Veganism and Happiness

When the first glow of English spring breaks through the seemingly everlasting winter, that commences late August and drags itself into about May, I can’t help but smile. I wake up to the sounds of birds at 6.00am and gasp at the profound beauty of it all, rather than launching the nearest object and the nearest wall in anger. The seasonal change brings with it dabbled sunlight, blossoming flowers and a whispered promise of hope – spring, it promises, is a time for new beings. I’ve endeavoured since the chime that signalled 2016 rung out to make every day my ‘spring’.

It might come as a surprise to know that I came to veganism at a low time in my life. I’d left University the previous summer with a disappointing grade and an overwhelming feeling of failure and self-pity, I’d started to live for the weekend and had gotten myself into a rut doing a job I hated, for money I squandered on fast food, material objects and alcohol, trying to numb my overwhelming feelings of self-loathing and unhappiness.

When Christmas came knocking I felt worse than ever and even though I had left one job and was about to start a new one I was crippled with debilitating anxiety that, like a malevolent alarm, woke me up every few hours whispering to me that I was a failure, that I had let my friends, family and self down and that the little girl who once looked at her future with so much hope and joy, was crying somewhere inside me, disappointed with the sham of an adult I’d become.

I’d also stopped reading all together, the books which I’d studied – my first love, my solace – became reminders of my perceived failure. I couldn’t go into a book shop, I couldn’t look at my book shelves, I couldn’t put pen to paper, I didn’t feel like anything I had to say would be valid or intelligent and so I did not permit myself to think or say it.

I like to think I’m not the sort of person to let anything beat me for too long, and I have an excellent network of family and friends that, when I let them, help me profoundly, so I knew I needed to make a change. I needed to start loving myself again and I needed to start making an effort with myself, no more three days in bed, no more terrible microwave meals, no more avoiding conversations and books, no more living for the weekend, no more sadness. So when the clock rang out to signal the start of 2016, even though it was winter and it was cold and I was still working behind a bar, I knew in my heart that I was about to go on a journey of rediscovery, I was going to make spring come early for myself.

As January became February and money was tight and bills where mounting, I spent more and more time cooking, with less and less ingredients and I was totally plant based by late January. I started writing again, just little bits and pieces, recipes and such like, and then I started this blog, and although it seemed quaint to me that anyone would care about anything I could have to say, I continued. I felt like I was starting to become me again, and that the little girl – who had, regardless of her terrible spellings and weird sentence structures, always dreamed of becoming a writer – was proud of me again. The painful feeling had gone, and in its place was a lovely feeling of satisfaction. The most important change was that I had something to be passionate about again, cooking, eating and experiencing new colourful things, that passion is still with me now and it grows daily.

In my opinion or indeed, in my experience, eating a vegan lifestyle helps in three ways when it comes to tackling slumps in mood: one – holistically; when you feel better physically you start to feel better mentally, with healthy food comes healthy habits, with more energy comes more productivity. Number two, it makes you more aware of your place in the world, you start to see things differently, you experience and enjoy the little things in life, the bee that is pollenating plants, the smiling sheep, that dog that wanders past your window, and three, it makes you much more in tune with your body. Suddenly, you start to understand its messages, you know when you need to drink more water, or eat more carbs, or have a rest, and you know what it needs and begin to listen to its cravings. It’s like opening a text conversation with your body, where it sends you messages like ‘ai up, I fancy some carrots today and I’m a little thirsty’ and you send it back a text telling it you are up for that and ready to drink some H2O and dice some carrots.

Of course, I’m not blind to the fact that my decision to make other changes such as trying to have a positive outlook, become more accountable, and develop my creativity have been fundamental in my change in mood, but I what I am trying to say is that veganism is the backbone of these things for me. It is what keeps me focused, keeps me feeling my best and keeps me mindful of changes in my body, whether in temperament or physicality, for example I know it’s physically impossible for me to feel down after a plate of my vegan lasagna. In all seriousness though, I truly feel that if you’re in a slump or feeling down, that a lifestyle change like veganism can be a godsend.

The way I see it, or rather the way I’ve come to see it is that when you eat fruits, vegetables, rice, beans and other vegan food, you’re eating something blank- something that is neither good or bad, it just is, and from there you can take it into your body, reap the benefits of its vitamins and do with its energy what you will. Whereas when you consume something that has died, you’re eating all the sadness and pain that comes with bolt guns, slaughter houses and murder, and that’s not neutral- it’s pain, and if you start by minimising pain, sadness and unhappiness in the world around you, in the things you do every day and you don’t take products of it into your body, you’re in a good place to start working on other positive things and from my experience- to start working on yourself.

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