Retiring Gracefully

by Gerald Crawford
(Tandragee, Northern Ireland)

How to be happy and fulfilled in your retirement

The elements of a successful retirement are surely good health, strong family relations and/or friendships, a sense of purpose, a variety of stimulating and enjoyable activities, and spiritual growth. However, these may be harder to achieve than expected.

For many years, decades in fact, many people rely on their place of employment to provide most of these factors, such as social interaction, “a sense of purpose” and “a variety of stimulating and enjoyable activities”. When you leave full-time employment, ensuring that these elements are present in your life becomes your own responsibility.

Here are some suggestions of activities that will enhance your body, mind and spirit in your retirement years.

From paid worker to unpaid worker

The loss of status and lifestyle when you suddenly stop working can be difficult to deal with, and may in some cases even lead to depression. A great way to deal with this is to continue working, albeit on a much smaller scale, as a voluntary worker with a charity organization of your choice. You won’t get paid (or in some instances you may even receive a small stipend) but you will have all the other benefits that you may be missing from your old job: intellectual stimulation, social interaction, a feeling of usefulness and job satisfaction, and the experience of being part of something bigger than yourself. Many health professionals now recognize the health benefits of continued but downscaled employment for many retirees.

Discover your creative side

The corporate world and most office-bound jobs do not provide much scope for creativity, and so you may have to dig deep to rediscover your creative imagination, but it will certainly be worth the effort. Participating in the arts, in whatever form – creative writing, music, performing arts, or visual arts – will certainly be an enriching experience and add beauty to your life. Don’t worry about whether you are creative or not; some people certainly are more talented than others when it comes to performing, writing or painting, but creativity itself can be taught and developed with practice. You just have to allow yourself to explore and play with different forms and media.

Explore cyberspace

At first, computers may seem miles removed from participating in the arts, but it is easier to combine the two than you may imagine. Through the interactive platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and online communities, you can, for example, listen to music, learn various dance steps, join a creative writing group, or learn to play an instrument.

You may wish to realize a long-held dream to play the guitar, and the internet has everything from rock guitar lessons to learning how to master blues guitar, you can decide on a style that suits you, and choose whatever you think would be the best guitar course for you. An added advantage of learning to play the guitar is that it is an instrument that you can easily take with you, and that promotes social interaction with others.

Awaken to the beauty of nature

After years of spending hours each day in peak-hour traffic and many more hours in the artificial light and air-conditioned environment of an office, you are at last free to get reacquainted with the beauty of natural surroundings. You are no longer constrained to visiting beaches and resorts only on weekends, or during peak holiday times – instead, you can take advantage from specials during low-season times, and get to enjoy nature at its best.

Some activities that are great for getting you into the great outdoors are walking, cycling, swimming, fishing, riding, bird-watching and golf. The benefits of these include not only the physical exercise, but the time spent in fresh air and sunlight, and the healing effects that natural surroundings have on the body and the mind.

Make friends with the animals

Interacting with pets and other domestic animals – dogs, cats, horses, sheep, even llamas – have great advantages for human beings: Remarkably, just stroking the fur of a beloved pet can lower a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. Having a pet will relieve stress, combat loneliness, and promote activity and involvement with the outside world, in other words, both physical and psychological wellbeing.

An excellent way to interact with animals is to go riding, and if you have never ridden before, it is certainly not too late to take lessons once you are retired. Horses are incredibly sensitive and attuned to humans, and you will quickly develop a bond with a horse that you ride regularly. Riding is also great for building self-confidence and promoting strength and flexibility, and will inevitably take you into natural surroundings that also promote a sense of wellbeing. For these reasons horses are sometimes used in therapy, and here you could become involved in, for example, helping children with cerebral palsy to experience riding and interacting with horses – a very rewarding undertaking that combines nature, animals and helping others.

About the Author

Gerald Crawford grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland and now lives in the small country town of Tandragee with his wife Maureen. He learned to play the guitar when he was young but everyday life got in the way and he lost his passion for it. He is now in his mid forties with a lot more time on his hands, and when his wife Maureen bought him an electric guitar for his 43rd birthday his interest in playing was rekindled. He knows how challenging it can be to learn to play a musical instrument and now encourages others by reviewing what he thinks would be the best guitar lesson dvd for beginners at