Will Moving Make You Happier?
Will moving make you happier?
A while ago, a friend was telling me about her plans to move out of the city to a smaller town where her family is. “I don’t want to kid myself that happiness can be found in a specific place,” she said, “but I’m hoping that it might be, well… easier to be happy there.”
I had a similar conversation with a student a few years back. “It’s been my dream to live by the seaside for years, and now I have the chance to make it happen,” she told me. “But how do I know that I won't uproot my whole life only to have this sense of dissatisfaction follow me there, too?”
Both conversations got me thinking about this sense that so many of us have: that if we were to move to a place we love - be it by the sea, beside a mountain, or within the glamour of our favourite city - we’d be more content.
But is the grass really greener on the other side? And can happiness be as simple as living in the right place?
Well, it depends. Here are 3 things to consider when you’re wondering: will moving make you happier?
1. Where will you feel more socially connected?
Positive social relationships are essential to happiness, and the relationships you have around you right now are, in part, contributing to how content you currently feel. Of course, you can always make new friends in a new place, but it’s worth considering which place will make you feel more socially connected.
Will it be easier or harder to connect with loved ones if you move? Where could you find that sense of community we all crave? Or would moving take you further away from the people who bring support and connection to your life? In the case of my friend, who was planning to move closer to her family, it’s likely that she would actually be happier moving. She would see her family more often and enjoy more time with them.
2. Where can you do your most meaningful, engaging work?
Research suggests that this is one we tend to underestimate the importance of job satisfaction when it comes to moving. Three subtypes of happiness come together here: we need to feel interested and engaged in what we’re doing, to feel we’re learning and accomplishing our goals, and to believe we’re making a meaningful contribution to the world. Many of us get this type of fulfillment from our work; however, we can also find meaning, interest, and accomplishment in being a parent or learning a new skill.
The key is to understand that these factors play a big part in our happiness, and if we sacrifice it in order to move, we might end up less content. This was true for another friend, who shared that his move had left him feeling unchallenged and stuck until he finally decided to move back.
3. Where will you enjoy yourself the most?
This is one you’ve likely already considered. What sort of things do you like to do for fun, and would moving provide you with fewer opportunities to do those things, or more?
When I questioned my student, who was wondering whether her sense of dissatisfaction might follow her to a new seaside home, it transpired that her city life felt far removed from all the things she loved to do: walking on the beach, being able to own a pet, and taking quiet evenings to read. She felt busy and stressed, disconnected from nature and the slower, more introverted pace of life she preferred. On this basis, her current lifestyle was at odds with what made her happy, and moving might help... as long as she still felt socially connected and satisfied in her new job.
Think of enjoyment as the "cherry on top". It isn't enough on its own to make us feel satisfied with our lives, but on a foundation of meaning and social connection, it's just what we need.
To feel content, we want to find a balance between each of these happiness keys. Will moving make you happier if it gets you closer to these things? It likely will.
But by focusing on these areas, you can start to bring happiness to wherever you are, today.
How might you build more connections and feel closer with those around you?
How can you spend your time contributing in a meaningful way, working on things that keep you interested and lead towards your goals?
How can you start, today, to do more of the things you enjoy?
I'd love to hear from you. In the comments, share with me: if you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?