I am convinced the geographic location, or where we live and spend most of our time, has a massive impact on our lives. I am not alone in this belief as you can read in this Robert Wood Johnson report.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the profound impact my external landscape has on my internal landscape. I am certain these recent ruminations relate to my current living situation; temporarily in town and not in my own home in the middle of the woods. I notice the absence of my privacy, calming quiet and views. Although I spend a great deal of time there, I miss actually living on our isolated and wooded piece of Adirondack paradise.
Obviously, some people are more sensitive to external influences. I know people who thrive in environments that have driven me away for lack of access to outdoor experiences and “too many rats in a cage” syndrome. That said, as a rule, my happy city-dwelling friends; the ones who aren’t complaining about living in the city, spend time outdoors. Many of them get away to the Adirondacks for rest, recuperation and rejuvenation. Honestly, this essay isn’t intended to articulate how great the Adirondacks are for your health. I’ve covered that topic numerous times in my Adirondack Lifestyle Wellness Theory. Today I’ll try to stick to the philosophical and general discussion concerning the impact of lifestyle choices.
I have lived in a variety of very different settings and considered the geographic molding I experienced in each. I’ll use an example that illustrates how an innate and therefore unchanging aspect of my personality intersects with where I live. I have a thing about running; I can’t give it up. Although I am a woman of a certain age and my knee has been repaired a couple of times (whose hasn’t - my orthopedist won’t even discuss it with me anymore), for any number of reasons, I can’t stop running. Over the years, I managed to find a place to run no matter where I lived. When I lived down the shore I favored long, over-distance beach runs. The flat spot where the water is just leaving the sand at low tide is the best barefoot running in the world. It is perfect for a nice, long meditative run, but it is not the best option for interval training. Therefore, during the beach time of my life, my aerobic capacity was different than it is now. I also put more miles on my knees and developed more slow-twitch muscles. This thought occurred to me as I sprinted uphill during a recent interval session on some very hilly Lake Placid trails. Here in the mountains, my lungs work in a very different manner than they did on my flat beach runs, as do all my muscles. My body has changed because of the different running terrain. On a very physical plane the actual cells of my body are impacted by terrain and geography: where I live.
My physical fitness example doesn’t even take into account the impact of fresh air, solitude, or the emotional and psychological benefits associated with time spent outdoors in nature. Consider the lift some people get from walking down a busy street in New York City or shopping. These external experiences create real physical and internal chemical changes in our body.
It sounds obvious when stated but we often forget; where we spend most of our time, or where we live, profoundly impacts who we are. If we are lucky, we make a conscious decision and live somewhere because of who we are. Sometimes circumstances force us to live somewhere we wouldn’t normally choose. However it happens, the impact of external factors on the development of who we are cannot be underestimated. Slowly and subtly, we are molded by place, our personality and temperament imprinted by the surrounding environment.
Fortunately for my internal climate, my external one is due to change very soon. Yay!
Adirondack Beaver Pond and view from the old homestead photographs courtesy of Joann Sandone Reed.