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How veganism helped my head

I deal with depression and anxiety on the regular, but becoming a vegan has given me a new lease of life. Here’s how veganism has helped my head.

by Ellie Wright

Going vegan was the best thing I ever did. Not only has it allowed me to live ethically, healthily and sustainably, but it has also helped to ease the pain of depression and anxiety.

After eight years as a vegetarian, I made the transition to veganism when I moved away for university. I was living independently for the first time and this new chapter felt like the right time to start this journey.

As an introvert, I was naturally very nervous about going to university, but when I moved cities I was surprised to find an abundance of vegan-friendly restaurants, shops and cafes and a lot more vegans in general. Before long, a vegan society was set up within the students’ union – I joined and made lots of new friends.

This was the beginning of a journey that has changed a lot for me. Namely, my mental well-being.

I have suffered with low self esteem for as long as I can remember, but knowing that I am not contributing to animal abuse or torture, and that I’m helping the environment, has given me something to be proud of.

I have suffered with low self esteem for as long as I can remember, but knowing that I am not contributing to animal abuse or torture, and that I’m helping the environment, has given me something to be proud of. I feel much more positive about myself and satisfied that I can make such a difference with what feels like small everyday actions.

By going vegan, I was finally doing something real, something that has a positive impact on so many of the causes I care about. I was already supporting various human and animal rights   charities and wildlife conservations, but it didn’t feel like I was directly helping anyone. So being able to physically act out against animal agriculture gave me a purpose.

Being able to physically act out against animal agriculture gave me a purpose.

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In the past year I have personally saved around 365 animal lives, 1.5 million litres of water, 6 thousand kilograms of grain, 3 thousand kilograms of CO2, and 1 thousand square kilometres of forest. Me. I did that.

And while my insecurities and anxieties sometimes make it really hard to do the things I feel so passionate about, like fighting against inequalities and injustices, becoming vegan has been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done, and it has given me the opportunity to work towards something that’s so much bigger than myself. So even if I feel like I can’t volunteer for multiple charities, or go out and protest against unfair laws and struggle to feel like the actions I do will make a difference, at least I can do this.

Becoming vegan has been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done, and it has given me the opportunity to work towards something that’s so much bigger than myself.

That said, there are some negative effects that come from being vegan too. I’ve become even more empathetic towards animals, having made a full connection between all the animal products that people eat, use and wear and the suffering that was endured in order to produce them. I can’t see a leather bag without remembering a video of exhausted cows I watched travelling across India in horrific conditions just to be killed at the end; I can’t see dairy milk chocolate, or cheese, or any milk products without seeing disturbing footage of cows being exploited and tortured in unbelievable ways; and I can’t see a chicken sandwich or a beef burger or a sausage without thinking about the millions of innocent animals that are paying the price for them. And it’s incredibly devastating.

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I can’t see a chicken sandwich or a beef burger or a sausage without thinking about the millions of innocent animals that are paying the price for them. And it’s incredibly devastating.

But I’ve got to see that as a positive, because I can’t unsee the footage I watched and I wouldn’t want to. It has allowed me to continue making the choice to not participate in or fund anything associated with animal cruelty.

The only thing that I do regret about becoming vegan is not facing the fears I had and doing it sooner. The food I eat is delicious, it’s some of the healthiest on the planet, and I have been brought closer to some lovely, compassionate people in the process.

Even on the worst days when my mental health makes me feel like I can’t do anything right, I know that I can be vegan, and I can be proud of that.

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Read more of our Mental Health Awareness features here.

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