Mental Health Benefits of Living Off the Grid
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
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I lived on an acreage as a child. We weren’t living off the grid, but we had a well and a garden, fruit trees, and plenty of wildlife. What we didn’t have were close neighbors or noise pollution from traffic.
In the evenings, my parents and I would relax on lounge furniture in the backyard and stare up at the stars, listening to the coyotes howling in the distance. Occasionally, a great-horned owl would silently glide overhead, or a bat would dip and weave as it flew by.
I recapture similar moments today by going camping to enjoy nature and for the off grid mental health benefits. My husband and I have spent most of our adult years living in the suburbs, and our weekend escapes to our rural property where we can camp and play off grid are valuable moments in time.
Whether you live off the grid full time or indulge in weekend getaways, getting away from city life is good for your mental health.
Here are nine reasons why off grid living is good for your well-being.
Reduce stress and burnout
Most people live in a constant state of stress. Between busy schedules, job demands, and traffic delays, we live in a way that keeps our cortisol levels higher than they need to be. The stress hormone, cortisol, is the body’s alarm system. When we experience danger, cortisol helps put us in motion so we can react quickly.
The problem is that we are under so much stress, and so often, that our cortisol levels (which also help regulate other body functions) don’t always have a chance to return to normal.
Daily or weekly stressors and repetitious or unfulfilling jobs keep us in such a state of high alert that we become burned out. Burnout occurs when we continually feel swamped and out of control, like we’re struggling to stay on top of things physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Getting off the grid can reduce feelings of burnout and provide stress relief. Having less traffic, less air pollution, and less environmental noise helps return us to a state of balance—and helps us get our cortisol back to a healthy level.
Find deeper meaning
There is more to life than waking up, checking social media, sending the kids off to school, going to work, and coming home exhausted just to repeat it all again the next day. We need to have meaning and purpose in our lives.
To find deeper meaning is to understand that there is a purpose behind all we do—a purpose that can last long after moving on to something else. This purpose should fill a place in our soul, not just be one more item to check off a list.
Living off grid can help you find a deeper meaning in your life. Whether it is planting trees, watching friends and family laughing and playing together as they reconnect with nature and each other, or raising your own food—off-grid living helps you understand that you can control your place in this world.
Connect with nature
You don’t have to practice meditation or go forest bathing to connect with nature. Our bodies are designed to respond to natural cycles. Our sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) is influenced by light, and our bodies naturally produce more melatonin at the end of the day.
Artificial lighting counteracts this and can contribute to insomnia. But when you live off grid, you are likely to spend more time outdoors in natural light than parked in front of a glowing television.
Seasonal cycles influence the foods we crave. We usually crave light, cooling foods in the summer and warming, heavy meals during the cold winter months. When you live off grid and don’t have easy access to fast food, you are more likely to eat seasonally available foods.
As we get in touch with ourselves through these cycles, we begin to feel connected to the natural world around us. Our natural biorhythms get in sync with nature and the seasons. We gain an understanding that we are not separate, and we can become caretakers of the land, restoring or maintaining its healthy balance.
Rely on your own resources
There’s something to be said for being prepared. Living off the grid and away from easily accessible shopping reminds us that we need to prepare in advance to have resources when they are needed.
This means relying on the energy and resources we have produced or gathered. Our ancestors knew how to store vegetables and fruits to last throughout the winter months. They chopped wood and gathered fuel, stacking and storing it to keep them warm on cold nights and giving them fuel to cook with.
When we know how to produce and store resources, we gain confidence in our ability to rely on ourselves—improving our mental health by giving us more independence and a sense of pride.
Build a sustainable lifestyle
A sustainable lifestyle means being able to meet your needs while reducing your environmental impact. When you build a sustainable lifestyle, you give back to the planet instead of depleting resources.
Planting a garden and raising food for the table is one way to get started. You can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by growing fruits and vegetables (no plastic grocery bags needed), raising animals for milk and eggs (no more throw-away cartons), and learning to compost scraps to enrich the soil.
Having a renewable energy source, like solar panels or wind energy, is another way to add to your sustainable off grid lifestyle and reduce fossil fuel dependence.
Creating a sustainable lifestyle and building an off grid home allows you to learn new skills and do meaningful work. As you learn new skills and achieve your goals, you develop a sense of purpose and pride in your accomplishments.
Feeling good about what we do boosts our mental health and reduces harmful stress while giving us healthy stress (like exercise) to strengthen us physically and emotionally.
Physical exercise is good for mental health, but not everyone enjoys sticking to an exercise routine. I’m terrible at scheduling time to walk on the treadmill or ride my exercise bike, but I’ll happily go out and work in the garden or take an evening walk at a moment’s notice.
Exercise increases levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These feel-good chemicals help us gain mental clarity and restore a sense of calmness.
Exercising in the fresh air instead of a stuffy gym provides us with better focus, fewer distractions, and moments of quiet contemplation. I do some of my most creative thinking while walking in nature.
Remote work options
If you can’t uproot from the city and move off the grid without holding down a “regular” job, perhaps working remotely is an option for you. You may be able to earn part of your living from your homestead—like selling organic vegetables or eggs—or you might find a job opportunity that allows you to work from home.
If your current employer is flexible, you might be able to keep your current job and work from home. Since you won’t be using as much fuel to drive to work every day or spending hours stuck in traffic during a busy commute, you may be able to bargain with them for a slightly reduced wage in exchange for allowing you to choose your work location.
Working remotely can boost your mental health by giving you a sense of independence while still having a reliable income source.
Having an off grid home can also provide you with new income opportunities. If you still have internet access (yes, you can have internet without connecting to the electric grid!), you can look for online jobs and virtual positions.
Human beings crave friendship and social interaction. Even if you’re a bit of an introvert like me, it doesn’t mean you want to be a hermit and live in total isolation. Social interaction when you’re living off the grid can look different from the bustling late nights of modern city life.
Living off the grid may mean your closest neighbors are several acres, or even a mile or so, away. It could also mean that your nearest town has a population of a few hundred or a few thousand residents.
Small towns are known for their close-knit social gatherings, like parades, annual events, and coffee shops where everyone knows your name. Living an off grid lifestyle near a small town can create friendships based on mutual respect, shared trust, and support for your neighbors and community.
Even if you don’t currently live off grid, getting away for a weekend or extended vacation can benefit your mental health. Decreasing your use of social media, watching fewer newscasts, and spending your time in an outdoor activity can reduce negative health effects and increase your well-being.
Looking for new ways to de-stress? Check out more of my posts in the Unwind category here!