Lifeworks Hightlights & Insights

August 2006, Summer |  Table of Contents


HSP Lifestyles
by Peter Messerschmidt
This article represents the observations of HPS made by Peter over the years.

Does an HSP's lifestyle really "look" any different from any other person's lifestyle?

There are always a lot of variables to consider, when answering a question like that-- but my experience-- from talking to 100's of HSPs about their lives-- is that the "self aware" HSP often lives in a way that's distinctly different from most other people's. Thus, the question might be better answered in terms of describing an approximation of the lifestyle I have heard a number of HSPs describe as close to "ideal."

Naturally, lifestyles are also dependent on such things as age, interests, relationship status, and whether there are children in the household. Beyond that we also have to consider the relationship, itself-- is it between two HSPs, or an HSP with a non-HSP? 

Simplicity, Quiet and Nature. Three things seem to be dominant in the lifestyles of those HSPs who feel happy with their lives: Simplicity, availability of privacy and quiet, and easy access to nature.

"Simplicity" is not merely about living life on a smaller scale than most people, it is also about minimizing both physical and emotional "clutter" in the immediate surroundings. Several people told me that their choice to live in a very small house wasn't just about cost, but also about being in a place that minimized the work required to maintain the place-- a reduction of stress. Some went against our culture's emphasis on "home ownership" and stated a clear preference for renting, rather than owning. Others chose a simple lifestyle to match their social conscience to minimize their use of resources.

Simplicity, however, isn't just about a physical space. For many, it also seems to involve an "uncluttering" of the mind, through simple choices, such as not having a TV, or not having newspaper and magazine subscriptions that "scream for attention," as one HSP put it.

"Quiet" is an essential need for HSPs. Elaine Aron writes about HSPs needing "quiet time" to process and recharge their batteries, especially after they have been in overstimulating situations.

For many HSPs, quiet becomes a part of-- or an extension of-- simplicity. Of course, we can't have quiet all the time, so an HSP-friendly lifestyle often is focused on making quiet space readily available. For those living in families with children and/or a non-HSP partner, there are special challenges. At a recent HSP Gathering, several people explained that they had set up a special room in their living space that was uniquely theirs, when they wanted their quiet time. One mother of two related that "When I'm in 'mom's room' with the door closed, everyone knows not to disturb me, unless the house is on fire." For others, the need for quiet is satisfied by setting aside certain times in the day/evening to "just be."

"Nature" seems to be particularly important to HSPs, and many fill their need for "quiet" by being in nature. Given a choice, most HSPs would prefer to live "in the country," but even those who live in cities seek out natural space in their environment. An HSP living in the sprawling city of Los Angeles talked about going to a tiny neighborhood park, where she'd put on headphones and play a CD of "forest sounds," while meditating in the green space. Many HSPs are avid gardeners who create peaceful zen-like spaces on even the tiniest plots of land.

Alternative lifestyles seem especially appealing to HSPs, and although opportunities are few and far between, quite a few express open interest various forms of "communal housing" styles such as co-housing, eco-villages and the like. The appeal lies not only in the environmental sustainability found in these settings, but in the cooperative and "extended family" structure typically found among their inhabitants. While there is some natural concern about the lack of privacy and quiet, the "good" is generally seen as outweighing the "bad."

For the vast majority of HSPs, the "ideal" lifestyle becomes a matter of "finding balance." Those who are self-employed certainly have more flexibility in their living choices, but even they have to find the right blend of honoring their Sensitivity while still remaining "in the world." Because HSPs are so easily overstimulated, it is tempting to "isolate" if the opportunity arises. However, whereas isolation may afford us a measure of "emotional safety," it also isolates us from opportunities to make the world a better place, and to use the positive gifts our heightened sensitivity and awareness affords us.

~    ~    ~

Peter is open to your thoughts or comments. Email him at


   subscribe      unsubscribe      Table of Contents     archive

About LifeWorks  |   Highly Sensitive People
 Myers-Briggs  |  Families  |  WomenOutdoors
Links & Resources  |  HSP Highlights & Insights Newsletter

Contact Jacquelyn at, 970-484-0840