacks as temporary.

Believing that good things can and will happen and visualizing positive outcomes have been  powerful steps forward as I have become more resilient — and happier during my retirement journey.

Taking Action

If you really want to have happiness in retirement by building resilience you need to take action — decisive action.

The famous German writer and thinker von Goethe wrote,  “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it.  Action has magic, grace and power in it.”

Nothing will happen unless you begin.  Whether it is finding a new social network in retirement, learning new skills, or beginning a new post-retirement job, getting started is the first step. This is the time to put your ‘can do’ attitude into play.

When I feel overwhelmed with a task or a life problem, I find that a simple way to keep focused on taking action steps is to ask myself, “What is the one thing that I can do today to move forward?”  This simple question usually helps me to problem solve constructively and not feeling discouraged or feeling that the task is insurmountable.  It’s one way of taking action.

Building Resilience

Focusing on behaviour changes, managing thoughts to keep a positive attitude, and taking action to solve problems are starting points in building resilience.

Resilience is a human quality — a gift within each of us.

Resilience will help you cope with the inevitable setbacks that happen in life.  It will help you to be a survivor and not a victim. It will help you overcome some of the obstacles that will happen during retirement.

By building resilience, life changing experiences such as the transition to retirement and the life events during retirement can be managed more successfully — and happiness in retirement will increase.





6 Replies to “Happiness in Retirement — Build Your Resilience”

  1. I am doing my P.hD research on retirement, resilience and perceived socials support.. i have subscribed.. this was informative.. i need further new researches and upcoming posts and blogs!
    anyone else who can help me out in it..?

    1. Hello Feryal,
      The internet is filled with retirement blogs. I read only a few as I find that I can use all my precious time reading rather than writing. Where are you located? Is there a particular area of resilience and social support that you are researching?
      Be well,

  2. I think having resiliency is absolutely key! No matter what plan you have it will never go as planned therefore you have to be willing to roll with the punches.

    1. Jeanette Lewis says: Reply

      Hi Marvin, You’re not kidding when you say’roll with the punches’. All of us sometimes feel beaten but the key is keep believing in yourself and keep moving forward. Plans have to remain flexible enough to accommodate the inevitable blips and bumps.
      Be well, Jeanette

  3. Thank you very much again Jeanette – I am always thrilled when I see you have another post for us – love them (no pressure!). Given my/our stage of life – aside from dedicated cites much of what we are exposed to is more relevant to other cohorts – thus a real treat to read your postworksavvy blogs.

    Regards Janet (from now sunny Queenslad – rain has FINALLY passed).

    1. Jeanette Lewis says: Reply

      Hi Janet,
      Your comment encourages me. The blogging journey has been a retirement project that brings great pleasure while providing continual challenges such as finding time to write/research posts and wondering whether people receive any value from the blog. Your comment provides assurance that my blog posts are helpful to readers. Thanks!
      Be well,

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