retirement activities

How to Really Enjoy Your Retirement and Live on Your Own Terms

When you finally reach retirement, you might find that reality doesn’t measure up to the dream. Having so many options can feel like a lot of pressure

“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick, to start from scratch once again.” – Bikram Choudhury

Picture this: The kids are out of the house; there’s no to-do list to check off; and the daily hustle is no longer part of your life. You take in a deep breath and realize, with excitement, “Retirement is finally here!” Then you think again, this time with some anxiety, “Huh, retirement is here.” You feel the relief of no longer needing to keep a tight schedule while at the same time becoming painfully aware of your continuing urge to stay busy. Your desire to feel wanted, productive, and needed hangs over your head.

After living one way for so many years, you might start to wonder, “What do I want to do with my time?” As it turns out, that’s a pretty loaded question. We think it should be freeing to have the opportunity to explore that question. We think the answer is just floating out there somewhere, just waiting to be grabbed. We think it should be easy to answer, “What do I want?” or “Who am I?” We spend our entire lives staying busy while dreaming of our golden years, which we imagine will be filled with TV-watching, golfing, gardening, reading, traveling, and spending time with the grandchildren. But when you finally reach the point of retirement, you might find that the reality doesn’t measure up to the dream. Being retired and having so many options can feel like a lot of pressure; it can be suffocating. You might even find yourself doing things you don’t necessarily like but figure you should do anyway to pass the time. But if you do decide it’s time to find out what you truly want and stop wasting your precious retirement time, where do you even start?

The current population has a longer life expectancy than ever before. Many people, from many different generations, are aging. And as they do, they’re faced with consider who they are and who they want to be. When the pressures that come with building a life start dissolving, it becomes time to look within and see what you’ll do to make time for yourself. You might lose things that once occupied your time and gave your life meaning, like caring for your kids or dedicating yourself to work. However, contrary to what many people think, having those things behind you doesn’t mean it’s time to stop moving forward. Instead, it’s an opportunity to change your ideas about retirement and make time for exciting new journeys.

Living on your own terms is never a waste of time—especially if you’ve always neglected your needs. There’s no better time than now to make new choices. It may be hard to know where to begin, so I’ve come up with some tips for getting started. Just remember: There’s no rush. Start small; you never know what you’ll enjoy until you try it.

* Start a new hobby, or go back to something you used to enjoy. You don’t have to do it every day, but at least once a week, make time for something you enjoy.

* Spend time with loved ones. Play with your grandchildren, make plans with family members, or take your dog for a walk.

* Learn something new.

* Volunteer or attend a local event. You can research what’s available online, in your local library, or through your place of worship.

* Take an exercise class or join a gym. Yoga, for example, is fantastic for people of all ages.

* Travel somewhere new or go on a weekend trip to a place you’ve never visited.

* Take a scenic hike, go fishing or camping, enjoy a ski trip.

* Visit a museum.

* Take up writing. Consider starting by writing (or re-writing) your life story.

* Start reading those books you never got around to reading that you always wanted to.

* Connect with friends. Make dinner or lunch plans.

* Get comfortable with keeping a loose schedule.

* Become a mentor. After years of expertise in a field, you can always give back by supporting someone who’s still in it.

Now that you’re retired, there are endless possibilities for you and your life. By making intentional changes and prioritizing your needs, you can start opening up a new path for what’s possible. Then you can start to have new experiences and try new things. It’s important to find activities that are both meaningful and enjoyable for you. Remember to have fun, laugh, and stay inspired. And know that it’s okay to not have something to do all the time!

About the Author:
Ilene S. Cohen, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, blogger, and professor. She’s a regular contributor to Psychology Today, with her most recent release of her self-help book entitled, “When It’s Never About You: The People Pleasers Guide to Reclaiming Your Health, Happiness and Personal Freedom”. Her work is fueled by her passion for helping people achieve their goals, and lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. To learn more about Dr. Ilene visit