To Change Your Life, Change Your Environment
Each year, millions of Americans relocate - some for work, some for family, and some for school. Regardless of the reason, moving is a major life event. For me, it became more than a new location, it became an opportunity, though I didn’t realize it at first.
My husband’s announcement that he had been promoted, but would need to relocate 200 miles away, filled me with panicked questions. How would the kids cope? Would I meet people? How am I going to get an entire house packed?
My dread persisted until coffee with my neighbor, Joy, another stay at home mom who’d moved to town three years prior. As we sat and sipped, I admitted to her my anxiety, but Joy’s response was not what I expected.
“Moving was the best thing that could have happened to my family.”
Saying Goodbye to More than Just Your Home
Nearly every day people repeat approximately 40% of their activities in the same locations. We develop routines, and, slowly but surely, habits set in. With repetition, these habits take hold, and even though we might set a goal to break them, our brain won’t cooperate. However, it has been found that a new place can assist in the breaking of habits. Without the triggers of a familiar location, it is easier to start and maintain healthier behaviors.
It’s not just habits that we need to bid farewell. Sometimes there are unhealthy relationships. In Joy’s former town, she spent time with a group of women whom she had known for years. They took their children to the park together and met for drinks from time-to-time. However, Joy struggled with the group. She constantly felt pressure to meet these women’s standards and she hated all the gossiping. They were cruel and petty, and Joy felt trapped. Moving gave her a chance to break ties and establish a new more supportive group of friends.
Embracing the New
Our brains crave novelty. Repetition deadens our response to activities, even those that bring us pleasure. Changing your environment can be the cure for this. A new town means new places to explore, new experiences, and new adventures. When approached with the right attitude, moving your home can be the thing that wakes up a repetition-addled brain.
Improving Your Circumstances
Moving affords us the chance to improve a number of aspects of our lives. We can let go of the things that cause us stress. For Joy, it was buying a smaller house. In her former town, she and her family lived in a 4000 sq. foot home. It was much more space than the family of four needed, and the mortgage was steep. Just the thought of keeping every room clean exhausted her. She found herself becoming intolerant of any mess, and she and her husband were fighting about money. The move allowed them to downsize into a less expensive and more manageable home. She no longer felt overwhelmed and the money problems were solved.
Finances aren’t the only things that can improve. Health can improve with a change from a fast-paced, polluted city to a cleaner, smaller town. Those with seasonal affective disorder benefit from a move to a sunnier locale, and those with allergies find relief in arid climates.
While stressful for children, moving can improve their circumstances as well. A new school means new opportunities and new friends. It can mean an escape from bullies. With the right support, they might find themselves much happier in a new location.
Dealing with Stress
That said, moving is still is stressful for everyone involved. It will take time to see benefits and the logistics can feel overwhelming. However, there are steps we can take to minimize the strain. It is important to give yourself time to prepare and organize. Make to-do-lists and break things down into manageable steps. Enlist help with childcare. Remember to practice self-care, eat well, and do your best to get a reasonable amount of sleep.
After arriving, give yourself time. Don’t feel the need to do everything ready at once. Take a break from unpacking to walk the neighborhood and find a new favorite restaurant. Find ways to meet people, but remind yourself that developing new relationships takes time and commitment.
As Joy related her moving experiences, I could feel my shoulders begin to relax. I realized that this move could be an opportunity. With the right attitude, it would mean a fresh start for all of my family members and a chance to truly improve.