It’s the American dream: work hard your entire young life so that you can relax when you’re older. Many of us imagine selling our family home and moving somewhere that allows us to sit poolside or by the beach and sip on tasty mixed drinks for the rest of our years.
While it’s nice to be set up to take it easier when you get older, and by all means retire somewhere that excites you, mental retirement can wreak havoc on your brain function. (*1) What do we mean by mental retirement? This is what happens when you stop working and don’t replace that time with something else that stimulates your brain.
In this article, we will explain why retirement can be damaging for our memory and brain health. We will then provide some alternatives that can help you to keep your memory, cognitive health, and your zest for life, intact even after you retire.
How Retirement Can Speed Cognitive Decline
Mental stimulation, physical movement, and social interaction are critical for long-term mental function. Many of us get much of these daily benefits from our careers where we may do physical labor, work with peers, talk on the phone, manage employees, or even just chat at the water cooler.
If you want to keep all of that knowledge that you worked so hard to acquire over your lifetime, along with your quality of life, it is important that you replace the brain benefits that you lose when stepping back from your career.
This is especially important if your job was your source of mental challenge, social engagement, or physical activity. You do not want to lose these healthy aspects of work just because you have decided to move on to the next chapter of your life.
What to Do Instead
Don’t worry, no one is advising you not to retire! However, rather than viewing this as a time to just lay back and take it easy, think of it as an opportunity to fill your time doing what you love.
Take advantage of this transition to pursue something you have always wanted to. Did you dream of traveling the world or scaling mountains while you were spending your days inside of an office? Or was there another career that you always thought looked fun? Maybe photography or studying psychology could be an exciting and challenging new chapter in your life!
Even if you’re set on being done with any kind of “work,” you can try things that still engage you mentally and socially. Maybe you join a book club, take cooking classes, or travel to new parts of the world.
Whatever it may be, continue to challenge yourself and learn new things as you get older. The worst thing you can do is just stop what you have been doing and not replace it with something equally beneficial.
Many of us work our whole lives in the hopes of having a relaxing retirement. Unfortunately, if you stop working and don’t fill your time with other activities, your mental health and cognitive health can suffer. Try to retire to something that excites you rather than retire to doing the same old thing each and every day. It can help to protect your brain health and make the rest of your life more enjoyable.