Are busy people happier in retirement?

Are busy people happier in retirement? Does keeping busy create good feelings?  Does keeping busy give purpose and meaning to every day?

Most retired people are admonished to ‘take it easy’.  We are told to relax and ‘smell the roses’. Yet, for many, idleness creates boredom.

If you, like me, learned to regard busyness as a badge of honour during work years, you know it’s difficult to slow down.  After spending years where busyness was equated with importance, when multi-tasking was how you successfully managed a day and when over-scheduling was a status symbol, it is hard to retire to a slower lifestyle.

Through work, I created meaning in life and used it to define who I was, and how I was valued. Being a wife, mother, daughter, and community member often took second place.

After retirement, I re-created a busy schedule for myself.  My calendar included family events, volunteer activities, travelling, exercise routines, gardening, book clubs, knitting, bridge, cottaging, new friendships, cooking courses, and blogging.  Just as I did during my career, I rushed from task to task.

After a few years I was overwhelmed. The joy in many of these activities was gone. I had no time to play the piano, read a book for pleasure, watch a movie, or just goof off.

As I took stock of retirement decisions, I decided that too much busyness was leading to the same feelings of stress that I  experienced while I worked. Just as career activities and accomplishments brought sweet feelings of achievement and many rewards, my retirement activities were satisfying but too much activity was taking a toll on overall well-being.  I was no longer the superwoman who could function on limited sleep and large quantities of caffeine.

I realized that being overly busy did not make me happy.  Many of the things I was busy with were no longer meaningful as my life changed and as I grew more comfortable with retirement.

I decided to limit volunteer activities which meant resigning from several volunteer boards and committees, especially those that involved hours of travel or overly long meetings.  I had spent enough hours in board rooms during my career.

When I remembered that in 2014,  I enjoyed summer immensely while doing practically no gardening at our house or cottage.  This happened by accident as I took a long spring vacation and was not able to do the usual gardening chores. The world didn’t end without an array of colourful blooms in July and August.  I purchased some patio pots of flowers and lots of Ontario grown veggies at the farmer’s market so the bounty of summer still came to our table and our home.

I also decided to live by the ‘Rule of Two’ which meant that I would not have more than two activities on any day.  This has worked fairly well except when called upon for unplanned child care with my grand daughter.

When a postworksavvy reader commented, after reading my last blog post,  that ‘Six in a Week’ worked when assessing activity levels, I’ve considered a further lifestyle evaluation. I don’t know that I will manage six events per week, but I will review the weekly calendar and think carefully about commitments keeping in mind the Rule of Two and the total number of commitments in a week. You can read the post and comments at this link Sometimes you’re forced to slow down,

My experiences have not changed my opinion that busy people are happier in retirement.  I will always opt for a certain level of busyness in preference to idleness.  However, when precious time and energy is spent in activities that no longer satisfy and inspire, it’s time to make changes.

Happiness comes only when we do things we love and when we have time to do these things at a somewhat leisurely pace. For me, this includes activities that bring a sense of accomplishment and achievement without feelings of guilt or obligation.  It includes activities that are  linked with productivity and that give meaning in your life. It’s your choice!

I’m interested in hearing about your experiences of busyness in retirement.  Are you too busy?  Not busy enough? Please send your comments in response to this post.

One Reply to “Are busy people happier in retirement?”

  1. Like you, I was known to ‘thrive under pressure’ and still feel motivated to keep involved with many activities. How much is ‘too busy’? That depends largely on one’s lifestyle, commitments and health; marital status and income. When one reaches a certain age you try to cram as much ‘living’ into each day as possible. Yet who doesn’t enjoy a leisurely cruise down the river, busy or not!

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