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Secrets to a Happy and Healthy Retirement

I’m past the traditional age of retirement. But I don’t see myself stopping work anytime soon.

I just enjoy talking with people about functional medicine too much. I love seeing my patients. And I take a great deal of pleasure attending training and educational opportunities – especially when I’m invited as a keynote speaker.

Plus, I’ve read the statistics on what happens to people when they work longer, and I really like them.

Working longer, staying active and retaining a sense of purpose in life are all linked with a better chance of living a longer life – without heart disease, cancer, dementia and other diseases that kill about 75% of Americans over the age of 65.

Now, I know… a lot of people really look forward to retiring! After all, that’s when you’ll finally have time to fix up the house and take regular vacations.

Maybe you plan to move to the mountains for some peace and quiet. Or perhaps your goal is to retire near the ocean where you can take up golf and sailing. The concept of having the time to do anything you want to do, whenever you want do it, has great appeal.

The problem with having the time to do anything you want to do, whenever you want do it, is that many people don’t follow-through. Instead, they end up sitting around the house day after day trying to figure out what to do with all of that extra time they have on their hands.

And while they’re sitting around, their brains – as well as the rest of their bodies – are beginning to operate at lower and lower levels.

Honestly, it’s never been truer… if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it! Sit around for too long and the next thing you know you’ll be old, sick and unable to get yourself up out of the recliner.

So when my patients talk about retiring, I always suggest that they map out an action plan ahead of time. This is where we can pick up a few tips from the Blue Zones.

Retire Later, Live Longer

When you hear about regions in the world where large numbers of people live well into their 100’s, it’s easy to think there’s something magical about their location.

These are called “Blue Zones.” And the only thing magical about them is the healthy and active lives the people in these areas enjoy.

These folks have a strong sense of purpose. They have strong ties to their families and community. People take care of each other by providing a social, financial and emotional support network. Their favored form of transportation is their feet… they walk everywhere.

Diet is also an important part of their lifestyle. Most of their calories come from a wide variety of plant sources. Meat only accounts for a small portion of their meals.

Now, here’s the thing…

In these regions, people don’t retire when they hit 65, 70 or even 100. In fact, in countries where people live the longest – and in the best health – there isn’t even a word for retirement! No matter what their age, they continue working when and where they are needed. They just do it at a slower pace.

The same thing goes for my own form of “retirement.” Sure, I’ve slowed down a bit with my work, but I’m still actively looking for new opportunities and teaching every chance I get.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Retirement

Whether you choose to keep working or not, the key to a longer and healthier life lies in staying active, having a sense of purpose, remaining engaged with others and – as always – enjoying a healthy diet.

With this in mind, here are some ways to make sure your mind and body stay sharp in retirement.

Plan your days. An action plan is always the best plan. If you wake up and don’t know what you’re going to do with your day, you probably won’t do anything. However, if you make a schedule, you’re more likely to stick to it.

Set aside an hour each morning to take a walk. Vary your route every day to stimulate your mind… and talk to everyone you meet. Then, do it again in the evening.

Choose fresh, healthy meals. Don’t fall into the trap of eating for convenience after you retire. Sure, it’s easy to slap together a sandwich or throw a can of soup on the stove. But having more time on your hands gives you the chance to plan, cook and truly enjoy your meals. This is one of the biggest benefits that come with retirement.

Make new friends. Becoming isolated is a common problem for retired adults. Once you lose the ritual of going to work and seeing the same friendly faces every day, loss can set in. So it’s important to socialize and develop a new network of friends. Get involved in a theater group. Sign up for dance lessons.

Spend time doing things that matter the most to you; things that give you purpose, keep you active and help you stay involved with others.

Put family and friends first. Spend time visiting friends and family. Schedule dates for lunch or dinner. Invite them to movies, art shows, wine tastings and other local events that you can enjoy together. Join them in things as simple as walking in the park, visiting the local green grocer or just shooting the breeze at the kitchen table.

Remember, the longer you remain active, interested and fulfilled, the better your chances of surviving retirement in great health.


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