Can I Do Nothing In Retirement? | A Helpful Guide

A natural question to ask before you retire is, can I do nothing in retirement? It is often an overlooked question because most of the time, we focus on having the best time in retirement. However, doing nothing in retirement is equally as important, here’s why.

You CAN do nothing in retirement. Doing nothing helps you to adjust to retirement smoother and to process new experiences better. It creates a clear mind, so you can learn more about yourself and the things that are important to you. Which will help you to plan your days in retirement better.

Doing nothing is okay, but it can be challenging to slow down in your activities after working for like 30 or 40 years. It’s all about finding the right balance of doing nothing in retirement, slowing down, and spending time on the activities you like to do most. 

In this article, you’ll learn that you can do nothing in retirement, and how to find the balance between doing nothing and staying active in your retirement. Let’s find out more! 

1) Allow Yourself To Do Nothing In Retirement

It all starts with allowing yourself to do nothing. You are probably used to a busy daily schedule, after working for many years, and possibly a fulfilling family and/ or social life. Either way, when you retire, this all changes. You have a lot more leisure. 

Adjust To Retirement

A natural response to having much more time on your hands is to fill in those gaps with new activities. Which is a good thing, of course. I’m not saying that from now on, you just don’t need to do anything. It’s actually the opposite! 

Keeping an active lifestyle in retirement is essential. It is linked to healthy aging, as you can read in my article How Can I Stay Active In Retirement?

Being active in retirement also helps to get the most out of your retirement. Still, having enough moments where you’re doing nothing in retirement is equally important. 

It is all about adjusting to your new lifestyle as a retiree. Adjusting to retirement can take some time. But when you slow down and say to yourself that it is okay to do nothing sometimes, the process of adjusting to your new lifestyle is getting easier. You can find a helpful step-by-step guide in my article How Can I Adjust To Retirement?

Know The Stages Of Retirement

Allowing yourself to do nothing in retirement is getting easier if you know more about the stages of retirement. The stages of retirement are emotional periods almost every retiree has to deal with. However, everyone gets through these stages in a different way, but it’s helpful knowing more about this theory.

The stages of retirement consist out of five different periods; 

  • Pre-retirement:
    The phase before retirement.
    This can be a period from a few years until a few months before your retirement. Your retirement is getting closer, and you start preparing for the period where you’re actually retired. 
  • Honeymoon:
    You’re fresh in retirement, and everything is new and fun. Just as you first got married. Sometimes this period is also described as the liberation phase. 
  • Disenchantment: 
    During this period, reality kicks in, and you often think, ‘is this really it?’ You start questioning yourself about how you want to spend your retired life. 
  • Reorientation: 
    The process where you re-invent yourself as a retiree. You find new things to do and learn more about how you really want to spend your time in your retirement. 
  • Stability: 
    When you fully accepted your retirement lifestyle. Many people don’t even notice they’re in this phase, because they just live their lives comfortably.

Each stage comes with a moment of reflection. These are the moments where you’re adjusting to your retired lifestyle. Often these reflections happen when you relax when you allow yourself to do nothing. 

If you want to know more about the stages in retirement, I recommend reading my article What Are The Stages Of Retirement?

2) Benefits Of Doing Nothing In Retirement

When I was researching for this article, I found this interesting piece on SCL Health, where they describe the health benefits of doing nothing. 

They make an interesting statement I want to share with you. In the article, SCL Health says; we happily want to charge our phones every time our battery is low, but we rarely take time to chare our own battery. 

We’re not used to doing nothing anymore. And that can be a dangerous thing. Doing nothing helps you to recharge your battery, to process different experiences, which, in the end, creates a clearer mind. 

Doing Nothing Boosts Creativity

Do you recognize this; when you’re showering, you sometimes have the brightest and most creative ideas? It’s because you basically give yourself time to do nothing. So if you plan moments where you do nothing, you probably have those creative thoughts more often. 

Creative moments often lead to doing and exploring new things in life, which creates more fulfillment. It is an essential part of getting the most out of your retirement. 

Mindfulness Helps With Doing Nothing

You might wonder, how can I easily find more creativity and plan moments where I do nothing? Moments where you can charge your battery and allow yourself to actively process your experiences. The key is in mindfulness and meditation. 

Many people see meditation still as a weird activity, but I can tell you from my personal experience that it genuinely helps. It helps to process experiences, to focus. It boosts creativity and helps to see the things that truly important. 

The beauty of it is that you basically are doing nothing. You make sure that you avoid all distractions and just be in the moment. I think that there maybe are over 1000 ways you can meditate. It’s not like that one way of meditation is better than the other. If you never have done it, you might want to try out different ways of meditation first, to see which fits you the most. 

A great way of exploring more about meditation is by using the useful app Headspace. You can find all kinds of (guided) meditations in this app. 

One of my favorite books is Things You Only Can See When You Slow Down (check the latest price on Amazon). Written by a Korean Buddhist monk. The book contains lessons that help you to reflect, to slow down, and to do nothing. So that you can learn more about yourself and find out what’s truly important to you. 

3) Create A Daily Retirement Schedule

So, doing nothing in retirement is actually an important moment where you can reflect on your life. It helps you to find out more about how you want to spend your retired life, and what you want to do. 

We also learned that your retirement is a life-changing event. From working probably 40 hours a week, you suddenly have a lot more free time. It can be challenging to fill in those hours. So to help you adjust more into retirement, I recommend creating a daily retirement schedule. 

