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The Retirement Transition and the Benefits of Journaling

Author: Marion Humphries, Registered Retirement Consultant
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First, let’s talk a bit about transition.  A transition is any significant change in a role, situation, or life view.  Making a life transition is actually a series of emotional stages to successfully change our view to embrace the new way.  Transitioning to retirement can be an emotional process.   Your personal experience will be different than anyone else’s depending on your attitude, as some life changes are exciting, some are devastating, and some are bittersweet.  It’s really about how you view it.

Studies show that in times of change, we become introspective.  Journaling is an ancient tradition dating back to the 10th century that allows us to explore our inner thoughts.  Keeping a journal helps identify your thoughts, feelings and values.   It cultivates mindfulness.  Studies show there is a strong connection between happiness and mindfulness.  Journaling is an excellent vehicle towards realizing goals and objectives.  When you write it down in your journal, it signals your brain of its importance.

Journaling provides a record of the past.  As you look at past entries you have a record of what you did, how you felt, etc.  It gives you an opportunity to record a period of your life.  It gives you a yard stick by which to measure your progress, particularly when going through difficult and stressful events.

Journaling encourages self-discipline.  For example, keeping a daily journal, may help create healthy habits in the other areas of your life.  It keeps you mentally fit and encourages your creativity.  Writing helps release blocks that otherwise keep us from expressing ourselves.  “Stream –of – consciousness” writing is free-style writing which allows thoughts and ideas to flow.  Your potential for creative expression may surprise you.

Journaling helps you to make decisions; to reflect and contemplate and shift your perspective.   Journaling involves mental activity, encourages mental recall, strengthens learning and improves memory.  When you write about a subject, you understand it more fully and deeply.    Journaling provides a safe outlet for expressing emotions and enhancing self-awareness.  It helps to gain a better understanding of ourselves.  Journaling has been linked to improved immune function.  It is said to help lower anxiety and stress.

If you have never kept a journal, you may find it difficult to get started.  A helpful exercise is to set a timer to five minutes.  Sit and relax in a brief meditation.  Think about where you are now.  Consider the physical representation of this present space.  How do you feel?  What do you see?  Consider the thoughts and questions that come to mind.  Once the five-minutes  is up, open the journal to the first page and free-write about where you currently see yourself.  What does this life transition mean to you? What is significant?  What is positive?  What is difficult?  What do you see in the future?   Close with a short message. 

Remember:  Life is an adventure

Retirement, offers an opportunity for new beginnings.   For the first time in perhaps decades, you will be in the driver’s seat  - in control of your life.   You will make the all-important decisions that will form the foundation for rest of your life.  With change comes opportunity and taking control of your life is an inside job.  Journaling is an effective tool to self-discovery.