Author: Elizabeth Bosse

If where we are stationed isn’t where we want to be and the appealing things are hard to find, how do we find those sparks of joy that leave us feeling content and happy with our current home?

We are getting ready for move 9 in 15 years and as many of you know, all those places were not anywhere near our favorite or choice of location.  But what I’ve realized is that each place we live is what we make it. Our attitude and words determine so much, in my opinion, of our feelings towards our duty station. I firmly believe that joy can be found no matter the circumstances of where we live. This presents the question, if where we are stationed isn’t where we want to be and the appealing things are hard to find, how do we find those sparks of joy that leave us feeling content and happy with our current home?

I find even when I move somewhere that I really love at first, after that honeymoon phase wears off, it can be hard to find the joy. It can be a tricky balance of acknowledging that somewhere isn’t the best and wallowing in that feeling. These tools I’ve listed below have helped me each move and I do hope they will help you also. 

Tool #1: Journal

For me, I like to name all my feelings about a post. When we get stuck in our heads with thoughts on repeat about how terrible things are, I write these thoughts down.  9 times out of 10 I can reframe those thoughts or even identify them as untruths. I write beside them the reframe or the actual truth. Remember, our words matter. Seeing that reframe or actual truth and then saying it out aloud really makes me pay attention to my thought process and the words I say. Taking a deep breath or a pause in a moment of frustration can really help to clear those thoughts. 

Tool #2: Get Out and Explore

Use those feet. On feet explore your neighborhood.  Put your phone in your pocket and walk around the block. You can slowly expand the area you walk as you become more familiar with your area. Try to look in all directions. I have found that looking up allows me to see things, like building details, that I would never have noticed otherwise. On these walks find a place that you can go and hang out.  For me, it’s the Starbucks down the road that used to be on the walk between our apartment and my daughter’s play school. I walk in there and all the baristas know my name and my order.  I’ve also taken the time to get to know the baristas names as well. Living in a foreign country, this little thing has made such an immense difference in my happiness. Having that familiar greeting when I go (almost daily) changed my view of our current duty station.  Now, I know that all duty stations aren’t as easy to maneuver on feet and require the car to get around.  The same thing can be accomplished.  Find a spot that brings you comfort and joy to hang out in on at least a weekly basis. Whether that spot be a local coffee shop, a restaurant, a Starbucks, or a bakery, find that place that makes you feel comfortable and get to know the people who work there. 

Tool #3: Social Media

I know. We love it and we hate it. Regardless of our feelings on social media, it’s an amazing tool when moving somewhere new. We can use it to find groups to gather information. We can use it to make connections.  I am a firm believer that virtual friends are as meaningful as in person friends. Ask questions of the people you meet virtually in your new location. You can use the hashtags on social media to find things as well. And of course, keeping up with your old friends.  Continuing and maintaining friendships can really impact your view on life.  

Tool #4: Look Around the Four Walls of Your Dwelling

What do you feel as you look around? If not happiness and contentment, what can you do to change that? Start small here.  Drastic changes are not always needed (though sometimes they are). We started with hanging pictures on our wall.  I was very unhappy in our home, not necessarily the duty station, but those four walls where I spent much of my time. Having those pictures hung made an immediate difference.  The next thing we did was buy plants.  I bought house plants and outside plants for our 3 balconies.  We live on the 20th floor in the middle of a city of over 14 million people.  Bringing the outside in is shown to improve mood and happiness levels. Those plants caused a spike in my contentment level. Up next, our government issued furniture, especially the couches and chairs were itchy and a drab beige.  I had soft white covers made for them. This kind of thing is very cheap to have custom made here and it has made a world of difference in all our levels of comfort.  We collect some form of art from each of our duty stations and the places we visit.  I like to take some of these with us each move, even if we aren’t allowed to take all our household goods. It’s important to make those four walls feel like you and yours. 

Tool #5: For the First 3-6 Months You Live Somewhere Say YES to All Invites.

It can be really challenging to find your people, especially if you don’t already know someone where you are being stationed. I’m a bit of an introvert and social situations often exhaust me.  But I know that I need to have friends where we live. To help with that, saying yes to all invites, can really help you find our people.  Everyone isn’t going to be your person but if you put yourself out there, you will find a person or two sooner rather than later. Tool 3 can help you find things to say yes to. If you join groups that have events, go to them! These groups can be anything from workout groups to book clubs, to expat groups if overseas. 

I hope that you find these tools helpful in finding joy where you are stationed. I would love to hear the tools you use. 

Let’s start a conversation!

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