Retirement - How to make the most of it

We eventually reach a time in life when we no longer wish to continue in the workforce, at least not full-time. Some of us aren’t necessarily ready for retirement. It may be foisted upon us. Perhaps we’re been made redundant or our health or other commitments force us to leave our jobs. Most of us, however, feel ready to live life differently in our sixties or seventies, happily relinquishing the routine of work, in favour of a more relaxed pace of life where we can concentrate more on what’s important to us.

Whether you are forced to, or choose to retire, it is a time of huge change and it is wise to plan for it in advance. You may look forward to the freedom of being able to take up cycling again or build that garden shed, but just how much cycling can you do, and once the shed is finished, what then?

Retirement can be a wonderful stage of life for those who have planned for it. It can be invigorating, a time to try new things you couldn’t fit into your busy schedule while you were working. It can be a time to focus on relationships and on what’s important to us. But it’s not always a positive experience for everyone. For some people, retirement can feel like a burden, especially if they have no sense of direction.

Graham was feeling low. Nothing seemed to excite him any more.

He had retired six months earlier, full of hope and expectation of a new life, free of the pressures of work and the routine of a 9 to 5 job.

For the first month or two, he loved his new found freedom. He didn’t have to set the alarm clock in the morning, he could potter around in the garden when he felt like it, read more books and take the dog for long walks during the day. He had also been looking forward to spending more time with his wife, but to his surprise he found that being in each others’ company all the time began to irritate them both. It all came to a head one day when he decided to reorganise the bedroom and closets for her while she was out. He told me that they hadn’t had such a serious row for years, when she discovered what he’d done.

Both admitted to the other that their relationship had grown ‘stale’.

Graham also said he felt miserable because he was bored. He couldn’t find enough interesting things to do to fill his day. The novelty of not having the pressure in his life of having to wake up early every morning and go to work had lost its attraction.

I suggested to Graham that he and his wife might find it useful to read my book, Your Marriage Can Work. If they went through it, one chapter at a time, it would help ‘feed’ their marriage. A relationship needs nurturing, just as a plant needs sun and water to grow. They used the book as a mini course, and found that things began to improve slowly but surely, as they put what they’d learnt into practice.

I advised Graham to find a couple of hobbies that might interest him, preferably ones that would take him out of the house. This would give him new stimulation, but would also give them a break from each other. It is healthy for a couple to have a some time apart. It brings a fresh perspective to a relationship. So Graham decided to take a cooking course, joined a local book club, and volunteered to help down at the sailing club, as he’d always loved being on the water in his youth.

I also suggested that he make a list of twenty everyday things that he enjoyed about his life.

Within a couple of weeks of compiling the list, Graham advised me that his mood had lifted, he had started to value what he had and think positively about his life.

The list was longer than he had expected. He had time to read the newspaper, and Skype a couple of friends he’d lost touch with. He enjoyed exchanging stories with his wife at the end of the day. He’d noticed simple things gave him pleasure like watching the birds splash about in the birdbath. He enjoyed getting out into the garden and working on the crossword with his wife over breakfast. Watching a movie in the middle of the day was something he couldn’t do while he was working. And helping the young people learn how to sail was the one of the highlights of his week. He said that after making the list, he realised how fortunate he was.

To get the most out of your retirement and avoid the retirement blues:

  1. Make plans for your retirement in advance.
  2. Find hobbies and interests to keep you busy and stimulated.
  3. Retirement can affect your relationship so you need to put some thought and energy into maintaining it. Work with your partner as you adjust to this new phase in your life. Find things to do that you both enjoy. Spend time together and time apart.
  4. Compile a list of all the things that you enjoy about your retirement. You will probably be surprised at how long the list is.
  5. Focus on the positive aspects of retirement. Be grateful for them.
  6. Get some counselling if you feel ‘stuck’. Make use of quality self-help books and CDs in bookshops, on the internet and in your local library.


Iris Barrow, former counsellor, seminar presenter and author, believes in giving people the tools to help themselves. When she couldn’t find the right reading material to give clients, she decided to create her own. Iris has drawn on over 30 years of counselling experience to produce resources that are easy to read and offer practical solutions to life’s problems. Her library of self-help resources includes books (and ebooks), CDs (and downloads) and personality tool-kits for indivi...

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