Leaving the workforce is just one step in your journey through life. And once the daily grind is over, it’s time to figure out what you want to do next.

Retirement is something that most of us look forward to. But it can also be a challenging lifestyle adjustment, particularly if you’re someone who’s used to keeping busy. On one hand, retirement gives you the chance to relax and slow the pace of living to a more enjoyable speed. But on the other, reaching the end of your work years can also raise the question: ‘What am I supposed to do now?’

Retirement isn’t just a long holiday, it’s an opportunity to find a new vocation. So if you’re looking for ideas on how to fill all the hours you used to spend at work, here are a few to get you started.

Lend a helping hand

Retiring usually means having more time on your hands, so why not give some of it back to the community? There are plenty of ways you can help out – whether it’s putting your professional skills to use or trying something completely new. For example, you might consider volunteering with a local charity, at a hospital or with an environmental organisation. If you enjoy spending time with children, there are a range of great volunteering opportunities available. For instance, you could tutor or mentor kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, or teach music, ethics or craft at a local school.

Work your brain

Retirement is a wonderful chance to learn something new – from taking a community college or university course to learning a new language or trying out well-known brain trainers like Sudoku, cryptic crosswords or bridge.

And while the research still isn’t definitive, there is some evidence that staying mentally active in retirement can even help reduce cognitive decline and protect against the onset of dementia.

Stay connected

Once you get out of the habit of seeing your colleagues every day, it’s easy to feel isolated. A great way to meet like-minded retirees is to join a local group that shares a common interest, whether it’s a book club, bushwalking club or choir. That way you’ll be able to learn and have fun, while staying connected with your community as well.

Keep fit

After you leave your job, your lifestyle may possibly become less active. That’s why it’s important to stay fit and healthy by getting in some regular exercise. Walking, golf, swimming and cycling are all good ways to get out and about while staying in shape. And if you’re not really an exercise junkie, there are other ways to keep moving, like taking up dance, tai chi or yoga.

If you’re already leading an active life, consider setting yourself a physical goal like completing an ocean swim, triathlon or hiking expedition. It will help motivate you to stay fit and keep your body and mind healthy.

Go on an adventure

After years of hard work, it’s time for an escape. Retirement can be the perfect opportunity to embark on the adventure you’ve always wished for. There are holiday options for all tastes and budgets, from overseas package tours and all-inclusive luxury cruises, to DIY caravanning across Australia. But before you pack your bags, check in with your financial adviser. They can help you put together a budget so your dream holiday doesn’t break the bank.

Sow the seeds

If you’ve got a green thumb, then why not take up gardening and turn your own backyard into a lush paradise? It’s easy to get started, with a range of information available online or at your library. And it doesn’t just have to be flowers – you could grow fruit and vegetables and save some money on your grocery bills.

If you don’t have a yard, you can still create a garden indoors. Simply put up some pots and hanging plants in a part of the house that gets lots of sunshine, like your kitchen or balcony.

Find a furry friend

Even if your kids have grown up and flown the nest, you can still find someone who needs your daily love and care. It may not have been practical for you to own a pet while you were working, but your retirement may be the perfect time to discover the joys of having an animal companion. And if you get a dog you’ll need to walk it daily, which has the added bonus of helping you to stay fit and active.

But if you can’t have a pet of your own – for instance, if your apartment building doesn’t allow animals – why not offer to pet-sit for a friend or family member? Many people who are busy working or who travel a lot will appreciate someone else feeding and playing with their pet once in a while.

But first, future proof your finances

Whether you’re just starting to think about retirement or you’ve already left the workforce, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your financial adviser. They’ll help ensure you have the income you need for your retirement years, giving you the financial freedom to enjoy your new interests and hobbies.