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4 Habits to Keep You Happier and Healthier into Your Golden Years

Aaahhh, the golden years. The idyllic-hazed lifestyle of cozy cardigans and slippers. Quiet afternoons spent reading and napping are interrupted by only the occasional game of bridge or slow shuffle around the park. Chamomile tea is sipped every afternoon before a 4:30pm dinner, and then it’s a rousing dose of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune before heading off to bed. (We’ll pause here while any retirees reading this can finish wiping away tears of laughter at this description.)

Chances are instead that the fit person with the kettle bell next to you at the gym, the youthful grandma chasing her 5 grandchildren around the zoo, and the artist featured on the walls of the hipster coffee shop are just a few of the nearly 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day. Retirement does not have to be a 20-year sedentary siesta, but can be, for many people, an exciting phase of life that allows new ventures and a more active social life.

However, like most good things, working your way to a healthy, fulfilling retirement takes planning and habit-building. Below we’ve laid out 4 habits that are worth building now to ensure happier, and healthier, golden years.

  1. Make a friend. Or even better, several. Seniors with strong social interactions are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, or high blood pressure, and can have a stronger immune system. Studies have found that those with friends are generally happier and healthier than those without. Exercise or art classes, volunteer sites, church activities, and common-interest groups can provide a bounty of friendship potential.
  2. Be purposefully active. Aside from the endless, gold-star list of other reasons why physical activity is great for you (including that it reduces stress, keeps your immune system in check, and helps keep you at a healthy weight), exercise can be a crucial piece to your physical functioning as you age. Fear the thought of no longer being able to dress or bathe yourself? Rush University Medical Center in 2011 found that retirees who are more active (and social!) have a greatly decreased risk of becoming disabled. It’s apparently a tough battle to win, as during that very same year, CBS reported that retirees spend an average of 43 hours per week watching television. Yikes!
  3. Get on that hobby horse. Remember how you’ve always wanted to learn to make pottery? Or learn German? Or paint with watercolors? Not only will your work-free schedule allow you the time to take up a new hobby, but your mind and emotions will thank you for it. Given that the age that most people retire happens to coincide with the age that most people start to experience age-related brain decline, developing several mentally demanding hobbies will help stave off depression, as well as keep your mind sharp and active.
  4. Take time to take care. With all of the exercise, socializing, and hobbies you’ll be doing, don’t forget that taking care of yourself via regular massages continue to be vitally important for your physical and mental well-being. Retirees who receive regular massages tend to sleep deeper and longer, leading to better brain functioning and a greater sense of well-being. Massage can also help prevent painful age-related conditions involving the joints, back, and neck.

Retirement will include more downtime and relaxation for sure (okay, watch a complete season of “Seinfeld” if you must), but these golden years should not be purely a multi-decade catnap. Developing these few healthy habits now, and keeping them strong into retirement, will make your retirement years much more golden.

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