Change Your Scenery, Change Yourself?
I live away from where I’m originally from, and it’s been a couple of months since I’ve set foot in my hometown. And tomorrow, I will be doing just that. I will be home.
Most of us seem to have a complicated relationship with our hometowns; I know I do. I know I see the place where I grew up as an integral part of myself, as a key component of the personality and mindset and skill set that I’ve developed throughout my life thus far – for better or for worse. And what makes this feel all the more significant is the fact that my home happens to be a place that others consider strange and exotic and very, very far away. Where I’m from is one of the first things people remember about me, and a way to describe me to someone new.
But when I go back, all of that falls away. I no longer need to identify myself by my hometown, and so other parts of myself float to the surface or fall back down or otherwise shift into (a different) place. I become slightly different, though no less myself.
Wondering whether I’m the only one who ever experiences such a phenomenon prompted me to do some research, and I came across this article in Psychology Today. The thesis: Place provides us with a sense of context – and like a sentence or phrase clipped from an interview, when taken out of context, we are susceptible to change.
More importantly, the article discusses how our context (i.e. where we are in the world) affects our habits, both good and bad:“Most of our daily existence takes place in familiar environments, within the confines of well-worn routine. We get to the point where we take those immediate surroundings for granted, but we also come to associate automatically certain behavioral tendencies with those routines.
“Like the smoker who mindlessly lights up when stuck in morning traffic. Or the serial texter who automatically whips out the smart phone at every red light. Or the employee who instinctively grabs an unhealthy snack from the staffroom meeting snack tray.”
While this is all quite different from my feelings of being taken out of and put back into context by place, I find it incredibly interesting that our physical location can have such a profound affect on our habits – and that, when looking to break a bad habit, the answer may be as simple as changing where we are.
As a bit of an experiment, I am going to attempt to shake myself of a bad habit that I’ve recently developed while in my new-but-also-not-new environment. I am going to see if whether, when removed from my day-to-day habits and routines, I can also change the ways in which I react (negatively) to certain emotions and situations. I am going to see if I can become a bit calmer and more relaxed and more of the self I used to be.
And I have a feeling that it’s going to work.