Writing about the benefits of relocating for a magazine whose tagline is “Find Your Ideal… Destination, Life, Home” does seem a little suspicious and self-serving. But, seriously, have you heard the latest? Relocating is good for you!
But, having had five moves involving three different states, and knowing those moves were positive experiences for me, I wondered what the literature says about moving. Is (voluntary) relocation good for your health? I decided to take a look and share my findings. The bottom line is it can indeed be a very good thing, for a variety of reasons.
Sharper Brain. With each of my moves, I enthusiastically explored my surroundings, sampling new restaurants, shops, parks, museums, local theater, and volunteer options, and embraced the challenges of fresh career opportunities. I’m not saying every step was easy, but relocating forces you off auto-pilot and out of your comfort zone. Research shows that novel situations enhance memory, and may even trigger the growth of new brain cells.
Move Your Body More. Our environment shapes our behavior. A location with nicer weather invites us to be outside and be more active than a rainy or cold-weather environment. Having lived in Maryland, Ohio, and New Jersey, I find that now (in sunny Florida), I’m outside a LOT: the ocean, walking paths, tennis courts, and my bike make exercising easier and enjoyable year-round.
Friends. Relocating can facilitate new friendships, introducing you to unexpected and fresh perspectives. Those who decide to age in place may have established a good network, but over time find their support group may move away: job transfers, friends, and neighbors who no longer want to live in a cold-weather climate, children who moved away because of career choices, divorce, death, etc. According to research, feeling lonely is equivalent to the risk of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. With social media (and cars and airplanes), it’s easy to stay in touch and visit with friends from former locations. Or, bring your “posse” with you! Two friends from my previous location live in my current community.
Adult Children/Grandchildren. Let’s acknowledge that, for many people, moving away from children/grandchildren can be difficult. I have three wonderful, independent, married, working children with fabulous spouses who live in three different cities in two different states, and three young grandchildren (the grandchildren were born after our last relocation). We visit our children/grandchildren several times a year (and they love coming to Florida for some R&R). We are delighted to stay with our grandchildren if the parents want to travel (escape?) as a couple, we get together for major holidays, and when we’re with our adult children, they can go out to dinner and have “couple” time. The family thing (should we stay or go) is a tough decision for many people, but it works well for us. We know, should there be an emergency, that they are only a flight away. However, if/when we are in our “third act” and are no longer independent, we may move closer to them (just for oversight, not to move in with them!).Benefits of sunlight. Voluntary migration patterns are often from cold weather states to those with warmer temperatures. Although the negative effects of too much sun is what we generally hear about (wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer), our planet’s almost perfect, glowing sphere of hot gas does remarkable things for our bodies. Here are some of them:
In a complex relay of nerve signals, sunlight stimulates our pineal gland (a pea-size gland within our brain) to make melatonin, which helps protect our skin and regulates our sleep-wake cycles. The precursor of melatonin in the pineal gland is serotonin, the “feel-good” brain chemical.
We’re familiar with Vitamin D, the “Sunshine Vitamin,” which can be made by the body through the action of sunlight on our skin. Vitamin D’s role in the body is impressive, including: bone and teeth health by promoting the absorption of calcium; increasing the body’s nitric oxide production which reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to the brain and kidneys (by relaxing blood vessels); strengthening our immune system and heart: regulating insulin; and helping control inflammation in the body.
Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune thyroid diseases. And, SAD (season affective disorder) seems to be triggered by a combination of particular genes and shorter days with less sunlight.
The average American spends 22 hours a day indoors, but we think we spend only 16 hours a day inside, according to YouGov, an international research company. And, a study published in Nutritional Research found that the rate of Vitamin D deficiency in the United States was 41.6%. Perhaps we’ve been too successful touting the downside of sunlight and ignoring its many benefits. Go outside and play!
Forced decluttering. Ah…how good does it feel to go through a closet or a garage, and give away/get rid of all of that stuff you don’t want/need? Relocating is decluttering on steroids. You feel lighter and leaner as you throw off the yoke of all unnecessary belongings. I found that moving to a house without a basement was truly liberating – it forced me to get rid of my Organic Chemistry books from the 1980s, and give away piles of things I wouldn’t use/didn’t need any longer.
Save Money. Moving to a place with a lower cost of living or downsizing to a smaller house can save you money. And, if you can ditch your car because you can either walk or use public transportation, you may be able to save even more.
You call the shots. Relocate before you can no longer live in your home and are forced to move. Most newer homes are built with “universal design” principles so you can age in place. No more low toilets, bathtubs you have to climb into to use the shower, or door handles that are difficult to turn. Be proactive, not reactive. And, remember – if for some reason it doesn’t work out, nothing is permanent.
We’ve all heard the quote about being more disappointed by the things you DIDN’T do than by the ones you did do. Change is invigorating. Embrace it.
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