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Why Moving To a New City Is So Difficult—and What to Do About It

About to make a cross-country relocation? Brace yourself: it’s not always as simple as packing up your stuff and driving away. Moving to a new city means saying goodbye—at least temporarily—to friendships and familiar places, and that can take a mental toll if you’re not careful. While you can’t always predict how relocating will affect you, you can give yourself some tools to handle your emotions, and get acquainted with your new hometown faster.

The Complicated Psychology of Relocation

Because changing homes is an intensely personal experience, two people can have vastly different perceptions of the process. However, psychologists agree that most people invest a lot of symbolism in their homes. Specifically, for many, the home stands as a psychic testament to stability, safety, and security. Take away the familiarity of that home base, however, and you may find yourself feeling ungrounded and insecure.

During this time, it can help to draw on your support networks. Make future plans with the friends you’re leaving behind—even if it’s just a Skype date or phone call. Introduce yourself to your new neighbors ASAP, or be on the lookout for community groups and volunteer opportunities. You’ll never replace your lifelong friends, of course, but you’ll have a lot of room in your life now for new buddies—especially if you stay positive about your move.

Psychologists argue back and forth about the value of a positive mindset—some say it creates burdensome pressure, while others revere it as a powerful tool for overcoming challenges. However, there are two strategies that seem to work universally: gamification and gratitude. Gamification is exactly what it sounds like: you make a game of your circumstances. So maybe you see how many new people you can strike up a conversation with in a day, for instance. Or you try to attend one new event every week and make a point to talk to at least one person there.

On the other side of the equation is gratitude, which has been shown to not only improve physical health, but also assists in overcoming the effects of trauma. Sounds dramatic? Moving may not exactly be the worst thing that can happen to a person, but it certainly ranks up there in terms of stress and grief. Likewise, verbally expressing your thanks makes new acquaintances more likely to pursue a deeper relationship, so if you’re looking to make new friends in an unfamiliar city, a little “thank you” goes a long way.

Getting the Lay of the Land in a New Location

Moving is complicated from a more practical standpoint, as well. Even the basic amenities—the best coffeeshop in the area, or the closest pizza place—present a challenge when you move. Some people are just naturally better at getting to know a new location than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn.

If you’re the type of person who likes to stick to what’s familiar, you may have to work a little harder at this. Look for different routes that will take you where you want to go—you may just find that you have a grocery store nearer to you than you think. Or, if you have appropriate sidewalks or bike routes, take a slower tour around your neighborhood that will let you take the time to really appreciate your new ‘burb.

Doing some online research ahead of time definitely counts as scouting, too. With sites like Yelp, Thrillist, and Bon Appétite, you won’t feel like an out-of-towner for long. Don’t discount the gift of gab, either. Neighbors, coworkers, or even the guy manning the gas station cash register may all have local recommendations that you might not find online. Hey, you might even make a friendly acquaintance in the process. It takes a little time, but soon you’ll be navigating your neighborhood like a pro—and wondering why you ever missed your old city!

Feeling uneasy about your upcoming long-distance relocation? Contact us. Moving day just got a whole lot easier!

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