Why having a purpose is the key to Health & Happiness in Retirement

As we age it is easy to fall into a rut or if we are alone we can withdraw into ourselves.

Without a purpose to get up and going in the mornings life can become depressing and it is unhealthy for us – both mentally and physically. I found that out when I retired!

I worked full time most of my life , raised a family, saw the children become adults and live their own lives and then suddenly as an ‘empty nester’ I felt lost and confused.

Taking early retirement to spend time with my husband who is 9 years older was something I looked forward to but after a few months the gloss had started to fade. Not because I didn’t want to spend time with him, but because I felt restless and didn’t really have a plan.

We all look forward to retirement but it can sometimes come as a shock to some of us to find that we no longer have purpose to our days. Everyone thinks it will be wonderful to ‘have time to do all of those things we have always wanted to do’ but in reality settling into retirement is not that easy.

Working full time, I didn’t really have many hobbies so when I retired I felt like I had been cut adrift and was just treading water waiting for something to happen. That is when I decided to start a blog and I have met so many wonderful people from all over the world.

The reality is that life expectancy is longer now and there are many more years to be lived in this Third Age, after we finish working. In fact, many are continuing to work even in a part-time capacity past retirement date, because they need a reason to get up each day and they actually enjoy their work.

The people of the Japanese island of Okinawa have the largest population of people living to 100. The key to their longevity is their belief in ‘Ikigai’ which means everyone has a reason for being – a reason to get up in the morning.

Having a purpose in life brings contentment, happiness and well-being because we feel we still have a place in this world and are still valued in society.

So how do we find our purpose in life?

Here are some simple ways to find purpose in your day and make each day count

Make your health and wellbeing a priority

Exercise and eating a well-balanced diet is not only good for our physical health but also our mental well-being. Making our health a priority ensures we can continue to live a full and active life. Regular exercise improves our overall mood as well as keeping us physically fit. Just a brisk 30 minute walk is all it takes, so grab a friend and have a walking catch-up rather than a coffee catch-up

Use it or lose it

We have all heard that saying and it is true. As well as exercising our body, we also need to exercise our minds and keep our brain healthy. Learning something new will not only enrich our lives but can help avoid memory loss and may help in keeping preventing early onset dementia.

Giving Back

Volunteering is a great way to feel that we are giving back to society and helping those less fortunate. Helping others makes us feel good and is such a rewarding way to spend your time. You may have a talent or knowledge that you could teach others.

Discover new cultures

Whilst most of us can’t afford to travel constantly, (I wish), discovering new cultures through travel helps us to appreciate the world we live in. My husband and I recently visited Vanuatu and met Arthur, our taxi driver. His attitude to life and happiness was simple and showed he didn’t need all the material possessions that sometimes we in the Western world place too much faith in bringing us happiness.

Be a positive role model

As a parent and grandparent, I am mindful of the responsibility I have in being a positive role model for my family. Living a life with meaning and purpose is an important influence for them and a wonderful legacy we can leave them.

Create a daily ritual of gratitude and reflection

This year I wanted to change a few things in my life. An important part was trying to change the ‘hold’ that social media had on my life. I created a daily ritual for myself which included starting each morning thinking of at least one thing that I was grateful for. It meant not waking and immediately checking my phone but rather taking time to breathe and appreciate. Focusing on the good in your life no matter how small is a positive way to start your day.

Join a social group

Becoming a member of a group in an area that you enjoy is a positive way to find purpose. I run with some friends each Saturday and we enter fun runs together. We call ourselves the Saturday Sisters and have built a solid friendship over almost 10 years whilst keeping fit. I certainly look forward each week to seeing them and know that without them sometimes the run might not happen. We encourage each other and are always there for support.

These are just a few suggestions to help you find some purpose but I’m sure you could certainly add to the list.

Retirement from work doesn’t mean we should retire from life – so go find your purpose.


  1. I absolutely agree with alot of the points listed in this article. One in particular, exercising your mind. Physical exercise of course releases endorphins which in turn puts you in a happier state. But exercising your mind also helps to prevent a deteriorating mind as we get older. Studies have actually proven that people who take classes regularly, like Dance for example, are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Very good read.

  2. These are essential tips for those who are planning their retirements or are newly retired. They are also great reminders for those who have been retired longer but have become restless or adrift. Thank you for sharing them!

  3. Great suggestions Sue – if we don’t make a positive effort to engage and stay interesting then retirement becomes a very long and boring time of life. If we make the most of it, it can be fun, exciting and a whole new adventure.

  4. These are truly great tips, Sue!!
    I think this is why many people don’t want to retire…they feel like they don’t have purpose!! Giving back is such a good idea, because not only does it help others, but makes you feel good in the process!!

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