Like any life situation, when it comes to retirement, there are factors that are both within and outside of our control.

Organisational psychologist Dr Sarah Cotton, from Transitioning Well, an organisation that helps people deal with major life changes, identifies factors like being made redundant, financial status and whether or having strong partner support as being in the ‘not within our control’ category.

But the key to a successful retirement, according to Dr Cotton, is to “harness the heck out of those factors that you can influence”. Here’s a list of some of those factors and some approaches to consider:

1. Maintaining physical health (both before and after retirement)

“We have to be very intentional about how we are going to maintain our physical and mental health,” Dr Cotton says. “This means being pro-active and taking responsibility for it.”

It’s a good idea to follow a good exercise and diet routine and have regular check-ups – both before and after retirement – as we know physical and mental health have a strong impact on one another.

2. Planning before and after retirement

“Often when retirement starts, the planning stops, but you need to keep planning even in retirement,” Dr Cotton says. This includes making sure ongoing physical, financial and mental health needs are being met.

3. Having adequate social and emotional support

Having people to rely on, and good relationships in life is a basic human need. “Social isolation is one of the biggest risk factors for depression, so investing in relationships is crucial to good health,” Dr Cotton says.

4. Maintaining pre-retirement lifestyle

Make sure you have alternative non-work activities and social connections before you retire. This can include “bridge employment”, such as volunteering, and being a member of different groups, such as a book club or sports team.

5. Ongoing learning

Dr Cotton points to the University of the Third Age as an excellent example of ongoing learning in retirement. “We often underestimate the mental stimulation work gives us,” Dr Cotton says. Continued learning, which can be formal or informal, through hobbies and interest groups, can also enhance self-esteem at a time when you no longer identify with your work persona. “Post retirement work is about finding the new rhythm and routines of your day.”

6. Setting goals

“A positive outlook is vital in retirement. Look at ‘what am I retiring to?’ Try not to focus on loss, but on opportunities,” Dr Cotton says. Volunteering can be anything from community programs to using your own skills to help others such as mentoring disadvantaged people to help them secure work.

7. Receiving pre-retirement advice or education

One of the best places to get retirement advice is from those who have retired well, and are happy. Preparing for retirement can assist with understanding what’s ahead, and fosters feelings of control and mastery over the process.

Find out more about planning for retirement.