Gretchen Rubin’s tips for moving to a new city

Gretchen Rubin is the bestselling author of several books, such as Outer Order, Inner Calm, and The Happiness Project, on how to be happier, healthier, and more productive. She also hosts the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. For Oprah Daily, she explains how we can all find some calm… even during a pandemic. This week, she answers a few questions from readers.


Michael weschler

A few weeks ago, we asked readers on Facebook and Instagram the following question: “Are you making a big change? If so, what causes you the most anxiety … and why? ”

From the hundreds of responses we received, two seismic changes seemed to be extremely common: people considering a major career change (which I talked about in my last column) or a life change. I’ve heard of those who move from small cramped apartments in big cities to more spacious homes in the suburbs, of couples buying their first home or selling their beloved family home, and adventure seekers who turn to each other. were moving across the country … or even across the world. (For example, a woman was returning to the United States after spending nearly a decade abroad.) Not to mention those who moved to be closer to or away from friends and family.

Gretchen Rubin the Happiness Project

In many ways, this is normal: Studies have shown that natural disasters and other traumatic events can prompt people to make big changes as a result of big changes in how we think about and relate to the world – and the COVID-19 pandemic was no exception. It almost disrupted one aspect of our existence which, yes, caused enormous hardship and suffering, but it also provided a unique opportunity to re-evaluate our values ​​and lifestyles – to quit jobs that are no longer. fulfilling, to relocate relationships that have run their course and to escape cities that suddenly feel stressful and overwhelming. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service said it handled nearly 36 million change of address requests last year, while home sales in 2020 hit their highest level since 2006, according to the National Association of Realtors. .

That said, even the simplest movement can be incredibly difficult, and maybe even more so when we’ve already been faced with a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, and change. So with that in mind, I’m going to address two of the most common relocation concerns we’ve received from readers:


I’m moving to a new city and having a hard time letting go and embracing something new! —Eliana Blum from Oakland, CA

First of all, it’s completely normal to feel pain as you prepare to leave the city you love. In the weeks leading up to your move, write down all the restaurants, monuments, museums and other local attractions that have been on your bucket list for a long time and make a plan for Actually Do them. Of equal importance? Set aside time for all the people and places that made your home feel like you were at home: have a last meal in your favorite restaurant, spend an afternoon browsing the shelves of your independent bookstore. -loved, shop for fresh produce at your favorite farmer’s market, host a farewell picnic at your local park, enjoy a nightcap at your neighborhood hangout, and order dinner at your tried-and-true take-out.

At the same time, to help you anticipate your big leap, make an “explore list” of everything you want to do in your new city. Think about the parks and museums you want to visit, what restaurants and bars you want to try, nearby neighborhoods or towns you want to visit, what hikes or day trips you want to do, what stores you want to walk around and pretty much everything in between. that sounds interesting to you.

Also, consider adding the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of people you hope to connect with once you settle in, whether they are an old acquaintance who lives in your new town. , people you have been invited to meet by friends, important business contacts and colleagues, or anyone else who might be a part of your new life.

Finally, to make the transition less taxing, you should also take note of the essential places and services that will make your life easier, including the pharmacy, hardware store, library, post office, office supply store, and grocery store. open 24 hours a day. shop. (If you’ve already downloaded the Google Maps app to your phone, you can even save these places as “favorite places” so you can easily locate them.)

As you tackle this list, you will start to feel more comfortable. Plus, as you meet new people, you’ll have a great conversation start – just ask them to share their top picks for what to eat, see, and do in your new city. In my experience, people love to talk about their favorite hidden gems and must do activities.


We recently moved and I’m afraid to make friends here, especially during the ongoing pandemic. —Elise Zwicky from Urbana, Illinois

You are very wise to realize that making friends is a very important part of making your move happier.

For decades behavior scientists have spent a lot of time studying what makes us happy, and if there’s one point virtually all research agrees on, it’s this: Strong social bonds are one of the strongest, most consistent keys to happiness. We need close relationships with people we can confide in, who make us feel like we belong, and who we can count on to support us.

In fact, a Harvard study, which followed the same group of men for over 80 years, found that having close personal connections with other people was most directly correlated with overall happiness, better health. and more contentment. This is especially true if you surround yourself with happy people: a longitudinal analysis published in the BMJ found that a person is 15% more likely to be happy if a friend is happy, and that a person’s happiness can also influence and be influenced by friends of friends and even friends of friends of friends.

In addition, strong bonds not only benefit our mental health, but our physical health as well. Research has shown that a lack of social connections carries health risks comparable to smoking and is about twice as dangerous to our health as obesity.

Now here’s the thing: making friends can seem incredibly intimidating, especially as you get older. Here are some tips from friends …

  • Call a friend: Just because a city is new to you doesn’t mean you’re starting from an entirely blank slate. Build on your existing social networks (friends, family, former colleagues) and ask them to connect you with people they know who live in your new city. Additionally, ask yourself if there is anyone you could reconnect with, such as a friend from college (even high school), a teammate from your post-graduate recreational sports league, or someone you know. youth.
  • Get outside: Making friends takes effort, so don’t be afraid to be bold. If someone invites you to something, say yes no matter what. Challenge yourself to randomly walk by a colleague’s desk and have them grab a cup of coffee. Try to chat with the parents who are waiting in the school queue. Start a conversation with neighbors who walk their dogs. Sit in your neighborhood cafe for a few hours without your phone.
  • Join a group: Being part of a group, where you have common interests and meet regularly, is one of the easiest ways to form new relationships and friendships. And these days, there’s something for just about everyone. You can take a cooking or photography class, attend a creative writers workshop, join a running club or intramural sports league, join a nearby congregation, volunteer at a local shelter or food bank, or join your neighborhood book club. You can even browse Meetup, an online platform that brings together people with common interests, whether it’s craft cocktails, Bravo TV shows, or twilight bike rides. Plus, one of the benefits of making friends in a group is that you can form friendships with multiple people at the same time. So if you’ve always wanted to take a yoga class, now is the perfect time. You will reap the benefits of yoga and you could make some great friends as well.
  • Use a friend finder app: Chances are you already use an app to order take out, call a car, and manage your to-do list, so why not use one to make new friends? Similar to its popular dating app, BumbleBFF asks you to create a profile (with photos and a quick bio), then lets you swipe right or left on people you might want to connect with. Hey! Vina, an app made by women for women, connects you with potential friends based on proximity, mutual friends, and quiz data, and suggests a place to hang out (think: a hiking trail or a wine bar) once you’re paired. If you are a mom or future mom, Peanut will put you in touch with other local moms or moms-to-be who have similar interests and kids of the same age, so you can get parenting advice, schedule dates. play for your little one these, and connect with someone who navigates the same emotional, sometimes messy terrain.

    While the pandemic – and the stay-at-home orders and the social distancing that accompany it – have inevitably made this process more difficult, one of the benefits of our downtime is that there are even more ways to connect virtually with new (and old) friends. Also, it should get easier again as you start to move around the world a bit more. Until there,
    do your best and let yourself go if the process takes longer than it otherwise would.


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