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How to Maintain a Positive Attitude in Retirement to Improve Happiness

About half the time, our minds tend to slide into darker thoughts. We dwell on problems and things that bother us. Sometimes, we even get stuck and can’t let something go. How to maintain a positive attitude in retirement (and improve on it) becomes critical to promote your overall happiness and health.

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When you think about it, what is the one thing, and probably the only thing, you have complete control over? Your attitude and mindset!

Inevitably, life will throw a wrench into the works just when everything else seems on track. You remember Murphy's Law! 

Situations are a reality in life. How you react to them, positively or negatively, is the only thing you have power over.

Retirement Facts

Retiring may not be the bed of roses we were led to believe. Some sobering facts to consider include:

  • Retirement satisfaction has declined in recent years. Fewer than half of retirees consider their life “very satisfying” according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute.
  • The probability of suffering from clinical depression increases about 40% after retiring, according to the London based Institute of Economic Affairs.
  • Forced retirement is rampant with 56% of older workers experiencing job loss before they would otherwise have chosen. Read more at Avoid Forced Retirement.
  • The majority of people haven’t properly prepared and 45% of Americans have no savings at all. Of the 55% with savings, over half report less than $250,000 as described in Baby Boomer Facts.

These statistics indicate there will be numerous challenges for many. With health and financial woes predominating, the only effective means to manage these is your mindset.

What is a Positive Attitude?

A positive attitude is consciously seeking the good in your situation, other people and expecting favorable results. An optimist recognizes everything won’t always be roses and sunshine. Yet, more often than not, they find a way to forge ahead and do their best. It brings them an enthusiasm and confidence to better believe in themselves. They focus on “it is possible”.

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On the other hand, a pessimist always expects the worst. Gloom and doom permeate their life. They are negative, expecting to fail and always doubt their abilities. Actually, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as they do not seek solutions. This is compounded by making bad choices and assuming a victim mentality (it’s not my fault).

However, the power of positive thinking is not naively viewing the world through rose colored glasses or being a Polly Anna, either.

How to maintain a positive attitude in retirement takes work. Life isn’t fair so stop expecting it to be easy. Ignoring troubles or glossing things over resolves little. An optimistic approach helps overcome these set backs and get us back on the right track.

Example of Positive Mindset during a Pandemic

First of all, this COVID-19 outbreak has been likened to that once in a hundred years event last experienced in 1919. No one was prepared for the Spanish Flu and, today, most of us are equally unprepared. In several short months, we’ve observed the following:

  • The economy cratering with economic hardships due to widespread job loss.
  • Fear and anxiety reign supreme with mixed messages and slow government response.
  • Financial markets melting down with investments down 30% or more.
  • Infections and fatalities continue to grow exponentially.

How in the heck is anyone supposed to maintain a positive attitude during such a calamity?

For myself and my husband, we have paid particular attention to the news and discuss how this will affect us. In fact, we communicate a lot which is important during times like this.

Obviously, we have no control over world events, so we prepared as best as we could to manage ourselves. Some of the things we have done include:

  • Stocking up with extra food and water in early March. That was when most people began to take it seriously and proceeded to hoard toilet paper (and no, we didn’t). In addition, we picked up groceries for my sister-in-law who has a pre-existing condition and shouldn’t be out and about.
  • Social distancing – we have a rural property and, generally, only went into the city once or twice a week. This virus is so communicable that we have remained at home since. For our next grocery run, we will be taking every precaution to minimize any exposure.
  • Regular contact with family and friends (via telephone and email) to ensure they are safe and try to keep spirits up. We are good, yet notice some of our friends are already going stir-crazy staying at home.
  • We are preparing more healthy meals and going for daily walks. The physical activity and getting fresh air lift our spirits and makes everything more manageable.
  • Feeling gratitude and thankfulness for what we have and each other. There’s lots of less fortunate folks out there.
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We’re probably only in the middle of this thing, what is important is taking care of ourselves and each other. Staying positive makes it easier to deal with all that is happening.

Take Ownership Over What You Can Control

An optimistic or positive person focuses on the things they can control while understanding and accepting there are many things out of their control. They know things won’t always, necessarily, turn out the way they want however they bounce back and look for the ways they can adapt. Be the creator of your reality, not just along for the ride

Maintain a positive attitude in retirement to live longer, experience joy and live your life to its fullest.

In short, their behaviors and perceptions focus on successful outcomes and solutions.

