My family’s move to Knoxville, Tennessee was hard for me. When my husband and I moved there, we thought it would be our “forever” home, the place we would raise our three kids and grow old together. Our moving history – eight moves in nine years – probably should’ve been our first clue, but there was more to it than that. For the first time, making friends didn’t come easily and I struggled to find that sense of belonging that I craved. My experience taught me to appreciate what I have and to feel gratitude for the place where I live today.
If we focus on what we have instead of what we don’t have, life is better. For example, I spent way too much time thinking about my lack of friends in Knoxville whereas I should’ve spent that time feeling grateful for my family and enjoying what Knoxville had to offer.
I learned to practice gratitude
A year and a half later, we moved back to the Chicago area. I experienced a gratitude for the city that I hadn’t appreciated before. When my family received our first recreation center catalog, I cried. I could not believe it. My kids would have all of these opportunities just minutes away from our house? I gushed to anyone who would listen. “Have you seen this?! Oh my gosh! This is incredible.” Parents who had lived in the area for years said, “Um, yeah. It comes out every few months.” I soon learned to keep my awe to myself.
It’s easy for us to get complacent, to take where we live for granted. We complain about the traffic or the beeping garbage truck or the lack of nearby restaurants. But, what about the good things? What do you love about where you live? How can you feel more connected to where you are now?
To feel gratitude, start at home
Home is your sanctuary – the one place where you can get away from anything bad that is going on around you. If you recently moved to a new place, take a minute to learn how to create a happy home. Start by getting rid of things you don’t need and include only the items that make you smile. Then, find ways to appreciate your home.
- Take photos of your favorite spots in your home
- Keep a gratitude journal and note one thing a day that you love about your home
- Give friends a tour and tell them what you love most in your kitchen or living room
- Use the space as the oasis you intended – add candles or music or soft blankets
See the city through a tourist’s eyes
How many times have you lived somewhere but never explored the area until a friend visited? Don’t wait for a reason to get to know your city. Book the mafia tour to learn about gangster life in Chicago. Go to the Empire State building and see if you can find your apartment out in the distance. Take the scenic drive or, better yet, get outside and walk some of it. When you see your city through the eyes of a visitor, you’ll appreciate it more.
Figure out what makes you happy and do it
As adults, there’s no one stopping us from saying “I’m bored.” or “There’s nothing to doooo.” (Add in exasperated sigh and a foot stomp). That’s why it helps to have a list, to know what brings us pleasure. For me, that list includes: reading, running to the beach, doing Sudoku, going to comedy clubs and hanging out with family and friends. Make your own list. What are things you like to do that make you happy? Do you like trying out restaurants, going to sporting events, or learning about history?
Once you know what you like, figure out how to do that in your city and schedule it on your calendar. Try six different restaurants over the course of the next six months or buy tickets to two upcoming football games. If a professional game is out of your budget, look at a local school’s schedule or find the best places to watch the games on TV with other fans.
To feel gratitude, record the things you appreciate
A location-specific gratitude journal can help you feel more connected to where you live. Download my gratitude journal or simply write down what you feel grateful for today. Then, write down what things (from the past three months and the upcoming three months) make you feel grateful. If you’re considering a move, this journal can guide you. You can see if your new city offers the things you love. In your journal, try to come up with something different every day. Look for the little things like that bunny who greets you in your backyard or how the morning sun hits your breakfast table. If journaling isn’t your thing, practice gratitude on Instagram or send photos to a friend of things that you appreciate.
What do you love about where you live and how do you find ways to appreciate those things?