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  • Writer's picturePaul White

The Intersection of Veganism and Mental Health: Navigating Anxiety and Depression

"HEY! Plants have feelings, too! And vegans kill more small animals because of farming than we do! You just need to stop shoving this shit down our throats! Don't show that crap to my kids, either...just Go home!"

It did not take long for the first onslaught of vitriol to find me or the group this night. It was my first experience participating in a "Silent Cube" demonstration on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica on a Friday night. Overall, that first time over 4 years ago was life-changing. Between the lovely group of humans I joined and the handful of interested people walking by, it all went very smoothly. I would go on to frequent the "Silent Cube" demonstrations and each one was a challenge...and reward.

If you are anything like me, no doubt you have experienced oscillating between emotional overwhelm, depression, and anxiety from the very moment you chose the compassionate life of veganism. One need not go the distance of direct animal rights activism to feel the tough emotional states described above. Hell...too often I have felt the emotional rollercoaster simply thinking about a meal with friends let alone actually sitting down at a table of omnivores.

I finally felt seen, heard, understood and validated when first I heard the term 'vystopia'; it is a term coined in 2017 by Australian organizational psychologist Clare Mann to describe depression-like psychological symptoms experienced by some individuals who choose veganism for ethical reasons. Now I had something to latch on and a place to dig into as I continued to find my way on this path of deep empathy where I no longer felt I had to compromise my ethics and values.

Allow me to share with you three ways I have discovered and learned, that lessen the influence of anxiety and depression:

  • Body-centered mindfulness practices: moving meditations such as yoga or tai chi.

  • Movement: physical activities that help to release tension and emotions, such as dancing, hiking, or playing sports.

  • Body-oriented psychotherapy: Use body-oriented psychotherapies, such as Hakomi or Somatic Experiencing, which aim to help individuals understand the unconscious messages and emotions stored in the body.

  • Breathwork: abdominal breathing - inhale into the belly and watch it expand...exhale from the belly and watch it contract

BONUS: Grounding Exercises - put your bare feet on the earth (sand, grass, or anywhere safe to place them)!

Remember, you don't have to face vystopia alone. At Holistic Vegan Therapy, we're here to support you on your journey to healing.

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