Overt dissatisfaction with your life or a nagging sense that things could be better in a different place can lead you to ask, will moving change my life? This thought lies deep inside the minds of the human species. We have settled almost everywhere on Earth, and people continue to move in the pursuit of happiness, money, personal growth, or to escape bad situations.
The simplest answer to the question is that of course putting yourself in a new environment will alter your life. But what you really hope to know is will moving change my life for the better?
Will Moving Make Me Happier?
Moving has a strong potential to make you happier provided you succeed in two areas. 1) You find a location that pleases you, and 2) You are looking to solve external problems.
External problems are those that come from your environment, like:
- Lack of economic/educational opportunity
- Undesirable climate
- Lack of affordable housing
- Dislike of predominant local culture
- Dislike of extended family
- Fear of abuser
- Greater desire for privacy
Although people like to say that you can’t run from your problems, you actually can escape many external problems with a move.
What you can’t escape are the problems that come from inside you. Addictive disorders, like gambling or alcohol abuse, will follow you wherever you go. If you have a combative personality that causes you to lose jobs, then that’s not going to go away just because you change zip codes.
Benefits of Moving to Start a New Life
Increased Confidence in Yourself
It takes quite a bit of motivation and organization to move away and start over. You have to overcome the inertia of living where you are. Planning and completing your move will force you to make many decisions and take action. You’ll overcome obstacles to achieve your goal.
Navigating new situations and learning a new place will improve your self confidence. Moving will test you in many small and large ways that never would have happened if you stayed put. The entire process teaches you that you can do what you put your mind to.
Exposure to New Lifestyles/Cultures
Exposure to different lifestyles and cultures improves you because you learn that there is more than one way to exist. The experience can shift you away from assumptions that you grew up with and are ingrained in your mind. Alternatively, placing yourself in a new cultural environment can reinforce some of your beliefs and views and thereby help you know yourself better.
The process of discovering new ways to approach life encourages you to become a more open-minded person. You’ll feel more comfortable letting go of things that don’t work for you and embracing new ideas that could improve your life.
This does not mean that moving will make you give up everything about your old life although it does do that in some cases. But you may become a more tolerant person and become less quick to dismiss other points of view. You get to refine your values through experimentation instead of accepting them without knowing if there is anything better or worse out there.
Greater Sense of Freedom
The act of moving teaches you that yes you can go where you want. You don’t have to settle if you don’t want to.
Besides acknowledging the freedom to move, moving can make you feel freer because it can remove you from stifling circumstances. These can take many forms, such as:
- Leaving the influence of helicopter parents – Distance may not halt all of their micromanaging, but it will reduce it due to physical distance.
- Gaining a chance to be yourself – If you grew up in a small town where everyone knows you and your parents, you can feel like your behavior is subject to constant scrutiny and criticism. Additionally, people know a lot about your past, even the unflattering stuff. Getting a chance to start fresh in a community that knows little to nothing about you is liberating.
- Escaping abuse – Distance has a strong potential to save you from an abusive family member, former romantic partner, or cultural situation, like strict religion or oppressive laws.
Escape From Toxic Environment
You may be leaving a literally toxic environment, like a neighborhood next to an oil refinery that produces cancer clusters, or an emotionally toxic environment, like a hostile family or dangerous political system.
In my own experience, my move from California to Michigan reduced my exposure to air pollution. As much as I loved living in California, air quality is not good in much of the state. The smoggy haze in the valley obscured the mountains most of the year.
The wildfires in the forests were the tipping point for me. The intensity and frequency of the forest fires worsened over the years that I lived there due to climate change. What was once an occasional nuisance became apocalyptic. The smoke became so severe that it threatened everyone’s health. A heavy blanket of smoke would fill the North Sacramento Valley and linger for days and weeks. It would be 110 degrees out, and I couldn’t see the sun because of the smoke. Ash rained down on my whole town. Basically, no one can spend any time outdoors for the days and weeks that forest fires burn out of control.
The clear air when I moved back to the Midwest was glorious. This is not to say that the region has no air pollution. It absolutely does, but I was no longer in a smog/smoke filled valley. Moving changed my life in that it gave me and my family better air to breathe.
Negative Effects of Moving
Not every move proves to be a good move. Sometimes the answer to the question of will moving change my life is no.
Moving far away from friends and family naturally produces loneliness. It’s not abnormal for someone who completes a big move to not know anyone in their new location.
The isolation and lack of network can make you feel sad and even vulnerable. Who will you call if you need help?
Usually, the loneliness fades as people make new acquaintances or friends. Most people have a new job after they move, which means they will gradually meet co-workers and other colleagues associated with their career.
You can also make an effort to get to know your neighbors. Chances are there are people in close proximity to you that are also lonely.
Retirees often combat loneliness after a move by choosing to live in a 55+ community or a town with lots of retirees. They know that they can tap into the social events aimed at older adults in the area and make new friends.
The loneliness problem is the most difficult for single people who move. Couples and families have each other, which buffers them against the sadness of leaving people behind.
Loneliness, however, can be a problem for anyone after a move. You may miss old friends intensely. If this happens, you should focus on the reasons why you moved and how they are important to your life goals.
This is by far the biggest problem that can emerge after you move. If your new residence does not meet your expectations, dissatisfaction will trouble you. Things that could disappoint you after a move could be:
- Cost of living
- New job
- New school
- Local culture or lack of it
Sometimes people adjust to these problems and become more accepting. Persistent disappointment with your new location, however, may motivate you to move again. It’s inconvenient, but the emotional cost of living in an environment you dislike is high.
Feeling Out of Place
You may discover that your new home has put you in a place where you feel like you don’t belong. This can occur because of religious, political, or ethnic differences between you and the local population.
Even if you feel like you should fit in, some places are just not welcoming to outsiders. This is most possible in smaller towns because large cities have enough people where most people can usually find a comfortable place within the society. Small towns, however, are not necessarily mean spirited or hostile. They can be great, and the locals may find new transplants interesting and exciting.
If you’re feeling out of place, give it some time. You may eventually find your tribe, make friends, and settle into a social niche that appreciates your presence.
Be As Strategic As Possible With Your Move
Making the decision to move is scary because you’re dealing with unknowns. You can research the place you want to move to carefully, but you’ll never fully know its effect on you until you live there a while.
If you’re thinking about moving for a better life, take some time to list the issues that are motivating you to relocate. Can you realistically leave them behind? Can you do anything to solve them without moving?
As you consider where you want to move, evaluate those locations to see if they can conceivably solve your problems. A new place to live can definitely change your life in positive ways as long as you know what you want and choose wisely.