8 Tips to Successfully Transition to Retirement

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

The transition to retirement can be a time of feeling a little stuck. It’s kind of like being in a pandemic: You are not quite where you want to be or doing what you want to do — but you might almost be there. These types of in-between times can be difficult in that you are waiting for something to happen.

However, just because you are waiting, you needn’t give up happiness and fulfillment.

Keep reading for eight tips to help you thrive no matter your stage of life — but especially if you are in one of those awkward in-between phases.

1. Assess Your Current Well-Being

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Sometimes just taking stock and reflecting on your well-being can put you on a path to making changes to your life for greater happiness.

Tyler J. VanderWeele, director of Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program wrote a 10-question quiz to help you assess your current well-being. Take the quiz on The New York Times website now.

2. Encourage Weak Social Connections

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Good friends and close family relationships can contribute to your well-being. But, so can your casual and weaker relationships. In fact, scientists have found that casual social connections can be a big contributor to well-being.

Casual encounters might include a friendly exchange in line at the grocery store or someone you smiled at on a daily basis when you were working in an office. These types of weak connections can offer you a relatively strong jolt of happiness and well-being.

In fact, Stanford sociology professor Mark Granovetter has written about how weak connections benefit us in a number of different ways. Casual encounters can:

  • Be a good outlet for expressing feelings in a nonjudgemental environment.
  • Give you the opportunity to get a more objective opinion on something bothering you.
  • Broaden your social network and introduce you to new ideas and opportunities.
  • Offer a jolt of goodwill unencumbered by the complications of a relationship.

During the pandemic, many people missed these “weak tie” connections. And, something similar can happen when you retire.

To enhance your well-being, think about how to foster weak ties.

3. Celebrate Small Things

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Psychologists call it savoring — consciously celebrating small victories, noticing something beautiful, or simply acknowledging when you feel happy.

Savoring is giving yourself the space to recognize your positive feelings — ideally while you are having a positive feeling.

You don’t need to throw a party or pop open a bottle of bubbly, but commemorating little moments can increase your well-being.

  • Take a moment to give thanks for whatever you are celebrating.
  • Photograph or write about what gives you joy. (You can even make it a goal to take a daily photograph or spend 3 minutes before bedtime jotting down what made you happy.)
  • Tell someone about a positive moment you have had.
  • Just simply be aware when you experience a feeling of happiness.
  • Take a walk for the sole purpose of finding something that makes you happy.

4. Develop a Gratitude Practice

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The ability to experience gratitude actually increases as you age. So, this should be easy.

VanderWeele recommends taking time once a week to reflect upon five things in life for which you are grateful.

5. Do a Lot of Nice Things in One Day

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Research has found that doing several acts of kindness (that one would not ordinarily otherwise do) each week, over the course of several weeks, can increase your happiness and life satisfaction, and make you feel more engaged, less anxious, and more connected.

Social scientists have also found that concentrating your kindness into one day can further boost your feelings of well-being.

6. Focus on Daily Activities That Give Life Meaning

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You don’t need to solve climate change or feed all of the poor in your city to live life with meaning.

You can feel an increased sense of well-being by finding purpose in everyday activities. Whether it is walking the dog, making your bed, finishing a work project, or making dinner — completing an impactful task can give you a sense of accomplishment, especially if you take the time to acknowledge what you have done.

7. Do Something You Haven’t Done Before

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Retirement will give you plenty of time to try new things. However, you don’t need to wait until you are retired. Try something you haven’t before, and you are sure to improve your well-being.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, told the New York Times that “The first key to feeling good about life is to seek out new interests.”

The good news is that something new doesn’t need to require a grand effort, preparation, or planning. There are lots of things you could try right now:

  • Buy a fruit or vegetable you have never before tasted.
  • Take a new route on your daily jog.
  • Ever tried sudoku? Give it a whirl.

8. Address What Worries You

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Transitions are in-between times when you might be thinking about the past and perhaps what mistakes you have made as well as worrying about the future.

However, as any self-help guru will tell you, happiness is not found in the past or the future. It is found in the present.

So, what are you supposed to do about your worries about funding your future retirement? Human beings naturally want to feel in control. And, worrying about your future can give you the illusion that you are doing something — but worrying is not at all the same as productive problem-solving.

So, what can you do? Creating a financial plan, learning about personal finance, running worst-case scenarios, and creating backup plans can give you the sense of control that you need.

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