It can be as simple as writing down your daily activities on your agenda. This will automatically create a schedule. And you can easily plan moments where you do nothing. 

Read more: How To Structure Your Retirement Day

4) Find The Balance Between Activities And Doing Nothing In Retirement

So moments where you do nothing, take time to reflect, and process emotions are important. However, when you retire and stop working, and don’t have activities to fill your days, you probably won’t enjoy your retirement as you want. 

To enjoy your retirement the best way possible, you must find the right balance between activities and moments where you’re doing nothing. According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing, taking it too easy can have the same results as when you’re overworked or have too much stress. Chances are that you create symptoms like anxiety, depression, and much more. 

So, doing nothing in retirement might sound like a great idea, but just like with everything in life, you must find the right balance. 

Give yourself the time to adjust to retirement, and learn about the different stages in retirement, as discussed earlier in this article. 

The perfect balance between doing nothing in retirement, and spending time on different activities is different for everyone. It depends on your personal needs and interests. However, there are a few similar things, like having enough physical activity and social interactions. I’ll tell you more about it in the last part of this article. 

5) Do What Feels Good In Retirement

Ultimately you decide how you want to fill in your time in retirement. The most important thing is that you plan activities that you feel good about. 

So if that is relaxing at home, or doing sports, or traveling, or doing nothing at all. It’s all good, as long as you’re happy with it. 

However, like we just discussed, there’s a lot of research available that claims that it is important to keep up with an active lifestyle. It is important to find the right balance between activities and doing nothing in retirement. 

Let’s focus a bit more on the different things you can do. As a retiree, you are fully in charge, you can decide how to fill in your days. You don’t have to go to work anymore. Maybe you need to make some decisions about activities together with your spouse, but that’s about it. 

Staying Active In Retirement

It is essential to stay active in life, and thus as a retiree as well. You can remain active in many ways, but there are basically three categories. Staying physically active, mentally active, and socially active. 

Often these three categories merge, which is a good thing. All these activity categories are somehow linked to healthy aging. 

According to the CDC, daily physical activity helps to prevent issues that come with age. It helps you to stay fit. They offer complete schedules on how you can stay physically active. 

According to the advice of the CDC, when your physical condition is healthy, the most important thing is that you plan at least 120 minutes of physical activity a week. 

Social interactions are often related to healthy aging as well, as we can read in this article on Harvard Health Publishing. People with many social interactions are often much more active than people with less social interactions. Probably because many interactions mean getting outside more often. 

Many retiring people are afraid that they stop using their brains like they did during their careers. Often because they don’t find the same difficult problems to solve as they had while they were still working. 

Luckily there are many ways to stay mentally active, like solving puzzles, reading books, and learning new things. If you want to read more about how you can stay mentally active in retirement, you might want to read my article How Can I Keep My Brain Active In Retirement?

It might sound all very serious, staying active for healthy aging and doing nothing in retirement so you can enjoy your retirement much more. It is a serious subject to talk about, of course. Knowing all this helps you to adjust to retirement more easily. 

Let’s end this article with some fun things, and focus on the more fun activities you can do in retirement. 

Fun Activities in Retirement

If you do the things that feel good, there’s a good chance it will make you happy. And if you’re happy, you often enjoy your retirement more. 

So, you can choose all the activities you like doing. However, many retirees find it challenging to pick new activities to spend their time on. Often, they’ve worked for so long and were busy with only their careers, that they actually forgot what they liked to do as a hobby. 

In my article How To Find Your Passion In RetirementI explain how you can rediscover your passion and the things you love to do. 

The thing that helps most people is that they asked themselves what they loved doing during their childhood. There’s a good chance that you still like to do similar activities. And it’s a good starting point to rediscover the things you’re interested in. 

Doing nothing for a while can also help with this process. Because when you take the time to process, you often come up with new ideas. I always like to write down the thoughts that I come up with while doing nothing. It often results in adding activities to my bucket list! If you want some inspiration for fun activities, you probably want to read my article, 101+ Ideas For Your Retirement Bucket List

Popular activities among retirees are hobbies like traveling, gardening, and also to keep learning new things. 

A unique online platform to learn new things is Masterclass. Masterclass offers over 80 different video courses, with more than 1000 lessons. The courses are all given by the most successful and famous people in the world. You can follow the courses everywhere on your device. So it is ideal to combine a Masterclass with moments where you reflect and do nothing. 

The most popular Masterclasses are about cooking. For example, how Aaron Franklin teaches Texas-style BBQ or how Gordon Ramsey teaches you to make restaurant-worthy dishes at home. 

If you like gardening, a must-follow is the gardening Masterclass of Ron Finley.

These are just a few of the available classes on the platform. Other courses are given by famous people like Christina Aguilera, Usher, Hans Zimmer, Stephen Curry, Carlos Santana, Jimmy Chin, Serena Williams, Dan Brown.

Start today, and get yourself an Annual Membership to Masterclass;

Recommended Articles

After reading this article, you might feel it’s time to do nothing for a while and reflect on the information you just read. Later on, or maybe right away, you might have some other questions about how to get the most out of your retirement. Some other articles you might be interested in; 

Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my husband Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. In the last couple of years, I wrote over 200+ articles about retirement and did extensive research to help people prepare, enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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