As I brainstorm, day-to-day, about what my next blog post will be, I’m typically drawn to write about all the amazing things you can DO every day to live simply. I have yet to truly devote any time to writing about WHY anyone would benefit from this lifestyle. So, today, I’m going to take a few steps back and really get down to the nitty-gritty of simple living. There are SO many things to cover, that I’ve decided to break this up into a three-part series.
My intentions are to educate those of you that are just beginning to dabble in this lifestyle. I, myself, was raised in a small town, but we were not living in the “country”. We did not have a farm or even a garden really (although, now, in his retirement, my Dad has the well-established vegetable garden all the neighbor’s envy!). I was one of the few in my group of friends that had cable TV. (Remember when that was a huge luxury?) We did eat dinner together almost every night and there was a lot of cooking, not generally from scratch, though. I would say that I grew up in a typical modern household for that time. My point is that truly simple living is relatively new to me too. It’s not a lifestyle I was entirely raised knowing. I’m learning as I go as well.
It wasn’t really until my daughter was born in 2007 that I really started to dabble with simple living myself. Kids change us, no doubt about that, right? I had no idea that becoming a mother would send me in this direction. I remember many meals of frozen pizza with cheap ranch dressing, or the multiple nights a week of bar food meals and beer before she was in the picture. It happened gradually, but as we were raising our little girl and her brother, born three years later, my focus was all on them.
I became obsessed with the food my kids ate, and the chemicals they came in contact with. Everything from cleaning supplies to anything that I put on their skin. Then, as I worked so hard to give them the best, it became apparent that the most important things in their lives are us, their parents. So, not only do we take care of them, we take care of ourselves and try to be the role models they deserve.
This is the first part of the series, and it will focus on the Health Benefits of Simple Living. This category itself is VERY broad and I could go on and on forever, but I will try to reel myself in if I need to. The reason I’m starting with this category is because this is the area where I first found myself exploring. For me, it started with food.
So, now I had this tiny little human being that we created and I find myself questioning every little thing that went into her tiny little body. Food is the #1 key to healthy, sustainable living, and the simple part factors in with where that food comes from. The ideal answer is that it came from your backyard. Like I talk about in a previous post HERE, simple does not always mean easy. Sure, growing your own food is a lot of work, but it is this basic idea that is the heart of simple living.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SIMPLE LIVING:
- LOCALLY GROWN FOOD WINS, HANDS DOWN.
Foods from the grocery stores are anything but simple, even the produce. Let’s take a tomato, for example. let’s talk about the complicated process that tomato might go through to get from where it was grown to your plate. Depending on the time of year, that tomato might have to travel for thousands of miles before it makes it to the distribution center. From there, it then travels to the designated store. Then it might sit on the sales floor for days before it is purchased and eaten.
Produce is most nutrient rich when eaten as soon as possible from harvest. The whole time that tomato is traveling, every day, hour, and minute, that tomato is losing nutrients and flavor. If you grow your own or support a local farm with same day picked produce, the nutritional quality will no doubt be superior.
- SIMPLE LIVING LIMITS PROCESSED FOODS
My simple living lifestyle is based on being as self-sufficient as we can be. So, we may not be at the point of growing and milling our own grain or anything, but you will see me buying ingredients to make meals and snacks from scratch instead of pre-made processed foods. I do this as much as possible.
It’s pretty well-known these days that processed foods are not healthy for us. (Check out this article from TIME.COM) The sneaky truth is that many food companies have recognized this and are using their sneaky ways to trick people into thinking that THEIR processed food is indeed “healthy”.
These “Big Food” companies know that many people are easily persuaded by fads and labels. Why do you think everywhere you turn there’s a box of cereal that has “Whole Grain” and “All Natural” or “Heart Healthy” plastered on it. They will put whatever they can in huge letters on the front of that box to convince you that this food is healthy. The nasty truth is that many of these foods are filled with sugar, preservatives, and food coloring. A classic but wonderful guideline to go by is that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it is not real food. Avoiding foods with an insanely long ingredient list is also a huge red flag that it is highly processed.
- NO HARMFUL PESTICIDES
This one is a no-brainer. Whether you are on the Organic bandwagon or not, pesticide residue on commercially grown produce is a real thing. It is linked to an endless number of complicated health issues. I’m pretty confident that, down the road, more and more evidence will be revealed concerning pesticides and health risks. There is nothing natural or simple about chemicals developed in a lab and sprayed on our food supply.
The simple living way eliminates this risk. Simply grow it yourself, find a local organic farmer’s market, take part in a CSA, or at the very least follow the DIRTY DOZEN guidelines This website, in the dirty dozen link, keeps an up to date list of the top 12 types of produce with the highest levels of pesticide residue when commercially grown. There is also a list of the CLEAN FIFTEEN, which has the least amount of residue. When money is tight these are excellent guidelines to follow.
- NO GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
There is a lot we know and don’t know about GMO crops and their impact on our health. It’s an incredibly complicated issue, with a pretty simple solution. Since we don’t 100% know the health risks, the best route, in my opinion, is to avoid them as much as possible. Organic foods will never contain GMOs. The same goes for organic seeds when planting your garden. You might not realize that meat and dairy are LARGELY affected by GMO crops. In non-organic meat and dairy, the animals are most likely fed GMO grain. It’s important to educate yourself about GMOs and determine how you feel about them when implementing your simple living lifestyle.
There are many websites devoted to this topic and the most well-known are the NON-GMO PROJECT. There, you can find information on what crops are most affected, and all about their efforts to enforce labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. Not to mention what the heck a GMO is in the first place. Trust me, it’s the complete opposite of simple or natural.
- MORE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
We all know that exercise is good for us. It reduces stress and increases cardiovascular health, among other things, but for some people, it can be a challenge to implement physical activity into your daily routine. You might not realize that many simple living skills naturally involves physical activity. Adopting this lifestyle, if you are relatively inactive, will drastically increase your physical activity.
The heart of simple living is food, (It is for me, anyway) and the best way is to grow your own. This involves plenty of physical activity. Even if you don’t grow everything yourself, you can take advantage of “Pick Your Own” farms for berries and rhubarb in the spring and apples and pumpkins in the fall. I love spending a June morning going up and down the rows of strawberries. Strawberries are low in the ground so there is lots of squatting. It’s definitely a good glute workout. 🙂
Other simple living activities that increase physical activity include line drying clothes, and hand washing dishes (good for the upper body). Not to mention chopping wood if you have a wood-burning fireplace or a backyard fire pit. If you have farm animals it takes physical activity to feed and care for them. Maintaining your property yourself will definitely get that heart rate up. The possibilities are truly endless.
As you can see, there are some pretty huge health benefits of simple living. This area, like I mentioned earlier, is what drew me into this lifestyle. Many people are in search of a healthier lifestyle, so why not do it the simple way? Is there anything I forgot? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to connect!
Check out PART 2 on the Environmental Benefits of Simple Living HERE!
Check out PART 3 on the Financial Benefits of Simple Living HERE!