Where You Live Affects Your Brain, Your Child’s Brain

Does the place you live cause you and your family added stress or leave you wanting for more adventure? And if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? According to the Meyer-Lindenberg study published in Nature, our very brains are affected by where we currently live, and our children’s brains are shaped by where they are raised.


Those who live in cities have the most active amygdalas — the region of the brain involved with fear — those in the country, the least active; and those in small towns, fall in the middle. And where a person spent his or her childhood similarly affects the part of the brain responsible for regulating the amygdala known as the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC). The more metropolitan the environment, the more stress we endure to the point of altering our minds. So, if you’ve ever felt a move to a location more suitable to your family’s needs was in order, or, in the very least, you could benefit from embracing a more laid-back lifestyle, you’ll want to read on.

TiP JS feature3Meet tuned in parent Jennifer Sheridan, wife, mother, herbalist, photographer, and blogger at A New Life in Costa Rica! After she and her husband, Bill, had raised two sons, they decided to do things “differently” with their then nine-year-old daughter, Callista. As you can guess by Jennifer’s blog’s name, they didn’t just move to the country. Nine years ago, they moved to a different country!

When I asked Jennifer why her family decided to move to Costa Rica, she replied, “Bill was eligible for retirement and wanted to be present in Cal’s life. We’d been looking for a rural area to retire when someone mentioned Costa Rica. In a little over a year, we were living here.” My kinda people — if it’s a possibility, make it a reality! And in Costa Rica, they were not only in for a healthier lifestyle, they were in for a new life, and an adventurous one at that!

TiP: What are the major differences between your lifestyle before and after moving to Costa Rica?

Jennifer: Our lifestyle then and now is completely different. Then, we did a lot of running. Rushing from here to there, school, work, sports, dance, etc. We were always going and doing.

Now, we spend most of our time being. Life has a much slower pace. Our focus previously was outside the home. Since moving to Costa Rica, our focus has been on ourselves and each other. We have a bond that I doubt would have been possible had we not gone through the experiences we have in the past nine years.

This is Jennifer, her husband, Bill, and their daughter, Callista enjoying a family excursion at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica.

TiP: What type of families is Costa Rican living ideal for and why?

Jennifer: Life in Costa Rica is for an adventurous family. Every day is an adventure here! I think families able to accept the phrase “It is what it is” as a way of life would adapt well. Living in a foreign country isn’t easy. Making a life for a family in a foreign country, the issues multiply exponentially.

There are many ways to make it work if living here is your dream. If you move without a source of income, know that life will be difficult. It’s difficult but not impossible.

TiP: What factors did you have to consider during the transition from the States to Costa Rica? Were there any complications and/or life lessons learned in the process?

Jennifer: The transition was hard; I’m not going to lie. Moving anywhere is rough on a family. Things were different when we moved. It is an easier process now I imagine. When we arrived, getting a cell phone was an ordeal. Now you can get off the plane and pick one up anywhere or bring yours from the states.

The first thing anyone considering a move to a foreign country needs to consider before coming is whether or not you qualify for legal residency. Residency can be a long process. Ours took over two years. I hear that’s improved, as well.

Next was where to live, beach, city, mountains, country? Costa Rica has micro climates. We picked where we live for the climate. Having lived most of our lives in Arizona, we agreed we didn’t want to live out the rest of our lives in that kind of heat. We live in the mountains about an hour from the beach in one direction and one hour to the city in the other.


Another consideration was schooling for Callista. She attended a semi-private elementary school and the local public high school.

TiP: What is a typical day like for your family in Costa Rica?

Baby two-toed sloth Jennifer and her family have been watching grow up.

Baby two-toed sloth Jennifer and her family have been watching grow up.

Jennifer: Life in Costa Rica is awesome, wonderful, exhilarating, unbelievable, and magical, as well as frustrating and often times annoying.

Our life is anything but typical. It sounds cliché, but we live in the present, taking each day as it comes. We’re at a stage in life where our daughter is preparing for college, so we cherish the time we have together. It won’t be long before she is off living her own life.

TiP: At this point in your life, do you feel you have more balance between marriage, motherhood, leisure, and adventure? If so, any tips for parents living under stress in the city?

Jennifer: There is no question I have more balance in all areas of my life now. My role as a mother is changing. Little by little, I’m letting go of my little girl. I’m savoring moments together and wondering if I’ve taught her enough to get by. At the same time, I’m excited to enter this new stage of life with my husband of 20 plus years. We’ve already started dating again!

At this point in my life, I am constantly discovering myself. Funny, I always thought by 50 I’d know who I was. Turns out I’m constantly evolving and enjoying it.

Her last statement sums it up: relax, discover, evolve, enjoy. And regarding your current environment or place in life, don’t stress about it; but rather consider the philosophy of one who is living exactly the life she wants for herself and her family: “If it’s not flowing easily, stop and re-evaluate.”

Thank you for being tuned in parents, and a special thanks to Jennifer Sheridan for sharing! You can follow her ongoing adventures and view her amazing pictures on her blog!

I welcome your stories, too, and comments, suggestions, and tips! Follow us here and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

-Elle C.

Reference: Nature
Costa Rica photos: A New Life in Costa Rica

About Elle C. Mayberry

Elle C. Mayberry is a mom and author, who just released a new children's book with her young daughter. With a passion for parenting and degrees in psychology and "make it workology," she created Tuned In Parents (TiP).

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