The environment you live in has a profound influence on shaping your mood, your frame of mind, and overall quality of life. Whether or not you have a positive attitude or a negative attitude, and whether or not you have hope for the future and an appreciation for nature and the beauty of life, has a lot to do with where you live and the people you live around.
It doesn't mean that you are a helpless victim of circumstance, that if you live in a horrible place around horrible people you are resigned to that fate for the rest of your life and that it is impossible to rise above it, but it does mean that it is more challenging to do so. It is more difficult to find happiness and peace of mind and a high quality of life when you are living in conditions of extreme hardship, poverty, criminality, ugliness and injustice.
Each place has its own vibe, or unique signature of energy, and culture; people and buildings and neighborhoods and cities each have their own distinct vibe.
The vibe of a place is predominately shaped by five factors, including its physical geography (latitude, longitude, altitude, ecosystem, and climate), its man-made structures and landscaping, its people, its economy, and its history (everything that occurred before in this place which has helped shape the present set of circumstances and expectations of the people living there today).
All these factors work together to define the signature vibe of a place.
Buildings. You are influenced by the buildings you occupy and live around, whether they are welcoming or foreboding, whether they are in good condition or run down, whether there is good air circulation or stuffiness and stagnation, whether the materials are cheap and shoddy, or built with high quality materials and craftsmanship; you are influenced by the people who live in the buildings, whether they like where they are living or not; and you are influenced by those who own and manage the buildings, whether they care about adding value to their community, or if they are there just to make a quick buck, managing their buildings like a cookie cutter fast food franchise, without any eye for longevity, healthiness, or aesthetics.
Landscape. You are influenced by the natural landscape you live around, and the manner in which human beings manage that landscape, whether there are any trees and flowers and wildlife, whether you hear birds singing or not; whether there are large open natural spaces filled with lush greenery, or whether buildings are crowded together with very little vegetation in between. Does the landscape seem sterile, overly pruned and sprayed with poison, or does the landscape appear naturally vibrant and healthy and full of life?
Economy. The availability of goods and services; the costs of living; whether people have jobs, the extent in which they like their jobs, and are able to comfortably support themselves, or not, is a major influence on the quality of life in any given community.
People. People being a dominant presence in their environment, have the power to either make or break the beauty of a place. If you live in a high crime area it is difficult to feel safe and secure. If the people you live around are friendly and courteous and honest and respectful, you are more likely to enjoy where you are living. Living around rude, loud, dirty, and offensive neighbors has a way of diminishing the quality of your life; where you may need to alter your habits to avoid contact with your neighbors completely, either shutting yourself up in your home, or spending as much time away from your neighborhood as possible. Such a circumstance is not something anyone would want to endure for very long, would want to move away as soon as possible, but if for some reason they can't, life would become increasingly more unpleasant, negatively effecting all other spheres of your life.
If all these factors are involved, toxic buildings, toxic landscaping, toxic economy, and toxic people, it would produce an experience comparable to a real life hell on earth.
Where do such places exist? The ghettos and shanty towns of the world are the most extreme cases, where life is lived in the background of the worst misery imaginable, but is still found to some degree in most places of the world, even in the most affluent nations, anywhere there are high levels of stress caused by overcrowding, high cost of living, economic uncertainty, mismanagement of resources and services, noise, pollution, crime, and lack of natural green spaces.
There are toxic places to be found in every city of the world, but more importantly, there are also healthy places to be found there too.
In the next post I'll explore this topic further, suggesting different things a person can do to help counteract these negative influences, and achieve a higher quality of life while living in a lower quality environment.