Happiness – Is it bequeathed to us by our environment, genetics, God or the people around us? Or is happiness a ‘skill’ we acquire by investing more time in ourselves and our loved ones?
Happiness is a positive emotional state of joy and contentment. Our genetic predispositions, our life story, and our environment are all factors that influence our happiness levels. But another very important factor is us. We too, can choose to positively influence our lives and work towards living a more fulfilled life.
Vaillant et al. in their article on Retirement Satisfaction found out something interesting. The risk factors (such as low income, depression and poor health) that lead to poor adjustment in young adulthood and midlife do not correlate to dissatisfaction in retirement. They point out that there are many ways that we can compensate for all such risk factors as we age. This confirms that by making healthy decisions, we can choose happiness. Let’s choose happiness by actively seeking it. Given below are the some ways we can do that.
- Hobbies and interests – Hobbies are excellent addition to our daily otherwise, possibly mundane routine, especially post retirement. They are enjoyable activities that keep us active and engaged. Unfortunately, many of us don’t even have a hobby – but we do all have interest areas. If we have hobby or no idea of what it could be, we can start by exploring things related to our interests such as art, sports, travel, read, take part in theater if that interests you, try socializing or go out for nature walks. Retirement will finally give us the time to explore and dive into our interest areas and find our hobbies. Pursuing such interests and living for one-self positively affects our happiness levels.
- Travel Plans and vacations – With more time, fewer responsibilities and high aspirations, you can enjoy a vacation anywhere you like. Retirement gives you ample time to explore the world like never before. Travel could be done to far off places or it could be a quiet place nearby. It could be a high budget cruise or a low budget road trip. Many older people take our time from their retirement to visit their home town or go on a spiritual trip. Many others travel across the world to new cities and countries. Planning a vacation is exciting and many destinations can help us create ‘awe moments’ when we are overwhelmed by our experience. Clearly, vacations are a good way to invest in our happiness.
- Healthy relationships – Relationships are our source of support and they help us feel a sense of love and belonging. Maintaining healthy relations with close family and friends helps ensure that we have a solid emotional support system around us that will help us survive almost anything. Research has also shown time and again that satisfaction in marriage highly correlates to satisfaction in life.
- Stay fit – “To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” ~ BuddhaTo be able to keep our mind clear and ready to enjoy all that the world has to offer, we must pay attention to our physical health. Exercise helps us keep fit. It can be a daily walk, a sport or the gym, some form of exercise is important for fitness. Exercise also releases mood enhancing endorphins, making us feel happy.
- Good sleep – This is another important factor that decides our happiness levels. Make sure to get enough rest every night and don’t take it lightly if you’re not able to. Find a sleep specialist if needed, to ensure restful sleep.
- Practice Kindness and Gratitude – “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of other cannot keep it from themselves.” ~ James Matthew BarrieShowing kindness to others is one way we can feel contentment. Take any opportunity you get to grab happiness for yourself by doing something nice for another. Expressing gratitude is another such life hack. Feeling thankful for the many things in the life we lead, helps bring into focus all such things rather than cursing small voids that exist and comparing with the others only yields discontentment.
- Sense of Purpose – No matter what our age, we need to feel purposeful in our lives. We can feel a sense of purpose when we are trying to achieve something. You might also want to bring about some changes in your immediate community, or volunteer at a blind school or offer your services or sewa at an institution of your choice. Many elderly also find sense of purpose in taking care of family such as grandchildren. Some wish to go on spiritual pilgrimages. Whatever gives you a sense of purpose, try holding on to it as it helps feel a greater sense of contentment and happiness.