Looking for more happiness in your life? Moving just might be the key.
Although moving is universally ranked as one of the most stressful events in people’s lives, for many of us it’s also an opportunity to create positive change. Research shows that we typically move for good reason: to start a new job or a family, to live on our own, to retire, or to have a yard for the kids or the dog to play in.
In fact, having a backyard, sidewalks, and friendly neighbors may be one of the keys to greater happiness. In his latest book, “The Blue Zones of Happiness,” New York Times bestselling author Dan Buettner says, “If happiness were a cake recipe, the most important ingredient would be where you live. The most dependable thing you can do to get happier is to move to a happier place.”
Buettner partnered with National Geographic and Gallup to develop an index for measuring exactly where Americans are enjoying the happiest lives. The resulting list of “25 Happiest Cities in the United States” (Boulder, Colorado is Number 1) is based on 15 metrics including walkability, healthy food options, and opportunities to interact with others face-to-face.
According to Buettner’s research, being happier simply could be a matter of swapping city living for a neighborhood with grass and trees, or an apartment for a house with an inviting front porch. And other studies support this. A team of researchers led by Stephan Goetz, Ph.D., a professor of agricultural and regional economics at Penn State, found that the happiest people tend to live in suburbs (city life has more stressors and living in rural communities requires longer commutes.) The researchers also determined that people who live in communities they describe as tight-knit are happiest (they have plenty of friends to rely on in tough times).
My own relocation from the city to the suburbs – and the ensuing happiness my family and I experienced – was the genesis of Suburban Settlers. I had lived in Manhattan for 20 years and raised my two sons there. I grew up across the Hudson River in Wyckoff, New Jersey, and my kids and I spent plenty of time there – visiting family on weekends and taking up residence when my boys attended summer camp. I was immersed in the community, had a huge support network, and really knew my way around.
Which is why, when we decided to move back to Bergen County, I was shocked at how difficult it was to get acclimated. Although my kids were the driving force behind the move – their need for more space, their desire to be outdoors – it was a tough adjustment for them. I worked hard to re-establish the routines and activities they’d had in the city – schools, tutors, basketball teams, and after-school activities. Then there were the endless “to-do’s” of finding new doctors, dentists, and service providers, not to mention making new friends and establishing new professional relationships. Even with the people I knew and the resources I had, it was overwhelming.
Now, a year and a half later, my family is thriving and we couldn’t be happier. We loved the city, but it had become challenging to do many of the things we enjoyed. Being here has opened doors I couldn’t have imagined. We’ve been embraced by a community of people invested in raising their families, and have so much more support and services at our fingertips. Sometimes we don’t realize we are unhappy or stuck in a rut until we make a change.
Whether relocating to a new country or a new townhouse just around the corner, moving offers an opportunity to change our environment and start fresh. Simply deciding to move can make people feel empowered and happier with their lives, and reduce the feelings of stress that are inherent in the transition process.
But starting over isn’t just about changing our environment. It’s about changing the way we are living our lives. In addition to establishing new routines and social connections, moving often involves starting a new job. While this change can be exciting and a good career move, it’s likely to bring with it uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and stress. Savvy companies skilled at relocating their employees understand there is a difference between managing change and managing transition. They know that in order to ensure positive change in the workplace and at home, they need to support staff and their families throughout the transition process.
Since making my move, I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily the change that makes us happier, but our attitude towards it. This means managing our expectations and not putting pressure on ourselves by expecting everything to be perfect overnight. It takes reminding ourselves that anything new feels awkward, and having the willingness to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Embracing the change, focusing on the opportunities, and enjoying the moment helped me weather the many challenges of relocating.
Suburban Settlers was born of my realization of how disruptive and difficult the moving process can be. We are on a mission to share our wealth of resources and knowledge about Bergen County to benefit newcomers to the area who are wrestling with their own transition challenges. And we are proud to offer the kind of highly customized service and personal connection that will help people feel at home – and happy – in their new lives.