How much are you attached to the place where you live? A book I've just started reading, Melody Warnick's "This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live," lets you find out by answering 24 simple questions -- which I've shared below.
I answered 21 of the 24 questions "true." So I'm attached to Salem, Oregon (my wife and I have a Salem address, though we live in a rural neighborhood about six miles from the city limits).
The more times you answer "true," the more likely you are to be attached to your town. Marking nineteen or more "true" answers, which puts you in the top quartile, indicates that you probably feel strongly connected to where you live. Six or fewer, on the other hand, suggests that you live somewhere unfamiliar or in a town you're not particularly over the moon about.
And if you're not very place attached you may be saying to yourself, Clearly place attachment feels nice. But why should I care? Will it actually make my life better?
According to place attachment research, the answer is a resounding yes. Studies show that when you pit Stayers -- long-term residents of a place -- against chronic Movers, the Stayers are generally far more social. They're more likely to volunteer or, say, help the environment by buying a habitat preservation license plate.
...Researchers who measure place attachment don't try to examine the objective magnificence of one's city -- the soaring beauty of its skyscrapers and statues, the leafy beauty of its parks. This would be like measuring a couple's love for each other by posting their photos on Hot or Not.
Instead, scientists study residents' emotions by asking whether or not their town feels like home. When it comes to place attachment, our towns are what we think they are. That means your city doesn't need to be the Platonic ideal of a city, in the same way you (thankfully) don't have to be particularly gorgeous, clever, or wealthy to love and be loved.
Here are the 24 questions. Answer each "true" or "false." Then count up the "true's." Remember: 20 or more shows that you are attached to where you live.
- I feel like I belong in this community.
- I've lived here a long time.
- I know a lot of people here.
- I know my way around.
- I feel comfortable here.
- The friendships and associations I have with other people in this town mean a lot to me.
- I feel rooted here.
- I like to tell people about where I live.
- I grew up here.
- I rely on where I live to do the stuff I care about most.
- If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live here.
- If something exciting were happening in this community, I'd want to be involved.
- I'm really interested in knowing what is going on here.
- My town isn't perfect, but there are a lot of things that make me love it.
- The people who live here are my kind of people.
- I hope that my kids live here even after I'm gone.
- I feel loyal to this community.
- I like to attend events that are happening in my town.
- Where I live tells you a lot about who I am as a person.
- I care about the future success of this town.
- I don't want to move anytime soon.
- I can rely on people in this town to help me.
- There is no other place I'd rather live.
- It feels like home.
I moved to Salem in 1977. So it was easy for me to answer "true" to I've lived here a long time. Most of the other questions were equally easy to answer. These were the three that I gave a "false" to:
I grew up here. No, I didn't. I came to Salem when I was 28 years old.
If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live here. Not sure about this hypothetical, so couldn't answer "true."
I hope that my kids live here even after I'm gone. My only child is happily living in southern California, though she grew up in Salem. I hope she'll continue to live where she wants to live.
Anyway, the basic idea behind Warnick's "This is Where You Belong" book is that we can be happier with where we are if we actively engage ourselves in attaching ourselves to this place. Which is called placemaking. She writes:
Ethan Kent, a senior vice president with the nonprofit Projects for Public Spaces, told me that Americans are emerging from an era of thinking of towns and cities as products for residents to consume.
"Now," he says, "the energy is more around the idea that the cities that succeed are the ones that allow people to help create them. That's how they become better places, but also how people are going to become more attached to them. When people help create their place, they see themselves reflected in it. It reflects their values and personalities and becomes more an extension of themselves."