Mindful retirement

Professional climber and mountain adventure guide Ryan Howes rock climbing in Acadia National Park with client Mick Browning. Photograph by Michael G. Seamans.

For many baby boomers, planning for retirement and transitioning from working to not working is a time filled with dichotomies. On the surface they are excited about the possibility of no longer working, but dig a little deeper and you’re sure to encounter a few pockets of anxiety. After all, this is something they’ve never done before.

That’s why a mindful approach to retirement is so helpful. By practicing living in the moment and being aware of all that you are thinking and feeling as you go through this experience, both fear and anxiety are reduced.

Ryan Howes, an integrative nutrition health coach in Belfast, is expanding his practice to work with boomer clients who want to incorporate mindfulness into their retirement experience. “I’ve created a ‘recipe’ I like to use of mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and adventure,” he said. “Mindfulness is the umbrella – being aware of things in your life. It helps determine where you are in your life and how you want to move forward.”

At 35, Howes is considerably younger than his baby boomer clients. However, he understands the challenges of failing health. “I have been a professional climber and mountain adventure guide for half my life. But the busy professional, demanding lifestyle just about broke me. One morning I woke up with an illness that nearly wiped out my immune system and kept me in and out of the hospital for six months.” Howes’s road to recovery led him to reevaluate his nutritional and life choices. He became a certified health coach and now uses his experience to help baby boomers prepare physically and emotionally for their next phase of life.

“Being mindful is the most challenging part of the program,” according to Howes. “Observing the stress in your life or what is happening is not an easy thing to do. There is a resistance to sitting still to observe and reflect. ”

Howes uses a variety of techniques to help clients settle into the process. “We may use yoga, gentle stretch, or breathing to settle the mind and gently go back to observing what is going on. Whatever my clients are going through, I provide a non-judgmental atmosphere to work it through.”

Howes uses a “1, 2, 3” rating system to evaluate a client’s readiness for exercise. For those who are a “1” and overweight or obese, he recommends walking 20 minutes a day. Those at the “2” level of readiness incorporate functional movement like squats and lunges and may increase the duration and intensity of their walks. Clients at the “3” level have specific exercise goals they want to work with Howes to accomplish, like hiking Mt. Katahdin, cycling, or climbing.

Good nutrition is an important component of Howes’s program. “When it comes to importance, food is a huge part of being successful,” he said. “I don’t tell clients ‘You can’t eat that.’ But I suggest ways to incorporate healthier choices like fruits and vegetables that make them look and feel better.”

The final ingredient in his recipe for well-being is adventure. “I am inspired by the outdoor world and nature. When I work with clients and I ask them to set an adventure goal, most of them want to do something outdoors.” Howes either participates with his clients in their dream adventure or prepares them to do it with someone else. He is developing a hiking series that will begin this summer in Belfast where he will teach outdoor skills at a variety of levels. For more information contact him at ryan@northernvertical.com or call 505-0016.



Kathryn Avery

About Kathryn Avery

When Kathryn Severns Avery’s husband, Chris, began contemplating retirement in 2014, she knew they had to quickly come up with a multi-faceted plan. They spent the next year discussing, sometimes heatedly, what they would do once he stopped working. On paper their plan looked exciting. They would head from Colorado to the 1891 sea captain’s house they bought and renovated in Rockland on Maine’s midcoast. But the reality of planning and implementing retirement was much different than expected. Kathryn has worked in radio, television, marketing, and public relations. She is the author of five books and has written articles on interior design and crafts for national and regional publications including Romantic Homes, Log Homes Illustrated, The Rocky Mountain News and Colorado Homes and Lifestyles.