One in five American adults experiences mental illness each year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reveals. The causes are complex, but the proliferation of media and technology and typical lack of deeper meaning in modern life have both been found to be at least partially responsible. Off-grid living has the power to improve mental health by restoring the real sense of freedom, empowerment, and purpose many of us today seem to lack — as the 180,000 current off-grid American families would be able to attest. Even though off-grid living is a challenge with many daily stresses, you're ultimately in control of the outcome. When you're in the position to rely on your own resources and capabilities to solve your problems, your mental health will naturally improve.
A Healthy Diet = A Happier You
A growing body of research demonstrates the link between the standard American diet and poor mental health. Unfortunately, many Americans live on processed foods containing harmful ingredients like refined sugar, trans fats, artificial coloring, preservatives, and additives. These substances have been found time and time again to negatively impact the human brain. In a recent study on sugar intake and mood, men who ate the most refined sugar (17 teaspoons daily, or nearly two cans of Coke) were 23% more likely to develop depression or anxiety over five years compared to those who consumed under 10 teaspoons daily. When you switch to off-grid living, you can look forward to growing and eating your own whole, fresh food that's safe, organic, and free from chemical contaminants.
So not only will your nutritious diet benefit your physical health, but it'll also boost your psychological and emotional health — making you better able to carry out the daily responsibilities of self-sufficient living.
Off-Grid Living Strengthens Self-Responsibility
Modern society encourages people to live their lives dependent on certain established institutions. Many people are stuck working jobs they don't enjoy with the real power in the hands of the government and corporations, which naturally leads to feelings of helplessness, stress, anxiety, and depression. Off-grid living can set you free from an unfulfilling, dependent lifestyle. You have the opportunity to take control over your life and rely squarely on yourself for your own survival and happiness. And with this sense of purpose, your mental health greatly improves. For example, in one study, participants who felt their lives had meaning had a 15% lower risk of death in a 14-year period, compared to participants who felt aimless in life.
Off-grid living gives you the opportunity to engage in meaningful work everyday, which therefore boosts happiness and well-being. In turn, your cortisol output is lowered, which helps both brain function and immune regulation to strengthen both mental and physical health.
Connection With Nature
Living off-grid involves spending plenty of time outdoors in nature tending to your garden. Immersion in the natural world has been proven to boost well-being.
In one study by the University of British Columbia, participants were divided into three groups: one that engaged in connection with nature (like walking outdoors or observing plants), one that observed man-made objects, and one that did neither. The first group experienced happiness, a sense of elevation, and a connection to other people (not just nature) much greater than the rest.
Tending your garden each day is an uplifting and therapeutic act — it allows you to work through your emotions, rather than ignoring and burying them down. If you're struggling with negative or chaotic emotions, it's always best to work through them. And when you live off-grid, you have the freedom to get out in the garden and process your emotions in a healthy, productive way whenever necessary.
Mental Peace and Clarity
Modern life comes with its fair share of sensory bombardment in the form of noise, pollution, crowds, traffic, and intrusive technology. It's therefore not surprising that mental confusion and hyperactivity reigns supreme. In this hectic environment, many of us struggle to be alone with our thoughts and find mental clarity and peace.
But when you live off-grid, there's always time for quiet contemplation and connection with your inner self. Life off-grid runs at a slower pace; it requires thoughtfulness and patience. You simply focus on the current task at hand and make sure you take the time and care to get it done right. In turn, your mind tunes out chaotic or unhelpful thoughts and mental balance and health is restored.
Ultimately when you have animals to care for, a garden to cultivate, and a continual stream of projects to work on, you'll experience greater contentment, happiness, and motivation for life. Off-grid living also helps you get outside of your head and break any negative thought patterns you may have. You'll be busy learning new skills and accomplishing goals, which in turn boosts happiness and self-esteem.
Sally Keys is a professional freelance writer with many years of experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.