nervous system


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24th May 2020

The often unforgotten element of happiness is WHERE we are.

This isn’t shallow.  This isn’t “oh, I’d be happier if I lived in (e.g.) Guadeloupe because it’s sunny and there’s beaches and bars and … “

But this isn’t necessarily un-related to the weather…  I know… How British…

However, there is a point.

The environment we are in dictates how we interact with the elements around us.  The weather dictates our clothing which dictates how free our limbs are to move.  The postural changes we adopt when it is freezing outside, or pouring with rain, completely alter the way we interact with everyone from shop assistants to people on the street tp friends and family.  We huddle up, we look down, we shrink inside ourselves energetically.  Don’t think that this doesn’t make a difference to everything you do during that day.

And if its just one day, it’s just a day.

But if the climate is constantly like this, the demeanour of those around us completely reflects the atmosphere created by the physical movements and clothing we are forced to wear to adapt to the elements.

And the lifestyle is completely altered by the weather too – whether you are able to eat outside, exercise outside, walk outside, sleep without covers, see sunlight (and vital Vitamin D) is all completely skewed by the ‘where’ of where we are.

But, moving on from the English obsession with the non-existent sunshine… there is a topography and a geography and a relief element to environments. Valleys and hills, trees and dales, beaches and moors – all of these geographical entities have a character which alters the kind of interaction that can exist inside and around them.

Put yourself in a forest.  Are you looking down or up?  Put yourself on a beach.  Are you looking out to sea or back to shore?

The truth is that the environment you are in shapes your actions and your vision – which in turn shapes you as a person and shapes those around you.

So what does this mean for wellbeing, or happiness?

We are all individual and resonate to different environments.  It’s not actually rocket science.  I viewed a property today and it didn’t ‘feel right’.  Sounds crazy, but I trust it 100%.  It didn’t feel right when I walked in.  How can you call somewhere that doesn’t feel right ‘home’?

And so I, personally, have learned, over time, that there are certain environments that really, genuinely, suit me.  I like to have access to ground floors.  I like to be able to jump on my floor and not feel like I’m giving a headache to those below.  I do not like to be hemmed in on both sides.  And in fact, flats – where someone has all of their rooms above mine – I find really quite weird. Physically. This is not a conceptual thing, it’s like I can feel being lived on top of. Personal space is a big thing – and I don’t like being encroached upon.  I love water – valleys and coastlines.  And I love heat.  At my age (2020 update, this was in 2016 in Blackheath, London, UK), I’ve achieved one out of three of these (I live in a basement flat with a whole house above me wherein my landlady spends most of her time in rooms on the first floor and above).  Why aren’t I clamouring for my water/seaside/valley situation?  Because environments are something that we move towards, we don’t always inhabit from the start.

I view the mutation of our surrounding environments as something that mirrors our evolution. As we make choices & refine ourselves as people it becomes more easy to identify the forces with which we would prefer to surround ourselves. Aligning ourselves to the people and places that most suit us takes courage, because often we are not growing up in the perfectly suited environment for us – so changing to that environment is a leap. It’s a relocation – different town, area of the country, even a new country.

If the lifestyle you adore demands sunshine and flowers – you can’t live in England.  If the lifestyle that makes you happy includes hiking and wildlife spotting, you can’t live in a city (and spend all your time there) and be content.  But moves – particularly house moves or, more specifically, ‘home moves’ are daunting things.

However, our bodies are barometers and I am passionate about using them as such.  I have personally moved countless times over the course of my lifetime, and I wouldn’t ever say that I was in the wrong house at any time.  Places which were once comfortable, over time became unsupportive to my existence – for many reasons, including property-specific ones and the limitation of access to facilities.

If you feel discomfort it is likely that your body isn’t quite happy. Bodies have a nervous system whose baseline function is keeping us safe. It is the sympathetic branch of this nervous system that prickles into life when our body feels unsafe. If we sense threat, our first instinct is to keep alert to stay safe. If our home environment elicits this alertness because we’re experiencing a sense of dis-ease, then we are ultimately not going to feel well or safe there: the very place where we are supposed to switch off and relax.

So there is a nourishing environment, just as much as there is a nourishing diet, for everyone.  And the likelihood is that the people who find support from a similar environment to you will also find support from other things that you find supportive.  You will therefore meet those like you if you find the place you (and they) resonate to.  Win, win…

Ultimately there is no easy way to ensure you’re in the correct place for all of your aspirations and wellbeing.  There are financial constraints and practical difficulties, such as proximity to family and old friends.  However, this doesn’t mean that the ‘where’ of ‘wellbeing’ can or should be dismissed.

Environment is so fundamental to our experience that it cannot be neglected.  When you are looking to the self-fulfilled future that each of us envision, make sure to observe the where of that future.  The environment in which we feel most at home offers the path of least resistance.  When human beings are relieved from resistance, we prove time and again we are more capable, in more multifaceted and more brilliant ways than ever before.

2020 update… Jeez, I was accurate, hey? I don’t have anything to add, except to underline. On Saturday night, moving to my new place, I finally exhaled… I’ve had slow out-breaths as I’ve been in South Africa, but Saturday was the one which meant everything felt OK again. I feel safe, I feel as if I am in a place where I am not compromised. I would NEVER have dreamed it in 2016, but given the way I’ve written the above, maybe it’s been there all along…