The Therapy of Simple Living

Over the last several months I have been embracing simple living as a way of coping with stressors and issues in my life. I am learning to consume less, to spend less, and to become more self sufficient, and in the process I am gaining more control over my life. Like anything I practice that is working well for me I have been considering how to use these principles within a mental health setting.

One way to think about it is that the twin acts of increasing self-sufficiency and decreasing spending require a lot more active doing and much less of the passive being done to. Thus the very participation in such activities fosters autonomy and confidence. Committing to small acts of self sufficiency requires planning and organisation and a focus on delayed gratification. Think about:

  • Buying a loaf of bread vs making one.
  • Buying a bagged salad vs growing one.
  • Buying a plant vs propagating one from seed or cuttings.

The latter options all require a focus, a concerted effort and the real passage of time. The input into such activities is much higher than simply purchasing the product, but the gain is much larger than the product itself.

If I make a loaf of bread by hand I gain a variety of experiences:

  • The engagement and planning involved in choosing a recipe and procuring the ingredients for it.
  • The muscular exertion of kneading the dough.
  • The patience exercised while waiting for it to rise.
  • The marvel of chemistry in action, seeing something doubling its size in a couple of hours.
  • The emotionally charged aroma of freshly baking bread.
  • The genuine appreciation from the people I share it with.
  • The fabulous flavour and texture of a homemade loaf.
  • The knowledge of what goes into the food I eat.
  • The confidence boost of building and mastering a skill.

The idea of self-sufficiency has become a personal ethos for me, and skill-building activities something to seek out whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing ideal in order to be effective though. In utilising self-sufficiency activities to increase well-being it is important not to become a zealot in their prescription. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a loaf of bread when all you want is a sandwich.

In her book Down to Earth, Rhonda Hetzel talks about the newfound freedom of living simply.

“I didn’t know then that the charm of living without shopping, and of making do with what I had, would open up a whole new world for me, where independence and opportunity would live side by side and lead to a kind of gentle liberation.”

And isn’t that what we are all looking for? A gentle liberation from the environments and habits and circumstances that currently have us tied?

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