‘Tis the season! No, not wedding season - It’s moving season! Did you know that 80% of America’s moves happen between April and September? It’s known as one of the most stressful life events. But the secret is that once you get past the logistics, the hidden opportunities are endless.
You’re reading this, so you’re most likely in the midst of a move, or contemplating one.
What’s the reason?
Job? School? Family? Love? Weather?
Congrats. Those are all “society approved” answers.
But what if you’ve been thinking about moving for a more non-traditional reason? Have you ever considered moving because you weren’t happy? As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I often talk with people who are struggling with something. Sometimes they jokingly say, “I wish I could just pick up and move and get away from this.”
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.Dr. Seuss
is moving the life hack you've been looking for?
We’re egocentric beings. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make ourselves happier. (Whatever your own subjective version of that feeling is). We want to be more comfortable. Safer. Having more fun. We’re constantly striving for our "best life." If we don’t like our job, we look for a new one. We don’t like our relationship, we end it. We don’t like how we look, we hire a personal trainer, start drinking kale, and go shopping. We don’t like the snow, we move to Florida. And our friends cheer us on.
So why is it that when someone says they want to move because they aren’t happy, the response is: “That’s not the right reason.”
I disagree wholeheartedly.
(Who is deciding what the “right” reasons are anyway?)
What if we considered relocating as a way to reinvent ourselves? To find confidence, fulfillment, or a new outlook on life? Most therapists would encourage people not to “run away from their problems.” Like after a breakup, for example. But what if getting that distance and being forced to create a new life for yourself could actually be helpful? Maybe it’s time we change our perspective. What if it’s not running from but running to? Regardless of your reason, I think we need to reconsider why city-hopping can do more good than harm. Here’s why:
Challenge The Comfort Zone
I can’t think of a better way to challenge who you think you are than to be picked up from a life of routine, repetition, safety, and security and plopped down in a place where everyone and everything is unfamiliar. It can be such a catalyst for growth, but it’s so…. uncomfortable. As someone who has lived in three very different cities (Cleveland, Tampa, and Denver), I can tell you that sometimes it can even feel like you’re in a different country. Different languages, customs, wardrobes, lifestyles, and modes of transportation. What if you moved to a more bike-friendly city? It might feel awkward to start riding to work if you've never done it before, but what if it meant NO MORE TRAFFIC!? (Life-changing, right?) The more we throw ourselves into these situations, the more we learn that we are, in fact, resilient. We learn that we're adaptable and competent, which can do wonders for self-esteem. Not to mention road rage.
We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering. -Brene Brown. The current social media buzz phrase for connection is “find your tribe.” It makes for good Instagram post captions, but there is a much deeper meaning. We thrive when we feel a sense of belonging. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs (the pyramid that depicts our human needs starting with the most basic), the “Love and Belonging” category is the next most important human need after air, food, and safety. And maybe you've never felt this sense of 'tribe' in your current city. Maybe you’d feel more of a sense of acceptance or like-mindedness somewhere else. Isn't that worth getting out and exploring?
These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same.Jimmy Buffett
New Neural Pathways
There is a reason you hear ‘brain experts’ encouraging you to do things like take an alternate route home, or try putting your pants on with your non-typical leg first. Any time your brain is stimulated in an unfamiliar way, it creates a new nerve signal. (You can Google the science jargon, it sounds complicated). But the point is, any time we expose ourselves to something new, it activates more of our brain. So if you’re worried about things like longevity, creativity, success, habit formation, and possibly even happiness, you need to be exposing yourself to as much ‘new’ as possible. What better way to facilitate this than moving to a new city?
The World Gets Bigger
Travel isn’t always easy. I grew up in rural Ohio, so the first time I had to take a subway in New York City I was terrified. Now with the help of technology, it’s easier than ever. But you still have to go through the motions. (There’s that comfort zone again). And you learn that you are capable of following directions and reading a map. You can get yourself from Point A to Point B. You might even have to ask for help. But you learn that you can. (Using those freshly created neural pathways). And that feeling is empowering. So once you’re a pro at domestic travel, you can download the Google translate app, and the world is your playground. That trip to the Eiffel tower doesn’t seem so intimidating anymore (although the French might be…).
Get Excited Again
This memory has always stuck with me: I had been living in Florida for about 15 years. I made a new friend who had just moved down from the Northeast. We went for a walk down Tampa’s Bayshore Blvd., and at one point she started jumping up and down like a five-year-old and yelling, “Oh my Gosh, look! Look!” She had just seen a dolphin in the bay. I laughed at her a little because it was such an everyday experience for me at that point. But it raised a much more important question - when was the last time you reacted to something with that kind of childlike enthusiasm? When I moved from Ohio to Florida I reacted that way to the ocean. And then reacted that way to the mountains when we arrived in Colorado. What have those moments been for you? I believe we should take every opportunity in this life to expose ourselves to “WOW" moments.
The all-important quest for self-awareness and understanding. We even go to therapy simply because we want to "know ourselves better." Think about your younger years in school. How did you learn what subject you liked most? You were exposed to a whole lot of them, whether you liked it or not. So how are you supposed to know which city you like best? Unless you grew up in a military family, you probably didn't have exposure to a big variety. This is one of the best benefits of travel. You can experience different parts of the country (or world) and see what they have to offer. In the process, you might discover some things about yourself. Where do you feel the most alive? The mountains, the ocean, the city, the country? Do you feel energized in a crowd? Do you feel more peaceful when you have personal space? How do you want to spend your free time? What kind of day-to-day life do you want to create for yourself? Another consideration is the direct correlation between being active and feeling happier, so doesn’t it make sense to live where you can do what you love? If you have a passion for skiing but live in Miami, are you doing yourself a disservice? What does this mean for your ability to live your best life?
Learn to be OK with making mistakes
One of the most common subconscious beliefs we hold is “I have to be perfect.” Although we might only admit that to our therapists. We fear judgment from others, and are hard on ourselves for not magically doing everything right the first time. Spoiler alert: If you move, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to get lost. You’re going to be frustrated. You’re going to try to pay with good old-fashioned USD at the trendy coffee shop that has gone "cashless." And I won’t lie, this feeling sucks. But here’s the good news - you eventually figure things out. And you realize that those mistakes weren’t such a big deal. And that even though you had a little blow to your ego, you are, in fact, OK. And your self-worth is not tied to the fact that you got on the Eastbound train when you were supposed to be heading West. It makes for a funny story when you're meeting all those new people
Get Some Breathing Room
If you’re really choosing to move as some kind of an escape, the first benefit that you’ll get is space. Without being distracted by unfriendly reminders, you're freeing up some much needed mental space. Without your normal routine, you can slow down. You'll start to settle again after the commotion of moving. Your body can release some tension. Being alone is uncomfortable for a lot of us. Use the time to reflect. Journal. Read. Create a home space that feels like your sanctuary. Make some decisions about what you really want. Figure out what is going to help you heal. Take some time to get grounded and refocused. It's important not to isolate, but spending some time alone can be where we do the most healing. The revelation that there is life outside of wherever you felt stuck is life-altering.
And suddenly you know - It’s time to start something new and trust in the magic of beginnings.Meister Eckhart
We can pack up our belongings and move them across the country, but we can’t do the same for the thoughts in our heads and feelings in our hearts. Those things will be with you no matter how many mountains you climb, or how deep into the forest you go. At some point, you will have to give some attention to those emotions you just want to push away. But it doesn’t matter where that happens, just that it eventually does. And it may take time. When the dust settles, you may find that you're in a better place (literally and figuratively) to continue the never-ending quest for satisfaction.
- The Adventure Therapist