While your retirement may be a foregone conclusion, being happy in the 3rd chapter of life is another story. Many people get financially prepared to stop working, but then along comes retirement and, unfortunately, the intensity of the last 40 years makes it difficult to suddenly shift gears, slow down and be happy.
Try and keep in mind that your future can be anything you want it to be. With a little optimism and some prior intention, it could be magical. You can recapture wonder and excitement. In fact, if you dare to allow for it, your future could be the best part of your life.
Going Forward by Going Back
Take a moment and relax. Sit back and breathe. Can you remember what summer was like when you were 12? You probably had very little responsibility except to be with your friends and play. No cell phones, computers or cable television. Everything was happening right now. Swimming in lakes or rivers, or splashing in those Doughboy pools with the blue tarp bottoms. Remember how that rough tarp felt on your feet? Remember how the sides of those above-ground pools would sometimes buckle, freeing the water to flood the yard in a cool, blue rush?
That was not only adventure, it was fun. But the urgency of adulthood retrains us and takes away our ability to fully enjoy leisure.
Now is the perfect time to get your wonder back.
The wisest mind has something yet to learn. ~ George Santayana (1863 – 1952)
3 Ways to Slow Down, Calm Down, and Recapture the Wonder of Youth
This is not about what you have or have not done right for your retirement lifestyle. This is about your life and your happiness. It’s about doing something for yourself and for those you love.
After decades of hard work, once you shift gears into retirement, you’re going to need to plan for happiness. You’re going to need to try new things. And those new things should be adopted in an effort to slow you down and recapture a little of that wide-eyed wonder.
1. Put Yourself in New Situations
In her book The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, author and UC Berkeley professor Alison Gopnik writes: “The evidence, nowadays, is that there's potential for that even in old age, exposing yourself to new activities can actually induce a child-like plasticity in the brain.”
One of the keys to regaining wonder, happiness and mental flexibility, says Gopnik, is to place yourself in new situations. From eating in new restaurants, to traveling to exotic locales, to learning an instrument, happiness and wonder can return when we retrain ourselves to slow down and appreciate the unfamiliar.
2. Become a Dedicated Bird Watcher
Beauty is all around us, but sometimes we forget it’s there. One of the best ways to recapture the wonder of youth is to appreciate the little things. According to the Audubon Society, bird watching is the fastest growing hobby in America for people over the age of 55.
Watching birds improves eyesight and memory, helps you explore the world, can make you more politically active, gives you something to write about and, perhaps best of all, helps you slow down so you can treasure the moment. If you’ve never done it, you might not realize that bird watching isn’t merely about walking along a street looking for American Robins.
Once your skills as a bird watcher (ahem) take off, you could conduct counts for the government which could be used to fund various conservation objectives.
Bird clubs and related organizations are in virtually every city in America. Imagine an early morning boat ride in the Everglades or Sacramento’s beautiful river delta as you search for signs of an endangered species. Imagine being part of a Bald Eagle count.
You’ll make new friends and meet interesting people along the way. But best of all, you’ll commune with nature, which is probably the single biggest change from when we were 12 years old: the amount of time we spend outside.
3. Slow Down with Chi Gong
According to a March 7th, 2016 documentary on PBS, worldwide over half a billion people practice Chi Gong daily. Chi Gong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention. Its purpose is to release physical tension and help relax the mind. The movements of Chi Gong aren’t strenuous like yoga, so almost anyone can do it. And unlike Tai Chi, you don’t even need particularly good balance, as the standing postures mostly involve gentle twists and using your hands to pat pressure points on your arms, legs and shoulders. On a whim, a friend of mine was recently introduced to Chi Gong, and he reported that a mere 20-minute session significantly decreased his stress level and calmed his mind.
Go online for an introduction to this ancient healing modality, and then see about groups or meet-ups in your area.