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How Side Gigs Can Improve Mental Health for Retirees

An Elderly Man Wearing Eyeglasses while Sitting Near the Wooden Table

Retirement often brings significant changes and challenges. Certainly, there are new opportunities to engage in your interests and explore new places. Yet, alongside these benefits, there is also the potential that these changes can be disruptive to your mental well-being. You may experience feelings of boredom, isolation, and even depression. Therefore, finding activities that provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment becomes crucial.

One of the tools you can utilize to maintain your mental health is taking on a side gig. While this needn’t be a full-time occupation, a post-retirement job can offer numerous benefits beyond financial rewards.

Why Can Side Gigs Help?

Retirement is a significant milestone in life. It can represent a time of freedom, relaxation, and a break from the stresses of work. You might think that taking on some form of employment at this time would be counter-intuitive to mental wellness. Yet, there can be clear advantages.

Firstly, it’s not unusual for retirees to discover the absence of a structured work routine leaves them feeling unoccupied and searching for meaningful activities to fill their time; some may even experience symptoms of depression. This is where a side gig can make a positive impact. With the right activity, you may find you rekindle a sense of purpose, alongside gaining a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that might be missing in retirement.

Retirement can also result in a loss of social interaction, particularly if the majority of your friends are those you worked with. In this case, you might experience some loneliness or even isolation, which can trigger depression and anxiety. Some side gigs provide opportunities to connect with others, fostering new relationships and a sense of belonging.

What Types of Side Gigs Are Effective?

Finding a side hustle that you consider meaningful can bring fulfillment and some income during your retirement years. Yet, not all side gigs are necessarily conducive to positive psychological and emotional experiences. It’s worth taking the time to identify the types of employment that tend to support mental health.

Some of these include:

Creative Businesses

If you have creative talents and interests, you may find it positive to start a small business selling your artwork. For handmade crafts and unique products, opening an Etsy store that stands out can connect you with a global marketplace of consumers. When setting up your online store, chose a name that reflects your individual style and customize your shop with eye-catching branded visual components. It’s also vital to maintain a strong social media presence. While this takes some work, it’s a positive way to share your creativity and unique artistic perspectives with a wider public.

Virtual Coaching or Consulting

You may have amassed a range of valuable knowledge and expertise throughout your previous career. While you might not want to dive back into your workplace full-time, you may be able to leverage your skills by offering virtual coaching or consulting services. This not only brings income but also allows you to share knowledge with others, which can bring immense satisfaction. Not to mention that experiencing appreciation related to your deep insights can be a boost to your self-esteem.

Nonprofit Work

Many retirees have a desire to give back to their communities and contribute to causes they are passionate about. Volunteering and engaging in nonprofit work not only benefits others but it can also have a profound impact on your mental well-being. By dedicating your time and skills to organizations aligned with your values, you can experience a greater sense of purpose, altruism, and social connection.

What Safeguards Should You Implement?

Engaging in side gigs during retirement can offer numerous mental health benefits, but it is essential to prioritize your well-being throughout the process. After all, while side gigs can be rewarding, they also come with potential challenges and stressors. Take the time to implement strategies to maintain a balance that makes your side gig a positive and sustainable experience.

One of the most important aspects here is to establish clear boundaries between your side gigs and your leisure time. The last thing you want is to experience burnout while pursuing an activity designed to mentally enrich you. Allocate specific hours or days for leisure activities, hobbies, and simple relaxation. This can help you avoid overworking yourself, instead focusing on what brings you joy.

You might also find it helpful to collaborate with a mental health professional. It’s important, though, to find a mental health professional that is appropriate for your specific needs. For instance, if you’re not living with a diagnosed mental condition, a therapist or counselor may be more helpful than a licensed psychiatrist. A mental health professional will be able to provide you with insights into the kinds of activities that mesh with the specific mental wellness challenges you face. They might also offer guidance and coping strategies to navigate the emotional aspects of side gigs.


Maintaining mental well-being is crucial during retirement. Side gigs can be a valuable tool to provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment and minimize isolation. However, it is important to choose work that aligns with your individual interests and goals, alongside establishing boundaries to prevent burnout. You may also find that seeking guidance from a mental health professional can further optimize the positive impact of side gigs.

Remember, though, that your retirement can also be a chance for discovery. Don’t be afraid to stray away from the types of professions or areas of expertise you engaged with in previous years. You don’t need to rely on your side hustle for a decades-long career, so take the chance to experiment. If you don’t like a role, try something else. Put your needs and interests first and enjoy your new explorations.

Written By

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, aging, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.

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