Mental Health and Homesteading: A Personal Review
I’ve had a few people ask me over this last year to write about mental health and homesteading. I’ve been interested in writing on this subject but never did. I don’t have any proper medical training so it honestly would’ve all been guesswork and research. Research isn’t always bad, but I try my best to write about things I’ve experienced in some capacity. That way when you reach out and ask me questions, as some of you do, I’m able to give an honest answer. Or at least honest advice from what I’ve experienced. What changed you might ask? Well, folks, I went and stayed 4 nights and 4 days in Manhattan, New York. It really made me realize a few things about my mental health and it’s benefiting from my little homestead.
This article is going to mainly be about how I’m now 100% sure that homesteading helps MY mental health (and health in general) and how it might help yours, too. Again, I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. If you feel you may need to seek professional mental health for any reason, there is no shame in doing so.
Or lack thereof, really. I was so surprised at how much I truly missed the dirt (especially soil!) over the weekend. I flew into Queens, NY Thursday night and took an Uber to the Upper East Side where my sister lives. The ride there was dark so I didn’t see much. Once we got close enough to her apartment, I saw piles of trash and big brick buildings…and not so many trees. I missed the smell of dirt on my homestead.
Waking up on Friday I realized how much I truly enjoy walking out my from the door every morning. I love smelling the dirt and hearing the neighborhood roosters calling back and forth to each other. It’s almost like I’m granted a chance to “reset” every single morning on my homestead. I realize has obviously been healthy for my mental health. It makes me feel good – it makes me feel calmer. While in the city, I almost felt trapped in a concrete block. It surely didn’t help me feel as calm as I usually do.
Now, I know there are gardens in the city and the next time I visit I’ll be seeking them out. I think the only way I’d be able to stay in the city again for an extended amount of time is if I made sure I was able to be around a garden or at least a nice park. I’m currently sitting on the flight back to Florida and I CAN NOT WAIT to get home. I’m looking forward to building my new garden space and getting my hands dirty. I wish I waited to prune my fruit trees so I had a reason to go touch them without feeling like a weirdo.
I never noticed how much I check in and check OUT when I’m gardening. I’m mostly checking in when I’m harvesting my crops and checking out when I’m planting (thanks to good garden planning!) or pruning. I truly believe gardening forces me to slow down and appreciate all the beauty there is around me. I’m not making the statement that there is no beauty within a city, but I feel it’s a different kind of beauty and maybe a type of beauty that I don’t prefer. It’s so calming to place a seed in the ground and know that eventually, it’ll feed you.
I’ve already mentioned slowing down. But I’m going to elaborate and talk about why homesteading aids in that way with my mental health, personally. There is no slowing down in the city – or at least not my experience in NYC…like ever, y’all. I don’t believe I suffer from the same level of anxiety as many people I know do. I do believe I’ve experienced what I refer to as situational anxiety. For ex., while I was away from my homestead in NYC I was constantly at a heightened level of stressed out. There was never a moment of silence and the stimulation of the city was overwhelming and overbearing.
I truly don’t feel that it’s good for anyone to go-go-go all the time. Also, I’ve now confirmed that it’s a very unhealthy and unsustainable way of life for me personally. With homesteading, it’s important to take a break to avoid burnout, but there are times where the urge to do everything at once is not there. At the end of the day back at home, I can sit in my yard or my kitchen and breathe; feel completely calm and at ease. This week in NYC, at the end of the night when I pulled my sleep mask over my eyes, I still never quite felt like I could relax or ease into a rhythm. The lights never go out, the noise never stops, and it truly is the city that never sleeps.
Oh, the choices you all! NOTHING was simple during my trip to NYC. Choosing a place to eat, which route to take to get there, which ride-share company to use (the subway, Uber, Lyft, Via, Dial7, etc.) and where to even go once you’ve decided on the ride you’re going to take! Then once you did get in a vehicle, people were constantly honking and screaming at you for who knows what. Talk about a strike at your mental health and something you don’t deal with while homesteading.
I had a shorter fuse/less patience while I was there. All of the options in the city were so overwhelming. There were a few times where I honestly think I was experiencing a small panic attack. My chest started tightening and my body got hot and I thought I was going to cry. I like practicality and simplicity in my life. If that means living slow for the rest of my days on a farm then that is fine by me. I’m not sure why there has to be so much of one thing.
In the efforts of portraying my experiences as the research it sort of is, I’ll end this article with a “Conclusion”. With all the money spent on convenience, I didn’t feel like anything was that convenient at all. Even if you did know where you were going to order delivery food from, you still had to either walk down to the ground level to pick up your food or buzz the delivery person in (to two doors) and have them walk up the stairs to your room where you then retrieve your food. If you wanted to go somewhere, you had at least 4 ride-share companies to choose from or taking the subway or walking. If you wanted a hamburger, you had to decide which of the 20 places within 15 minutes you were going to go get a hamburger from.
I feel most at home on my farm. I feel bliss, calmness, serenity, peacefulness. I’m able to slow down completely – do things like appreciate the birds or hopping in my car to go to the store and back within 15 minutes. I’m not completely trashing cities – there are plenty of great things in the area I was in that I wish I had the option to take advantage of back home. But as far as my mental health goes, the fact that homesteading allows and sometimes even forces me to slow down is such a blessing that I now realize I haven’t fully been appreciating. Do you think farming/homesteading has helped your mental health state? I’d love to hear about it in the comments or in a private message!