4 Ways Where You Live Matters to Your Mental Health

fall wooded trail

When it comes to where you live, few people recognize the impact (for good or bad) it has on mental health.

We’re willing to bet you’ve never stopped to wonder how the place you choose to call home is contributing to your mental well-being. But if freezing rain makes you frown, and sunshine turns that frown upside down, your environment is having an impact on your mood— and likely more so than you realize.

There are many factors in your surroundings contributing to happiness and well-being, and weather is just one tiny piece of the puzzle. In this article, we dive into four big considerations (other than climate). Here’s a chance for you to think about whether the place you now call home is fulfilling your needs and contributing positively to your life, or if you have some searching to do.

1. Clean air and nature.

Every human needs fresh air. And what better way to get it than enjoying time outdoors, maybe in a community park or along a walking trail? Countless studies have shown the positive effects spending time in nature has on mental health. In fact, there is now a treatment known as ecotherapy which helps reduce mild to moderate depression by being active outside.

Some people desire (or even require) more time outdoors than others. If you fall into this category, living in a crowded, bustling city may not be the healthiest place for you. Luckily, most big cities now have intentional green space dotting their map.

Let’s not forget about the health and wellness (and happiness) of our pets. Dogs in particular desire time outdoors too. If your community is not as dog-friendly as your pup would like, this could actually be taking a toll on your own mental wellness as well. Active pet, happy life.

2. Affordable and safe housing.

Whether you live in the city, the country, or the ‘burbs – in a tiny studio apartment or a mansion – your mental health will suffer if you can’t afford your home. It’s so easy to tell yourself, “If I lived in so-and-so neighborhood, my life would be perfect!” But if buying or renting there means living paycheck to paycheck, or drowning in debt, that stress can weigh on your mind more than you think.

On the flipside of this equation, not everyone can comfortably afford a space in an area in which they feel safe. That, too, can wreak havoc on your mental (and physical) well-being – especially if you’re caring for a family.

If you live in a community in which safe and affordable housing isn’t available, it may be time to rethink “home” for the sake of your mental health. And for those able to secure safe and affordable housing, be sure to count your lucky blessings! Thinking about things like this – the wonderful things we often take for granted – can give you the best boost to your mood. That’s the power of gratitude.

3. Things to do in your area that spark joy.

Hobbies are important. Not only do they stave off boredom, but they bring a sense of fulfillment and purpose. (Let’s be honest, not everyone is lucky enough to get this from their work.) So whether you enjoy riding your bike, perusing a local bookstore, or volunteering with a pet adoption center, it’s important your community provides access to the activities you love.

Say you feel the most at peace around water. And your favorite pastime is walking along the beach and hearing the waves crashing. It’s safe to assume living at or near the ocean will positively affect your mood. Finding your way to a beach town could be just the thing your mental health is calling for.

If your community does not have your preferred hobby on offer — Chess club? Badminton courts? — take action. Start a group yourself. Reach out to your area Parks & Rec department. Chances are, other residents would be excited to join in as well.

4. Community members who are there for you.

We are pack animals who were never meant to live solo and take care of ourselves without the love and support of others. Sure, technology can connect people from one side of the States to the other, but this will never replace the value to mental health the support and camaraderie of people nearby provides.

Studies referenced by mentalhealth.org have shown people in communities with higher levels of social cohesion have lower rates of mental health problems than those in communities with lower cohesion, and this is true no matter how deprived or affluent a community is.

This concept is so easy to apply to your own life. Imagine you’re having car troubles. Or with little warning, you need someone to watch your kids. Or you need to throw a fundraiser for an important cause. In each instance, having people in your vicinity who can drop what they’re doing to offer support will take away stress or worry and will leave you feeling mentally sound and cared for.

When it comes to where you live, few people recognize the impact (for good or bad) it has on mental health. Where to call home is not one-size-fits-all. Our wants and needs may be the same categorically – fresh air, housing, hobbies, and relationships – but how much nature and house, and what hobbies and relationships, differ. We hope the place you’ve settled checks all of these boxes, and more.

If you’re new to an area and are just starting to get acquainted with everything the community has to offer, be sure to turn to your BeLocal magazine!