Having financial security in retirement is the major concern for most people in their working life. There is the notion that having enough money to handle ongoing medical, household and luxury expenses is the key to achieving a happy, comfortable future. Because money is such an all-encompassing concern, it’s no surprise that many are blindsided by an even larger issue when they retire — too much free time.
Boredom is more than a momentary inconvenience. When you are released from a work-driven life, boredom can become chronic, causing long bouts with anxiety and disinterest.
Staving off boredom for the long term takes more than trying novel activities. We have scoured the top knowledge centers on boredom in retirement to build a powerful set of strategies to keep it at bay. This article will explain why we feel boredom and effective ways to eliminate boredom in retirement. With these perspectives, you can enjoy their benefits to live a more fruitful life after work, one rich with purpose and satisfaction.
The Nature of Boredom
Boredom is a feeling of emptiness that leads to anxiety, indifference or lethargy. You have trouble paying attention and finding interest in your environment. These feelings can stem from a number of physical and mental factors, such as:
- Poor diet and sleep.
- Lack of mental stimulation.
- Lack of freedom in your day-to-day activities.
- Few opportunities for recreation.
In adults, boredom can be confused for depression, and overexposure can make it chronic. Boredom at later stages of life can be amplified to include feelings of sadness, isolation and low self-esteem. For many entering retirement, boredom can have a weighty impact on their life if left unaddressed.
A “Bored Boomer” Retiree
The leap into retirement is one that many happily make fully expecting the carefree lifestyle to run itself to one’s content. The problem is that the financial part overtakes all of your concern in getting there. It’s believed that if you have enough money to take care of living costs, there is nothing left to cover.
Because of this misconception, the honeymoon period of retirement is short. Before long — yet often still too late — the negative impact of poor retirement planning begins to emerge. Unfortunately, the prime of your retired life is spent developing mental and emotional hardships. New and unforeseen problems emerge, including:
- Feelings of identity loss.
- Conflict with partners over personal interests.
- Absence of challenges and feelings of worth.
- Decreased social interaction.
- Depression and poor physical health from lack of activity and socialization.
Strategies to Remove Boredom From Retirement
- Unmuzzle Your “Essential Self”
Your essential self was best expressed in childhood, when responsibilities and expectations did not limit your passionate pursuits. As we age, much of that self is lost, as we try to live up the desires and expectations of others.
Adults have a tendency to pursue a society-approved definition of success, one they feel is required though not necessarily enjoyable. This is one reason that retirement is an ultimate goal — it’s an escape from the daily grind.
When you reach retirement and are struggling with boredom, the essential self can be the solution. What are your natural gifts? What skills have you acquired through genuine interest? What were you passionate about in your youth? Your retirement is a chance to return to what you love. The only approval you need is from yourself.
- Reintegrate Yourself
Retirees carry a lifetime of stories and knowledge accumulated through unique experience and hard work. You may point your life in a different direction in retirement, but you can still leverage your skills and expertise in practical ways. Reintegration is about creatively and cohesively merging that experience with your true passions.
Reintegration is not reinvention. You do not have to create a new identity to fit into the lifestyle reflective of your essential self. Instead, reintegration involves bringing your store of valuable experience to find your place within that lifestyle. In doing so, you may find, like many have, that you can enjoy a fulfilling entrepreneurial chapter of your life, making a second career out of what you love.
- Start a Lifestyle Business
When you combine your innate passions with your years of accumulated skills and insight, you can create a unique offering. Taken a step further, you can make your interests marketable and enter entrepreneurship. It may seem a little late in the game to think about going back to work, but the trend of retirees starting new businesses has been growing for several years now.
Starting a lifestyle business can let you earn an income on your terms. You have the freedom to work when you want, where you want and towards goals meaningful to you. With digital platforms available to instantly make your business viable, it is now easier than ever to set up shop. You can sell crafts on Etsy, start a blog and earn through affiliate marketing or try drop shipping. The possibilities are endless.
- Remove Your Avoidance Strategies
The mindless indulgences we partake in do more to exacerbate boredom than to relieve it. Watching TV, scrolling through social media and playing games on your phone all keep you from addressing the root of your boredom. The anxiety that comes with boredom fuels most avoidance strategies, but poor coping techniques do little to decrease it.
Identify how you use avoidance strategies. Recognizing your coping mechanisms and taking small steps to remove them will allow you to fill the free time with more active options. Set goals for limiting screen time or changing your sleeping habits. When you start filling those sedentary moments with leisure walks, gym time or socializing you will begin to develop a more positive outlook.
- Reach Out to the World
Speaking of socializing, your time away from work can reveal how little interaction you get otherwise. You may find it is harder to avoid isolation as more people take to online spaces to communicate. The COVID pandemic also played a major part in making physical estrangement part of the new normal.
Togetherness is a natural boredom deterrent. Making the effort to connect with your friends, family and peers can add new stimulation to your life. Now is the time to deepen existing relationships and rebuild old bridges.
- Find Your Sense of Purpose
Similar to finding your essential self, discovering a sense of purpose can relieve boredom in retirement permanently. It is time to get reacquainted with your past passions. If those passions are impractical or inaccessible at this stage of life, take the chance to find a new purpose. Travel is one way to enjoy new experiences, learn new perspectives and find an interest to immerse yourself in.
When you discover (or rediscover) your spark, you will greet every day inspired and motivated. The new level of engagement will allow you to effortlessly dismiss your avoidance strategies and eliminate the mental strain of boredom.
Tips to Keep Active in Retirement
Starting a business and going full-tilt into self-actualization can feel like overkill for a retiree trying to stave off passive boredom. If you want to take a simple approach to staying active in retirement, consider these opportunities to make a difference and live purposefully:
- Volunteer: Instead of investing time and effort in building a lifestyle business, volunteering is a great way to add value and boost your self-esteem. Sign up with an organization that works for a cause you believe in. You could even initiate your own programs with local community centers, churches or youth organizations to assist in ways important to you.
- Take classes: A wealth of free time is well spent on expanding your knowledge base in areas interesting to you. You can pack several hours of courses into each week to develop the skills you are motivated to learn. Enroll in a cooking class or learn photo-editing on Udemy or Coursera. Taking your interests to a community college is another great way to find affordable classes to spend your free time. Even learning a new language at your convenience can offer the challenge you need to keep you stimulated.
- Join a club: It could be your local rotary club or a special interest group of like-minded fanatics. In any case, joining a club representing your values gives you plenty of room to socialize and explore the depths of your interests.
- Serve on a board: Like volunteering, representing the best interests of others is an affirming way to make a difference. Politics seems tuned to the older generation, so it could be your chance to effect impactful change. Serving on a board or running for office can allow you to shape the educational, economic and social landscape of your community.
Retirement is a chance to accomplish your lifelong goals and add meaning to your life. Boredom can be pervasive with the extra time, and it can drag you deep into mental anguish if you are unprepared. It can lead to detrimental behaviors and attitudes that can affect your mental, physical and social health. But with an informed approach and a strategy in place, retirement can become what it should be — your opportunity for true fulfillment.