In our experience, people who enjoy retirement often have a few things in common. They’re healthy and have retirement activities they enjoy; they’re mentally stimulated and open to learning new things; and they’re financially independent enough to enjoy simple pleasures.

We all experience ups and downs – it’s the natural ebb and flow of life. But focusing on the positives, and eliminating unhelpful habits, can support us in finding our own unique version of a happy and healthy retirement.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a helpful guide packed full of retirement advice.

Retirement activities and physical health

Wondering how to be happy in retirement?

Regular exercise is a really important part of healthy ageing. That might be a walk outside every morning, or a spot of gardening in the afternoon. It could be a daily swim – good for those with troublesome joints – or a jog on the treadmill. Aim to complete about 150 minutes of exercise a week if you want to see speedy progress. But getting out and keeping active for just 10 minutes per day is enough to maintain a base level of fitness.

Better yet, you don’t need an expensive gym membership to stay fit. If you find yourself short of time, keeping weights next to the kettle or doing stretches while it comes to the boil might work better for you. Our Rewirement podcast episode, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind has lots of other time-saving tips for ageing well.

Regular exercise will not only release feel-good endorphins, it’ll also keep aches and pains at bay. Our bodies are more likely to let us down when we’re couch potatoes.

Don’t let your body stop you from enjoying your favourite retirement activities. Every little bit counts – and it’s never too late to get started!


The benefits of exercise

Guidance from the NHS, says that regular exercise helps prevent conditions such as type 2 diabetes, dementia and bowel cancer. There are also a range of other health benefits of keeping active, including:

  • Strengthening the heart
  • Improving circulation
  • Controlling your weight
  • Boosting your mood
  • Improving quality of sleep
  • Better circulation

Regular exercise not only improves your physical health, it’s great for your mental health, too. The release of serotonin is a mood booster, can help you sleep better, and reduces stress.

How to look after our mental health in retirement

While it can affect people of all ages, many people in retirement experience depression, anxiety and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Others can feel isolated, with over nine million adults admitting to often or always feeling lonely. If you feel you need some extra support, your doctor can help. Age UK, the Samaritans and The Silver Line also offer helplines and online advice.

Keeping busy in retirement and filling it with activities that bring joy, is an important part of looking after our mental health. If you’re wondering what to do when you retire, read some of the stories of real retirees in our series, Colourful Retirement Stories, for inspiration.

“Hobbies can dramatically alter the state of your nervous system,” says Harley Street performance and confidence coach, Olivia James. “They can take us out of ourselves, change our perspective and improve mood.”

Sometimes people struggle with what to do when they retire, but when they stumble across something that’s inspiring, it breathes new life into their routine.

Pick up new skills

Whether you’re a bookworm, an aspiring artist or a language lover, why not treat yourself to a learning holiday. Be it learning a new language or improving your culinary skills, you’ll explore a new place and soak up knowledge at the same time.


Go back to university

If you want to explore a more formal route, why not consider going back to university? It’s not as unusual as you might think, and The Open University is an excellent distance-learning option. Alternatively, you could join the University of the Third Age (u3a), which is a members’ organisation with learning groups across the UK. It’s a great way to stay mentally active in retirement, and you’ll meet new people while you’re at it, too.

The importance of financial health in retirement

In almost all professions, mandatory retirement is a thing of the past. In fact, in the past 20 years, nearly 900,000 more people have chosen to stay in work. That’s why there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to giving retirement advice.

That said, if you want to stop working, you have other options.

You might retire and live off your pension pots and investments. Alternatively, you might be like Jon, who took early retirement from Barclays and started working part time at a sports shop. “It got to the point, as the years progressed, where I didn’t want to keep travelling to the City and work a stressful job, so I looked for something a little less demanding. Something that included more leisure.”

We have more choice than ever before. And in life, options go a long way to helping people feel empowered. But no matter what you decide to do, always make sure that you stay on top of your finances as you get older. Financial independence goes hand in hand with mental and physical wellbeing – three of the keys to retirement happiness.

Emma Byron, Managing Director of Retirement Solutions at Legal & General, reminds us of the importance of getting to grips with your finances for a happier, healthier future.

“People often bury their heads in the sand, but the more honest you are, the more financial freedom you’re going to give yourself longer term,” she says. “Take the time to educate yourself and take stock of your finances, and remember to revisit them regularly.

There are lots of tools on our website to help with financial planning, as well as our free course with The Open University. If you’re struggling, remember you can also speak to a financial adviser.”

What’s your financial safety net?

Our easy-to-use tool will help give you an idea of how strong a position you’d be in if you lost your income.

Stay happy in retirement with a healthy balance

When it comes down to it, the big question – how to stay happy in retirement – is really just a balancing act. Looking after our mental health is really important, and keeping active plays a big part in this. Finding activities that you enjoy, and spending time with friends and family, are also important. Reducing financial stress in retirement, by planning ahead and staying on top of your finances, will also help boost your wellbeing. Once you’ve got your balance, you can enjoy the road ahead.

For more help with planning and enjoying your retirement, listen to the new series of our podcast Rewirement.

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