An extraordinary thing happened to one of my friends recently. Or at least, they thought it was extraordinary.
They are one half of a married couple who spend much of their days together, and have done for many years. They have separate hobbies, and one of them is usually out working for a couple of days a week. (And no, this really is a friend, not me!)
When they went on a much-anticipated holiday to relax and unwind, my friend was amazed to find that they both needed a bit of ‘me time’ about five days in. Nothing major, but just an afternoon to do their own thing. Which in this case meant one curling up on a sofa with a new novel, and the other venturing out to check out some local historical sites. Both had a good time and came together again with lots to talk about and a feeling of renewed energy too.
The pressure of 24/7 togetherness
If you’re not used to being together for a sustained amount of time, suddenly being in this situation can put a tangible strain on your relationship. That’s why divorce lawyers always report being busy at two key points in the year: after the summer holidays and after Christmas. Both are times when couples are spending extended time together, and sometimes under unusual levels of stress too.
It’s potentially the same if you’re both retired – especially if it’s initially a novelty to be together all day every day. That’s why giving yourselves occasions to do what you want as an individual rather than as a couple is important. It’s why setting time aside for your hobbies, making time for your friends and pursuing your interests will give structure, purpose and a sense of independence in your retirement.
Mental health in retirement
Good mental health in retirement is as essential as at any other time of life. According to Age UK, 50% of those aged 65+ have experienced one of the three mental health problems associated with advancing years; depression, anxiety and dementia.
An article by insurers Aviva points to one of the ways to help with these mental issues is to have someone to talk to about them. And that doesn’t have to be your retired spouse / partner.
“One of the best ways to combat depression is to make sure you have someone to talk to. You may feel like keeping to yourself, especially when your mood is low, but it is important to stay in touch with friends and family. Charities such as Age UK, MIND and the Samaritans all have helplines you can call for advice … Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor because there are many medications and therapies they can suggest.”
This can also help with those receiving a diagnosis of dementia, according to Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society.
“There are lots of things people with dementia can do to live as well as possible. It’s important to stay positive and focus on the things you can still do and enjoy. Try to stay active and keep in touch with people … Wherever possible, keep doing what you enjoy, even if you have to do it a little differently.”
Hobbies and mental wellbeing
Hobbies are a great way to secure some personal space and do something that you enjoy. According to a study of 90,000 people aged 65+ in 16 different countries published in “Nature”,
“Having a hobby was associated with fewer depressive symptoms, and higher levels of self-reported health, happiness and life satisfaction. Our results suggest that having a hobby may have the potential to be associated with improvements in health among the older population cross-culturally. This has policy and health implications for adults over 65, especially those who are retired.”
How to find a hobby
If you’re struggling to find a new hobby in retirement, chartered psychologist Catherine Hallissey suggests finding what makes you happy.
“There are so many different types of things we can do and there’s something for everybody. It’s just a matter of finding the right one that brings us joy … just think back to what you enjoyed as a child. What brought you joy before all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have-tos’ got in the way?”
Another method is to create a “curious list”. This is simply a list of things that have caught your interest either recently or in the past, and you’d like to know more about. It’s not a ‘to do’ list or a bucket list, and there is no timescale involved. The secret behind a curious list is that it fires up your enthusiasm to learn more, do more, and be more.
A balanced retirement
I’m always talking about planning for retirement so that you have a balance between all the seven main areas, which include social life, hobbies and spouse/ family. So, if you’re struggling to picture what retirement will look like for you and your partner, why not plan it together? I always encourage people who come to me for retirement coaching to bring their other half, as it’s sometimes easier to talk through these big questions with a third person as a sounding board (i.e. me!).
Why not take the first step and contact me for an initial appointment to discuss your situation and requirements?