The Relocation Bump

Do you feel like you need to get away? Try something new?

Stuck in a routine? Bored? Overwhelmed?

Have you ever felt that dropping everything and starting over in a new environment may make you happier and less stressed?

Well if you do, you’re not alone. This is called relocation therapy.

Relocation therapy is the process of changing environments in response to an upsetting event, chronic stress, existential crisis, or sour relationship. While often thought to pertain to more serious transitions such as moving from New York to Los Angeles, it can also be some thing as simple as switching a job or, in Shubber’s case, switching schools.

This transition usually provides therapeutic benefits since it is a way to escape previous stressors and develop new, positive patterns and habits. Additionally, with new location comes new opportunities and experiences, which can lead to greater happiness as well. People, restaurants, weather, activities, and places to explore, each of which when new, can prove to be incredibly memorable.

A 2016 study published by the University of New Hampshire in the Journal of Experimental Psychology General asked 149 participants over the age of sixty-five to recall five memorable experiences they had between the ages of forty and sixty, while also identifying the most important residential move that they had undergone. The lead author, Karyln Enz, hypothesized that periods of significant transition, such as relocation of home or job, should result in more memorable experiences, as they are anchored to fresh settings. Enz and her team predicted that of the twenty-year period between ages forty and sixty, only 13 percent of the selected memories would fall within a three-year span of their respective transition. To their surprise, an average of 1.3 out of 5 memories was tied to this three-year span, or 26 percent.

The researchers deemed this effect to be a “relocation bump.” Looking deeper, they explored whether the memories were driven by a certain life event that prompted the move. Sixty-five percent of subjects reported that the move coincided with at least one major life event such as a job switch or retirement. However, those whose move did not correlate with another event also saw a similar memory peak of 24 percent.

This relocation bump is derived from a similar idea called the “reminiscence bump,” or the tendency for older adults to have a greater recollection of events that occurred during adolescence and early adulthood. First drink, first love, and a handful of other fresh experiences are responsible for the development of our identity and are often more memorable. While this survey covered older adults, it proved that new settings produce more crystallized memories. If this relocation bump works for a fifty-year old, it has great potential to positively affect a young adult who is still working on solidifying his or her identity.

Moving to a new learning environment within my own school opened my mind to an entire world of relationships, opinions and outlooks on life. It taught me to embrace attention, build my voice, and feel comfortable in my own skin. But most importantly, it made me happier than ever before. So, the next time you are feeling stuck or want a change of pace, don’t panic. Just move on!