20 tips for a happy retirement

People exercising

From keeping fit and healthy to making the mental adjustment, we've got all the tips you need to make the most of your new-found free time.

1. Get your finances in order

Organise your money so you can work out what you’ll have to live on. Gradually reducing your spending in the lead up to retirement will make it easier to adjust. Track down any old pensions, claim your state pension and check what other benefits you can claim.

2. Wind down gently

Ensure a smoother transition by retiring in stages. By easing off your workload over several years, you’ll be able to get used to the idea of not working and fill your time in other ways. Ask your employer if you can cut back your working hours.

3. Prepare for ups and downs

There may be times when you feel lonely or a bit lost, which is normal. If ill health or changes in your relationships temporarily scupper your plans, accept that this has happened and get your back-up plan in action. Think positively and share any concerns with others.

Use your free time to continue to challenge yourself mentally, whether it’s learning an instrument or a language or getting a qualification

4. Eat well

Make sure you eat regular meals, especially if your previous pattern, while at work, was to snack. Take advantage of the extra time on your hands and explore healthy cooking options.

See our recipe finder for inspiration.

5. Develop a routine

You may find it feels more normal to continue getting up, eating and going to bed at roughly the same time every day. Plan in regular activities such as voluntary work, exercise and hobbies. This will keep things interesting and give you a purpose.

6. Exercise your mind

Government studies have shown that learning in later years can help people stay independent, so use your free time to continue to challenge yourself mentally, whether it’s learning an instrument or a language or getting a qualification.

7. Keep physically active

A pair of bootsWe should all aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, so build up to this if you haven’t made exercise a normal part of your life previously. Why not sign up for a charity event to give you a goal to work towards?

Read our feature on aqua aerobics

8. Make a list

Writing down your aims may help you focus on what you really want to achieve – like a ‘to do’ list. Work out what you can afford to do and schedule time to make it happen, so you experience a sense of accomplishment, as you would have done at work.

9. Seek social support

For many people, work can form a big part of their social life and it’s common to feel at a bit of a loose end once you retire. Fill the gaps by joining clubs and groups.

Find out about the social and physical benefits of walking groups.

10. Make peace and move on

Don’t spend your retirement dwelling on your working days. Accept that you’ve done all you can in that job and focus on your next challenge. You’ve still got lots to achieve.

11. Go for a health check

Prevention is better than cure, and now is the perfect time to get your free midlife MOT. The NHS Health Check programme aims to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and certain types of dementia.

Health checkEveryone between the ages of 40 and 74, who has not already been diagnosed with one of these conditions or have certain risk factors, will be invited once every five years to have a check to assess their risk of these age-related illnesses and will be given support and advice to help them reduce or manage that risk.

If you’re in this category but haven’t had a check in the last five years, you can ask your GP for one.

Find out more about NHS health checks.

12. Keep in touch with your friends from work

Just because you are retiring doesn’t mean you have to lose touch with the group of friends you made in your workplace. Why not make arrangements for regular catch-ups? Or, you might want to use some of your new leisure time to catch up with old friends that you haven’t seen for a while.

If you enjoy party planning, find an excuse to get everyone together and have fun arranging the perfect garden or dinner party, anniversary celebration or other special occasion. You could even raise funds for our lifesaving work at the same time through our “Give in Celebration” funds.

Find out more about Give in Celebration.

13. Pamper yourself

After decades of hard work, you are due some ‘me time’. Whether your idea of indulgence is a city break, a day trip to a spa or a small pleasure like dining out or going to the cinema, schedule some time for a well-deserved treat.

14. Practise mindfulness

Practising mindfulness has become more popular than ever in the last decade as a strategy to relieve stress, anxiety and depression.

Fresh air and exercise is an instant mood booster and instrumental in maintaining your wellbeing

Research, such as a 2009 study from Goethe University in Germany, has shown that meditation strengthens the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is important for memory, and slows the decline of brain areas responsible for sustaining attention.

There are no set guidelines for how often you should meditate for optimal result, but a handful of experiments suggest that a mere 10 to 20 minutes of mindfulness a day can be beneficial—if people stick with it.

15. Give back to the community

Ever thought of volunteering? Perhaps you’d enjoy getting involved with your local youth club, animal rescue centre, environmental organisation or elderly support group.

There are plenty of charities that would welcome a helping hand, not least the BHF, of course! We offer the opportunity to help out in our shops, in a furniture or electrical store, with fundraising and at lots of different types of events.

Find out more about volunteering for the BHF.

16. Be one with nature

Fresh air and exercise is an instant mood booster and instrumental in maintaining your wellbeing. Why not incorporate a walk in the woods or a nearby park into your daily routine? This is an ideal way of achieving the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

17. Travel more

Always dreamt of going on an around-the-world cruise, a wine-tasting trip through Italy, or a simple camping expedition in the Welsh valleys? Now you can finally make those long-held plans a reality, depending on your health and budget limitations.

If longer trips aren’t practical, mini breaks may be a good alternative – or even days out to places you’ve never visited before.

Learn how to holiday healthily.

18. Get a new pet

A man with his dog at the beachCould you house a rescue cat or dog in need of a new home? Research has shown that our furry friends have a positive effect on our health and wellbeing.

According to pet researcher Allen R. McConnell, a professor of psychology at Miami University, people with pets are generally happier, more trusting, and less lonely than those who don't have pets. They also visit the doctor less often for minor problems.

One reason for that may be that your pet gives you a sense of belonging and meaning, Prof McConnell says. "You feel like you have greater control of your life."

To find out more about rehoming a pet, visit your local animal rescue centre, the RSPCA or Dogs Trust. If you might be interested in volunteering to walk or foster an elderly person’s dog, contact The Cinnamon Trust.

19. Push your boundaries

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, both health-wise and in general, and doing something different can be a refreshing change. Some people have found that simple changes, such as trying a tasty new recipe, finding a different hairdresser or joining an exercise class they haven’t done before gives them a new zest for life.

Visit our recipe finder for new recipe ideas (you may need to log in first).

20. Take up a new project

Finally you have time to get stuck into all those things you’ve been meaning to do but never got round to. Mapping your family tree, building a shed, planting a veg patch… the list goes on, but now you can actually do what you’ve always wanted to.

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