Home, as they say, is where the heart is. But what about the mind…?
Your physical location may seem somewhat trivial or incidental, but it could actually have more of an impact on your mind-state than you think. That’s not to say that there are places in the world where everyone is miserable, of course, but subjectively speaking some of us may thrive more in one place than another.
Within our psychotherapy clinic locations within the south of the UK our therapists notice many similarities and also some differences in the answers to the question ‘does where you live affect your mental health?’Let’s find out how our living conditions, and the corner of the world we inhabit, may affect our mental wellbeing…
Everybody’s ‘Happy’ Is Different
One of the fundamental concepts that plays into the idea of location affecting mental state is the fact that everyone is different. For example, some of us may prefer the quiet solitude of the countryside, while others may seek the hustle and bustle of the city. For this reason, there is no hard-and-fast bottom line to this argument. However, there are several factors which can (and do) affect all of us in similar ways – many of which are tied directly to where we live. The key is to look for ways not to find happiness in the place you live, but rather to seek a level of contentment from the opportunities that being in a certain area offers. Let’s explore these now.
The Friends And Family Factor
There’s a reason they say ‘no man is an island’. Having a solid social support structure is one of the most essential building blocks of our mental wellbeing. In fact research shows that levels of social connections give a strong indicator for the risk of problems such as depression with one study showing very strong links between levels of loneliness and positive diagnoses of depression. This extends to both friends and family. So you can imagine that when a person is physically isolated from these people, their mental health may suffer.
In this way, living in a place which gives us access to both friends and family is almost a requirement of a well-balanced mental state. This can be a tricky thing to achieve in today’s world where many people live alone or significant distances from their families. If this is the case for you, then exploring social connections close to where you live or work could help reduce one link that where you live has on your mental health.
We are all different, of course, and this is by no means conclusive – but it does serve to highlight how important it is to keep lines of communication open where possible. Even if it’s just via the internet or telephone, a friendly voice can be hugely beneficial to your mind-set.
Somewhere To Unwind
Many of us take the ability to relax for granted; after a long day, it’s great to be able to put our feet up and let the stress wash away.
But what happens when our home environment is marred by factors beyond our control? You’ve probably heard some of the many horror stories out there about nightmare neighbours and other stressors that can impact our home life. In such cases, the toll it takes on our mental health can be considerable and should not be ignored. When stress is insidious and difficult to escape in this way, it can make being at home feel less safe than it should.
Be aware, however, that if you are going through a home situation like this, help is always available – so don’t suffer in silence. One good strategy is to write a list of things that make you feel safe at home, ranging from things such as feeling physically safe and secure, through to things that sooth and relax you – increasing a sense of emotional safety. Once you have written a list, see if you can rank them from ideas that you can make more immediate changes in, through to ones that might require bigger changes – for example moving to live somewhere else.
The mental health charity Mind have recognised that housing issues such as this can have a significant affect on people’s emotional wellbeing. They have produced a simple guide of options to help reduce the mental health impacts of housing and where you live.
Feeling a little cluttered?
There’s a reason that the term ‘mental clutter’ exists, and it’s related directly to its real-world counterpart. If you have a busy lifestyle, it’s understandable that chores at home can start to pile up. This, in turn, can increase the amount of mess and clutter in each room – which can have a direct impact on your mental state. Research shows that our immediate physical environments can have a significant impact on our emotional wellbeing.
For example a team in the US even linked facts such as acoustics, lighting and floor patterns to levels of anxiety and agitation in people. It’s a fact that our brains operate most effectively when they receive the most appropriate level and type of stimulation for the task that they are doing, and sometimes this includes limiting the amount of input. It has further been shown that our abilities to learn new information can change depending on immediate environmental factors such as room temperature and even room layout.
This isn’t just common sense, it’s real science. When your brain has to switch processes in rapid succession, you can actively become less effective at cognitive tasks such as memory retrieval and filtering of information. If you’re living in a place which is loud (such as a busy city street) and your home is a little cluttered too, you could feel the negative effects of stress over time. One solution is a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones – and a spot of spring cleaning!
These are just a handful of ways that your physical location can have a direct effect on your mental state, but don’t forget that this is a two-way street. For as many stressors that can be found in your surroundings, there are positives to be found too. You know yourself better than anyone, so if you’re suffering from stress based on where you live, try to make real changes and adapt your environment to best suit your preferred mental landscape.
We’d love to hear examples of how a specific location in the UK has impacted on your emotional wellbeing – for example being in the town or city. Please feel free to share these with us below…