As any expat will tell you, it’s absolutely natural to occasionally feel homesick, to long for familiar places, beloved faces and a sense of belonging. This craving for home can be troublesome any time – travel is not always easy nor affordable. However, now, in light of the travel limitations, quarantine periods and visa restrictions associated with the COVID-19 crisis, the usual sense of homesickness is likely to be exacerbated.

Although there is no substitute for the relief of being on home soil, there are ways we can mitigate the anguish of homesickness and maintain a greater sense of wellbeing when we’re stuck, far from home.

Reflect on the details of your longing

Take some time to acknowledge exactly what it is you are missing about home. Is it the people? The environment? The space and nature? The lifestyle? Are there alternative ways for you to reconnect with those precise elements, without jumping on a plane? Are there activities or locations within Singapore that can fulfil that particular longing in you? It’s worth contemplating whether homesickness is actually a bout of claustrophobia. Being from Australia and New Zealand, long periods of time on the Little Red Dot can create a yearning for relative freedom, space and quiet. If you recognise your yearning as claustrophobia, look for ways to enjoy the less urbanised areas of the island, and refresh your perspective.

Avoid ‘greener grass’ syndrome

Don’t romanticise your return home or buy into the myth of ‘happy ever after’, particularly if you are considering a long-term or permanent move. Studies show that positive life changes such as marriage, financial windfall and, in our case, returning to a beloved homeland, can increase our sense of happiness – but only temporarily (from a few weeks to a couple of years). Realise that if you are unhappy here (and if you have been unhappy in previous locations) you are eventually likely to become unhappy ‘back home’. 

Cultivate a gratitude mindset now

Studies show that our mind is programmed to look for and amplify the negative, and this means there are many wonderful facets of life in Singapore that you may be not seeing or acknowledging. A daily gratitude practice will help you recognise the positive side of life in Singapore. It will also enhance your sense of happiness and help alleviate homesickness. Importantly, if and when you do travel home, an established gratitude mindset will make your return feel more wonderful, as you will be attuned to finding gratitude in all that your homeland has to offer.

Homesickness can cause very intense, very real emotions. However, I recommend against knee-jerk reactions – particularly if travel is an uncertain prospect. Instead, take time to reflect on what you truly miss, be realistic about your homeland’s potential, and embed a daily dose of gratitude into your everyday life.

Kim Forrester is a holistic wellbeing author, consultant an educator.