I regularly treat retirees who are unhappy and suffering from anxiety, fear and depression. They believe these conditions, and all their other physical symptoms, are just part of ageing. They’re not! They are primarily lifestyle related and can be significantly improved by doing the following:
- Take herbal formulas to stop the decline of bodily functions
- Create a sense of progress and purpose in your life
- Promote health by doing tai chi
- Learn about yin and yang
- Don’t retire, keep working
Treat age related symptoms with lifestyle
Plan for a healthy ageing. Health is not the absence of symptoms, it is the ability to constantly correct and heal symptoms. The following common symptoms, for example, can be effectively treated with Chinese medicinal herbal formulas.
- Low immunity, getting more frequent and longer lasting colds
- Aching body, muscles and joints
- Sagging skin
- Sleep problems
- Muscle loss
- Loss of libido
- Physical weakness
- Weight gain (from a low resting metabolic rate)
- Memory loss and decline in cognitive function
- Impaired vision
Physical health is essential for happiness in retirement. The decline in bodily functions can be rectified with Chinese herbs to replenish nutrients that you had in abundance when you were young.
In traditional Chinese medicine, happiness is affiliated with your liver, which is all about movement and progress. So behave as if you are still getting up and going to work every day. Write yourself a new job description. You may have retired from your day job but replace it with other meaningful activities. Don’t stop working and don’t stop moving.
Work with yin and yang
Happiness in retirement comes from understanding and working with the forces of yin and yang. In youth and middle age (up to about 55) a yang energy dominates your life. This is characterised by the drive to do things, to succeed and to race around all day. But as you get older this yang quality declines (you can build it with Chinese herbs). People often find this loss depressing but a new force of yin is rising. It will enable you to make the most of the increased time you have now. The following are the powers of yin:
- Patience: you have the skills to really study and learn (take herbs to improve cognitive function) new things whether it is a language, a craft or tai chi, in a way you couldn’t have done when you were younger.
- Listening: you can really listen to people, and have time for more meaningful relationships and interactions with people.
- Wisdom: you can utilize your wealth of experience. Make an online course, be a tutor, blog or volunteer to share what you know.
- Intuitive understanding: when you are young (and more yang) you are more impulsive. You naturally tend towards assuming rather than understanding. With yin you can savour interactions, this is an asset as you see more, you have a wider perspective and more information to work with.
- Spirituality: it’s not a concept, it becomes more real. This is a vital asset in ageing as this is the time to be engaging with your spirit.
How to have a productive and healthy day
If you are retired you can adjust your lifestyle to flow with the natural rhythm of the day which automatically improves your health and happiness. You can follow the full ‘chi cycle’ lifestyle (see my book Clock On To Health) and use each two hours of your day to boost your organ health, treat your symptoms and move towards purpose. In my week-long chi-cycle retreats people’s health improves dramatically, you have the luxury of being able to follow this healthy lifestyle every day.
You don’t have to rush through your morning, so you can make the most of the prime chi-cycle health-boosting time between 5am and 7am and start each morning with stretching, breathing and tai chi. Tai chi builds your chi, your vital force (Jing), it slows the ageing process, it gives you the vigor of youth and enhances your quality of life. And its healing potential is phenomenal.
Learn all about these techniques and plan an ongoing exercise program. If you are a novice start each morning with a walk, swim or ride. Your health will improve dramatically just by exercising before you do anything else.
After exercise, have a nourishing breakfast (somewhere between 7am and 9am when your chi is in your stomach), and always add a really good protein powder. After breakfast go to ‘work’. You are here on business and just because you don’t have a paid job it doesn’t mean you are out of work. Make your own job and commit to it as if you were getting paid.
Be businesslike about your day. Set out a space at home that is your office, set goals and focus on them until lunchtime. Get involved with a cause that is meaningful to you. Ideally join a community group as face to face contact is crucial for health. Try an internet group if you can’t find a community group.
Nourish yourself with wholesome food. If you are retired you have a fantastic opportunity to put extra time and effort into cooking meals that feed your body, mind and spirit. This is part of your job on earth so approach it from that angle. Nutritious food is the foundation for your health and happiness. With the right nutrient intake you will have the motivation to work on your life, and if you work on your life you’ll be happy.
Ten tips for a happy retirement
- Get a healthy and productive life plan in place (see my book Clock On To Health for more info).
- Always get up and get straight into exercise, not to a cup of tea and the paper, or your computer, tablet or phone. You need at least an hour of movement before doing anything else, even if it is just walking.
- Invest in your health. Buy fitness equipment such as some light weights or a cross-trainer to strengthen muscles. Set up a dedicated room or space for your daily exercise. Book a session with a personal trainer to get an age-appropriate exercise routine to follow.
- Take high quality nutritional supplements and kidney tonics. In Chinese medicine, ageing is regulated by your kidneys. If your kidney function declines, confidence becomes fear, your teeth weaken, bones break, joints get stiff and it takes a long time to recover from injuries. Plus immunity is low so illnesses linger. Kidney tonics keep your kidney function strong, accelerate healing and make you less prone to injury.
- Learn tai chi, it is a journey that never ends. It creates that feeling of always progressing towards something which is essential for happiness. With other forms of exercise you will always reach a plateau. At 70, for example, you won’t be outdoing your running times from when you were 30. But if you do tai chi, at 70 you’ll be better than when you were 30. At 90 you’ll be better than you were at 70. Tai chi is a key self-healing modality of traditional Chinese medicine. It gets all your organs working well, it supports all bodily functions and it counters anxiety (you can’t feel anxious if chi flows). Chi is the secret to everything from a happy life to a happy death. With age bodily functions decline and the body slowly moves towards death. Tai chi develops and builds your ‘chi body’. This operates independently of physiological functions and with time and practice it becomes like a ‘default’ body. For example you might wake up with creaky or painful joints but as soon as you get into tai chi you move fluidly. You feel happy. After your practice, sit immersed in enjoying the stillness within and around you (yin).
- Set short and long term goals to progress towards. It doesn’t matter what these are as long as they engage you and deliver the feeling of ‘moving towards’ something.
- Use the morning after breakfast to be active and productive in achieving these goals. After lunch continue your ‘workday’ rhythm by learning a craft, a new language, or a musical instrument. This increases a sense of purpose and direction in life. And it keeps your mind exercised as well as your body.
- Don’t waste the morning or afternoon reading novels or magazines or watching TV. This is a major contributor to ill health, unhappiness and depression. You need to have a productive day, then watch TV or read novels after 7pm.
- Feel purposeful by developing empathy and applying it. Find a cause or charity you believe in and contribute your time or skills.
- Investigate meditation and spiritual pursuits. This is the time of life to be working hard on your spiritual health and increasing your spiritual satisfaction.