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Adjusting to paradise

In order to find genuine happiness and lead empowered lives, we must first begin to live in the moment, which can be challenging. Mindfulness practices can help you cultivate this lifestyle by encouraging you to bring your awareness back to the present moment and focus your attention on one thing at a time. This column aims to open a space for readers to ask questions and receive answers from a mindful perspective.

Q: We moved to Costa Rica several months ago. Following a grueling decision process, we decided the move would be for the best and help with some personal issues. However, now that we have settled in, I find that I am starting to feel the same as I did at home. Why is it so hard to adjust to life here when it seemed like paradise at first?

A: First of all, welcome to Costa Rica! You are probably familiar with the term “period of adjustment,” which is normal with a relocation or any other major change. Specifically related to moving, during the first few months you are so consumed by learning your way around, familiarizing yourself with the language and culture, setting up your home, and taking care of personal business that you are distracted from the day-to-day issues of life.

Once this period passes, unsettling feelings may begin to creep into your awareness. Try to be mindful of how you are feeling. In this circumstance, this means taking some time away from distractions and checking in with yourself. Uncomfortable emotions are hard to sit with, but try to gently notice the different qualities of the emotion without judging. Where do you feel it in your body? What exactly does it feel like? Is it constant or does it fluctuate? Does it have a texture, size or color? Simply observe the emotion. All of this will give you true information about your feelings that is not clouded or skewed by the judging mind. You may even notice that the feeling diminishes, which illustrates the temporary nature of our emotional states.

Based on this information, you can create a plan for yourself about how to embrace the situation and find solutions. Depending on the severity, it can be helpful to talk to your partner, a friend or a counselor to get to the root. A big myth about moving is that it can make your problems disappear; sometimes you only take them with you.

Natalie Garvey D., M.Psych., is a California native and an eight-year resident of Costa Rica. Recognized by the Costa Rican Professional Psychologists Association (4496), she dedicates her professional time to accompanying others on their path of self-discovery and healing. Send your questions to


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