For example, saving for retirement requires years of discipline and investing wisely. With a positive attitude, these folks might take a more active interest in their investments and strategy. They’ll likely educate themselves and optimize their asset mix. They won’t passively sit by and wait for someone else to do all the heavy lifting.

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Someone with a more negative or pessimistic attitude might not even bother saving or assume their investments will do poorly anyways.  The phrase “What’s the point anyways?” comes to mind. Any market downturns create stress and they assume the worst, taking almost a victim mentality.

Other traits of taking ownership can include:

  • Prioritize what is important, focusing on what you can change or influence.
  • Be decisive and take action. Don’t second guess or regret decisions. Base them on the best information available and move forward.
  • Learn from mistakes, take accountability, and commit to doing better the next time.
  • Adapt and change as needed.

Another example is your interactions with other people. By being open, honest, and supportive you might influence others to consider a different viewpoint. Recognize you cannot change people and not everyone has an open mind. You only have control of how you choose to interact with them.

Physical Activity and Mental Health

Getting out for some fresh air and being physical active is one of the best ways to revitalize your day and spirit. When you feel good about yourself, it’s easier to be upbeat, productive and maintain a positive attitude in retirement.

There are many ways to get more active such as walking, swimming, sports, or whatever you enjoy. The best part is any physical activity is good for you and contributes to your mental health. It’s a natural high!

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Physical activity improves your energy level, enhances feelings of well-being, and even helps you get better sleep. Other benefits include:

  • Exercise releases endorphins that energize you and make you feel good.
  • Reduction of negative thoughts and emotions as you focus on the activity.
  • Reduced stress promoting better overall health with reduced risks of disease.
  • Improved self-confidence as you begin to look and feel better.
  • Greater social interaction and more fun when you are in a group.

Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't."

Elle Woods, Legally Blonde 

(Reese Witherspoon)

Relationships and Social Well-being

Maintaining a positive outlook has major ramifications in our relationships with a spouse, family, and friends. When people are happy and easy-going, we enjoy being around them. Time seems to fly by and we desire to get together again soon.

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The opposite is also true - best expressed with the saying “misery loves company”. If you’re surrounded by negativity, it can become all consuming to the point you feel like you’re drowning in the quagmire.

Like breeds like, so be careful which attitude you choose. Researchers conclude that satisfying relationships promote longer healthier lives. If you want to be more positive and happier, make sure the people in your circle reflect this mentality.

As we’re all social beings, quality relationships are a basic human need. Without them we are at risk of loneliness, social isolation, and even depression.

Besides fulfilling emotional needs, social interactions stimulate our minds enhancing mental health. This leads to the understanding that people are more important than things.

It's Not Just About You - It's Helping Others, Too

Sorry to say, but it really is not just about you! Life is about others as well. Have you ever noticed when someone pays you a compliment how good you feel for the day?

How about turning that around and doing that for someone else – pay it forward. Making someone else smile pays off bigger dividends than any stock out there.

The reason lots of people volunteer is that it makes them feel good to give back. In fact, according to a Merrill Lynch and Age Wave survey, 7 out of 10 retirees say giving back increases their retirement happiness.

If volunteering isn’t your shtick, mentoring someone can give you the same satisfaction. The end goal is to help someone and in doing so, you increase your own satisfaction and happiness.

7 out of 10 retirees say giving back increases their retirement happiness, a Merrill Lynch and Age Wave survey found.

"Retirees who give are more likely than those who don't to say they have a strong sense of purpose, high self-esteem and are happy and healthy", the report noted.

Gratitude

Feeling gratitude heightens our awareness of what is good and helps us appreciate what we have more. Recognize all the things and people in your life to be grateful for each and every day. By doing this, you find it easier to maintain a positive attitude in retirement. There are many less fortunate people out there.

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Instead of dwelling on what is wrong, gratitude refocuses us on what we are thankful for and what is going right.

This shifts your mental state to one of someone in control of their life and knowing you are on the right path. Your language and thoughts switch to a more positive condition making it easier to be grateful.

Focus on the small wins and celebrate them.

How to Maintain a Positive Attitude in Retirement

Ultimately, you determine your own life and reality. What you may, initially, view as a disaster could in fact be a blessing in disguise (i.e. ending one job and moving on to one better suited for you).

You have the power to decide how you view things.

Keep in mind, you are also accountable for your actions or inaction, so it’s best to choose wisely.

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