Good routines help to make you happy in retirement.
In my last post I wrote that I was looking forward to getting back into our ‘couple’ routines when my husband returned from his annual solo vacation.
Throughout our 46 years of marriage it’s been a regular routine to have coffee together — usually in bed — every morning. When I get up, I treat myself to a second cup of coffee while checking emails and writing my daily journal entry. There’s comfort and a happy contentment in these routines.
Whether it’s couple routines or personal routines, those daily, weekly and monthly habits, give order and structure in a postworksavvy lifestyle.
Gretchen Rubin in her book The Happiness Project describes one of the secrets of adulthood. She proclaims “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
Good routines — the things we do every day — are one of the secrets for happiness in retirement.
Benefits of Routines
Routines provide predictability. There is comfort when the days and the weeks unfold in the same way. Routines such as cleaning up the kitchen counters after preparing meals, doing certain household tasks on a regular schedule, and filling the gas tank when the needle hits the quarter level prevent chaos and surprises. Stress is reduced because there is a framework and predictability to how a day unfolds.
With my husband back home, I know that he will set up the coffee pot every night before he goes to bed so that we can enjoy a cup of coffee before having to face the day. That’s predictable behaviour on his part and a special routine for both of us.
Routines create a sense of calm and peace. Each step of a task does not have to be re-created — the steps just unfold in a sequence that you know in advance. This saves mental energy and reduces the effort of decision-making. Personal routines like regular yoga practise, walking and journal writing give me time to think. When I build them into my day without much thought, I don’t face the prospect of deciding when to exercise or when to write. The quality of my life improves.
Routines provide order, structure and consistency. Basic routines like shopping are easier if you regularly go to a couple of shops where you know the product locations. While various stores have weekly sales, it is easier for me to buy groceries at the same store every week because I can quickly find the items that I use. I go to the same pet food store because they have a record of the food that our cats eat and keep it in stock. That the clerks know our family by the cat food we buy — and not our name, produces a smile and that’s a bonus!
Routines save time. By adhering to simple routines like putting certain things into their place, much time is saved. I’m pretty good about organizing the kitchen, closets and drawers but I do confess that articles often go astray in my office/den simply because I don’t have a good filing system. I waste a lot of writing time looking for research notes I’ve made on a project or checking through files stored in piles. My productivity is compromised because I haven’t established predictable routines around writing and keeping a tidy desk.
When facing life changes, routines give comfort. Certain routines will sustain us during major changes such as moving, a death in the family, illness, or other life crises. A recently widowed friend tells me that routines like going to her gym, attending church, keeping up with her household chores, and taking care of her car give a degree of comfort during a time when grief threatens to overwhelm her at every turn.
Getting too Attached to Routines
While good routines help to balance your life and keep it simpler by reducing the stress of daily decision-making, it’s important not to get too attached to your routines.
Life can start to feel repetitive.
Sometimes routines can lead to boredom. Too much routine gets tedious and leads to dissatisfaction. Who wants to have a life that feels automated and entirely predictable?
Changing routines occasionally provides novelty. Whether the change comes from introducing new habits, from different activities or from performing the routines in a new environment, there is value in taking a fresh approach.
When our weekly food menu feels boring, I visit one of the specialty grocery stores and find some tempting foods to change things. I might buy veggies that we don’t usually eat or exotic fruits, or a new cut of meat to force a change.
When we spend time at our cottage, as we did this past weekend, familiar routines are ‘new’ for the first few days. We cook in a different kitchen, sleep in a different bedroom, and eat breakfast at the island instead of at a table. The food tastes different on cottage dishes. Plus, we have the treat of looking out the window at a natural environment.
These variations give a fresh perspective to routines and prevent the feeling that life is automated and totally predictable.
Good Routines and Health
Good routines give comfort, rejuvenate and sustain me as I seek happiness in retirement. They keep me calm and help me to relax.
Kim Pittaway writes on Best Health “Doing the ‘same old, same old’ may not sound exciting but it can actually make you — and your family — healthier and happier.”
Routines such as regular bedtime and wake-up time, regular exercise time, and predictable meal times reduce physical stress and improve health as our bodies adapt. Couples and families can connect with each other and communicate during such shared activities.
There is postworksavvy wisdom in having good routines. Each of us needs to decide which routines will create a balanced life consistent with our needs and thus, produce the happiness in retirement that all of us deserve.