Get your mental house in order before retirement: Five tips

Almost every day we are reminded to get our financial houses in order before we retire. Financial planners assure us that if we don’t change our money management habits when we are younger there may be dire consequences in our later years.

That is great advice, but we also need to check the state of our mental health before we reach retirement.

We often bring the same emotional and relationship habits with us into this later phase of life. That can be a good thing if our relationships are healthy, we have a positive outlook and we deal constructively with challenges. We will be in a much better position to handle the physical and emotional issues that come with retirement.

Unfortunately it is all too common to find seniors carrying the heavy burden of unresolved hurts, unhealthy relationships and a sometimes crippling inability to manage challenge and change.

For many of them, letting go of these things may feel like just another burden and they may choose to maintain the status quo even if it brings them unhappiness.

Fortunately those of us who are younger have the opportunity to get our mental houses in order so that we don’t drag these things into our own retirement years.

Here are five ways to break your bad habits and start fresh: 

Leave your bad relationships: If you’re in an unhealthy marriage or other long-term relationship get out—now. Don’t drag that baggage into your old age. In those years especially, you’ll want the support of a healthy relationship with someone you cherish. It can be hard to break up in midlife but you can do it and you’ll be glad you did.

What’s the lesson, what’s the blessing? Be alert in each situation you face and see the lesson it offers. Even the worst situation has a lesson you need to learn. Absorb the wisdom, move on and then use that knowledge in future encounters. Everything you go through usually brings a blessing too. It may take time to find but it will be there. When you discover it, learn to practice gratitude by saying thanks.

Don’t press re-wind: A common bad habit is to replay unhappy incidents that are better left in the past. We may also keep asking why they happened or why certain people did the things they did. This is like keeping a bag of rotting vegetables on the counter and opening it up every week or so to rummage through it.  Those past events are just as foul and just as old so tie up the bag and throw them out! You don’t want to make yourself deliberately unhappy in later years by keeping this bad habit when you may be dealing with more serious issues.

Being alone vs. being lonely: There is a difference. Make sure you learn how to be alone and happy. You won’t always have the company of others—especially those dearest to you—so you need to learn how to be happy in your own company.  Take time for yourself on a regular basis to do the things that bring you joy. That way these activities will become lifelong habits. In later years your time spent alone with be filled with contentment.

"Golden Slumbers": Play this Beatles song before bed or find another way to put your worries on the bedside table until morning. You know how you feel on two or three hours of sleep now, imagine how you’d feel if you had only a couple of hours of sleep all through your 80s! Seek help so that you can grab those precious seven or eight hours each night. And skip the sleeping pills. Too many seniors have the sleeping pill habit—on top of all the other meds they’re taking. Don’t set yourself up to do the same.


It takes time to form bad habits so it will take time to break them and replace them with something better. Don’t count the days it takes; recognize and reward yourself for your efforts instead.

If you break even one of these bad habits, you’ll have a much healthier and happier retirement.

Related articles:

Intimacy for men: How to deal with a woman's emotions

Men and depression: Seven things you need to know—now

Six ways to improve your life this summer

In pursuit of good health: An annual health check up for boomers


Do you have any bad habits you're trying to break so you don't bring emotional baggage into retirement? Share your insight in the Comments below.

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