How to Deal With Homesickness As an Adult
When I left Houston and moved to Los Angeles, the freshness was amazing. There was a cool dry breeze, funny comedy shows, and great food. However, after a while, the novelty disappeared. I began to feel resentment, cynicism and mostly homesick.
When I was in my thirties, I was a little ashamed to admit that I miss home. This is not a summer camp, this is life! And I am already an adult! Adults shouldn’t miss their moms and be sad because their friends at home are still having fun, even if you’re not there . We must make new friends, start a new life. But the truth is, even now in my 30s, I sometimes feel homesick. But that’s okay, and I’ve learned to cope.
What is homesickness really about
After about a year living in Los Angeles, I began to get depressed. I was angry with my family for not visiting me often enough. I judged the people I met here – they were not at all like my friends at home. After a while it dawned on me: I didn’t hate Los Angeles. I just missed my old life .
I learned to define my homesickness because instead of venting my feelings on everyone around me (read: all of Los Angeles), I learned to deal with what really bothered me. Clinical psychologist and professor Josh Klapow says homesickness is related to our “instinctive need for love, protection, and security — feelings and qualities usually associated with home.”
So when we don’t feel it in our new environment , we may start to miss home. It makes sense. When I moved here, I knew people, but they were all new to me. It’s hard to feel protected, loved, and protected with people you don’t know very well. Even if you live in search of new places and experiences , the lack of familiarity can be surprising.
In an article published in the journal Pediatrics , the researchers noted that homesickness can be influenced by four different “risk factors”:
- Experience : If you’ve never lived away from home before, you’re probably more likely to miss it. You are not used to dealing with feelings of unfamiliarity.
- Attitude: Sometimes homesickness can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re ready to feel uncomfortable in a new situation, chances are you will.
- Personality: Researchers talk about “insecure attachment” in terms of children coping with new caregivers, but in general, if you don’t know how to keep warm with new people, it can obviously affect how you deal with change.
- External Factors: Of course, the level of your homesickness will depend on how willing you were to take the step. Did you have to do it, or did you accept it? Your homesickness also depends on how your family reacts to change.
Like everything else, learning about how homesickness works and how it affects is a great first step in understanding how to deal with it.
Get yourself a homesickness shot
Researcher Chris Thurber says the best way to nip homesickness in the bud is to overcome it, rather than try to resist it. He told CNN that homesickness is “what vaccinates against future homesickness.” When you get through this, you will learn to cope.
The article (and a lot of research on homesickness in general) focuses on what parents can do to prevent their children from being homesick too often:
If there is any deal parents can make, it is agreeing to stop communicating – be it text messages or email – with their freshmen every five minutes. Instead, [clinical psychologist Josh Klapow] said that parents should schedule a specific time, once a week, to interact with their children. It also gives college students the space and time to build strong social bonds between peers (lack of social support was a strong predictor of homesickness, according to Thurber’s report) and gain much-needed independence.
However, as an adult, you can follow this same advice and limit your interactions at home. After the move, I called my mother every other day and a friend from home on the days when I did not speak to my mother. It was almost intrusive; it made me feel safe. But with this I prolonged my problem. Remember, experience is one of four factors that contribute to your homesickness. The more you get used to being away from home, the better you do. You are vaccinating yourself. Allowing yourself to be a little sad is a necessary part of moving forward.
Stop dwelling on the past
When I missed home, I had the bad habit of idealizing my old life, forgetting all the annoying little things that came with it. “People were friendlier at home,” I would say. “You would say hello to strangers walking down the street. Can’t do this in Los Angeles. ” It’s true, but people at home also had their flaws, just like other people. But not in my head – while I was idealizing the past. I came from a perfect location and this new location was not that cool. On the other side of the country, the grass is always greener.
There’s nothing wrong with a little nostalgia, but longing for the “good old days” became problematic when it prevented me from appreciating what I had in the present and opening up to new experiences and people.
Here’s an even better idea than just resisting nostalgia: try to use it to your advantage . Research shows that nostalgia can improve your vision for the future and make you happier. You just need to know how to use it in a way that is productive and not destructive.
As Psychology Today points out , it’s all about how to focus the nostalgia. Are you dwelling on the past or focusing on how it can help your future?
People who see every good experience as an indelible enrichment are more likely to cheer up. But the person who mainly focuses on the contrast between the past and the present curses every good experience, believing that nothing in the future can ever match it … … When you think about your current job or family, for example, remembering yourself in your youth, once dreamed of this future, you can improve your outlook on the life you have now. “I remembered the anticipation of the moment,” he says.
In short, nostalgia can be painful, or it can make things better. It’s all about how you use it.
Create new traditions
Remember, homesickness is associated with “an instinctive need for love, protection, and security — feelings and qualities usually associated with home.” Whatever you add to the sense of security in your new home, the better. This usually means making the new place your own.
Aside from meeting new people and making time for them, another easy way to do this is to build your own new traditions. And traditions don’t have to be complicated. The tradition can be as simple as going to the grocery store every Sunday morning (or weekday evening if you want to get ahead of the crowd). The more you get used to doing the same thing over and over in your new life, the more you become familiar, and before you know it, you feel safe in your new place and that homesickness starts to subside.
But perhaps your situation is temporary. Maybe you are just traveling and will soon be returning home to friends and family, but right now you are feeling very depressed. I felt it many years ago when I was alone in Europe for Thanksgiving. I didn’t expect to be so upset, but I did that until I decided to celebrate the tradition by going to a restaurant, ordering whatever the hell, and stuffing my face all the way with food (oh, what a lovely holiday). It was a stupid (and physically unhealthy) way to establish some kind of acquaintance, but the point is, this acquaintance made me feel less homesick. Interestingly, I also ran into other Americans doing the same thing and that helped too.
If you are homesick, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Basically, it is about a sense of security, and this is what we all strive to feel as children, students, or adults in our 30s and older. It can be tricky, especially during the holidays, but understanding it goes a long way in learning how to deal with it properly.
This story was originally published in 2015 and was updated on December 9, 2020, per Lifehacker’s style guidelines.