Fighting the Silent Killer in Retirement – Boredom

Fighting the Silent Killer in Retirement – Boredom

May 13, 2022

A recent study has shown something interesting to researchers. There seems to be a direct correlation between finding purpose in retirement… and living longer. That’s right. Those who have a reason to wake up every morning actually have a better chance of living longer.  

One study, in particular, looked at 6,985 individuals. Participants were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 6 how much they agreed with various statements that speak to how much purpose they are living with. Statements such as: “I enjoy making plans for the future and working to make them a reality.”

Those who scored lower on the answers to these questions were roughly 2.4x more like to have passed away by the end of the study, compared to those who scored higher on these questions. In addition, those with the lowest scores were 2.7x more likely to die from heart, circulatory and blood conditions, compared to participants with the highest scores.

Another study shows that while boredom alone can’t kill you, the negative health impact that comes with boredom certainly increases your risk for early death. 

Early death isn’t the only problem with boredom. It is also linked to increased stress, depression, and increased risk for heart attack and Alzheimer’s. 

On the contrary, living with purpose has the opposite effect of boredom. Studies show those who go through life with a sense of purpose experience brings happiness, longevity, more resilience, confidence, and more energy.  

It is clear based on science that to live a long, happy, fulfilling life, we need to avoid boredom at all costs. So how do we find more of this purpose stuff and less of the boredom?

There’s a formula 

A formula for finding purpose actually exists! It was developed by Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s search for meaning”. Frankl believed that humans are motivated by a "will to meaning," or the desire to find meaning in life. Frankl argued that life can have meaning even in the worst of circumstances and that the motivation for living comes from finding that meaning. As a Holocaust survivor, Frankl knew a little something about living in the worst of circumstances.

His formula for finding meaning was the following:

  1. Take action creating a work or performing a deed
  2. Experience something or encounter someone that you find captivating and that pulls you out of yourself
  3. Have an optimistic attitude toward the inevitable challenges and suffering you will experience in life 

It starts by taking action

Notice that the third bullet point is an attitude or mindset, while the other two require action.

The path to meaning and purpose starts by taking action creating a work or performing a deed but it doesn’t stop there. You also must find a way to experience something that you find captivating and pulls you out of yourself.

How do you do that?

Try reverse engineering it. What captivates you? What is a cause or injustice you care about? If you were to attend your own funeral, and the eulogy read “this person achieved many things, but what was most important to them, was the impact they made on ____”

What’s in the blank?

For some, it could be a non-profit they volunteered at or gave financially to. For some, it could be being present for their kids and grandkids. For others, it might be their church or their community. Maybe it is a thought or philosophy you want others to grasp that could be a positive change in the world.

If you’re stuck, here are some ideas to get you started:

According to the website: “GetSetUp is an online community of people who want to learn new skills, connect with others and unlock new life experiences. Our safe, social and interactive learning environment has been specifically designed for older adults. Classes are taught by older adults and kept small to ensure everyone can actively participate. We help older adults stay mentally and physically fit, we create economic opportunities through jobs and re-skilling, and we create a community where people find meaning and purpose by helping each other and forming new connections.”

This website matches nonprofits with willing volunteers. You simply plug in your zip code and you will be provided with a list of nonprofits looking for volunteers. This could be a great way to see what need is out there and what might be a good fit for you. You could sign up on a short-term basis with 3 or 4 and see what work you find the most rewarding.

If learning a new skill interests you, but going back to school sounds overwhelming, consider an Osher lifelong learning institute. This is a network of universities that offer classes geared towards seniors who are in the work-optional phase of life. Finding a class will allow you to discover a new skill or talent while finding other like-minded individuals in the same phase of life as you!

Each of these ideas follows the first two steps of Frankl’s formula for finding meaning. It involves you taking action and experiencing something you find captivating and pulls you outside of your comfort zone. It doesn’t, however, cover the third step – which is equally as important as the first two. Hardships, challenges, and setbacks are inevitable. If you face those head-on and with a degree of optimism, it will allow you to stay focused on the big picture.

Time is a limited resource for all of us, how will you invest it in a way that will fight boredom and lead you to ultimate contentment in retirement?