Retirement Happiness — Learning to Goof Off

For a happy retirement, some of us need to learn how to goof off. After a lifetime of measuring each day in terms of productivity are you sometimes too busy with things on the ‘to do’ list to lighten up and take some time to simply enjoy the day?

During our working lives we evaluated ourselves in terms of achievements.  We strived to attain educational goals and career goals.  We tended our relationships carefully to ensure that family life flourished.  We sacrificed leisure time to cut the grass, clean the house, or do errands. We saved money to assure financial independence in retirement. After retirement it’s difficult to shed habits related to measuring self-worth in terms of productivity.

If you, like me, were raised to regard idleness as slothful, you learned to feel guilty when goofing off.  Wasting time infuriated my single parent mother who lived by a strict work ethic. As a young widow, her need to work for income, raise two teenage children, cook, clean, and manage a household consumed all her time.  Goofing off was a luxury that she did not allow herself, nor my brother, nor me. Such modelling left its mark. I have difficulty with any type of idleness.

In the past few months, preparations to down-size, sell a house, move, and settle in a new home have created endless ‘to do’ lists, expectations, and deadlines. There’s been little time for contemplation,  socialization, or hobbies.  Such pursuits have been relegated to the category of indulgences. Getting things done on schedule took precedence over almost all activities.

Most of the immediate demands related to moving are over.  Yes, there is still unpacking to finish. There are pictures to hang, closets and cupboards to organize for efficiency. It’s also necessary to find new services for medical, dental and personal needs.

But, it’s also summer in Ontario. The last phase of moving can wait. It’s time for a summer break. This is the time to goof off without feeling guilty.

Why goof off?

When we simply can’t think of a solution, or when stimulation overloads the mind,  it’s time for a rest. Just as sleep restores physical energy, play can replenish mental energy. Our brains need rest just as our bodies need rest. Playful activities serve to refresh and nurture positive emotions. Day dreaming has a similar effect and requires no skill.

Relaxation is a benefit of play.  Play inspires creativity as well as enhancing problem solving skills. When our bodies and minds relax, creative thoughts and ideas flow naturally.  Energy and well-being increases. Stress is reduced.

Athletes are well aware of the euphoric effects of physical exercise. Fun activities that involve exercise promote more restful sleep, stimulate appetite, and enhance the right brain activity that influences creativity. Intensive workouts may be impossible for many older people but even low impact physical exercise such as walking offers similar benefits.

The expression, ‘if not now, when?’ frequently crosses my mind especially as I’ve recently watched my cottage neighbor go to hospital after a fall and never return home.  The ‘celebration’ of her life happened yesterday. It made me realize, again, that life is short. In the busyness of each day, we forget that life is fragile and take for granted that goofing off can happen in the future.

Play is fun.  Too frequently adults just don’ t indulge in pure fun.  I’m reminded of this each time I watch my grand-daughter finger paint or play a game of ‘pretend’. She is totally absorbed.  She sings.  She performs dance steps. Her activities engage and delight everyone  who is around her. Such pure fun happens  infrequently for adults.  We worry about how we look to others. Perhaps all of us need the sensory  experience of smearing paint colours on paper and admiring  the result. We need to goof off, sing, dance, and lighten up.

Goofing off is a privilege; therefore, give yourself a pinch and goof off just because you can. 90% of people in this world can’t abandon themselves to pure pleasure. Doing nothing, taking a walk without purpose, meditating, or playing a game are pleasures that are often taken for granted  in Western society as it takes little effort to meet our basic needs. Most of the world doesn’t enjoy our privileges.

It’s hard to let go of the ‘measurement’ head space and to realize that self-worth is more than accomplishments. Ending achievement addiction is an accomplishment in retirement.  Summer is a perfect time to start by enjoying the easy living of long days, warm weather, and late sunsets. Whether you call it goofing off, enjoying yourself, wasting time, or day-dreaming, it’s time for you.

If you like this post, you may also like an earlier post on this topic.  Wasting time? Spending time?  I’m interested in reader’s experiences with learning how to goof off without feeling guilty.  Please send your comments.

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