November 28, 2011
How Does Our Mental Health Affect our Attitudes Towards Veganism?
I’ve already touched on the subject of whether veganism promotes mental health. I think it does. But I wanted to examine the topic from the other angle: how does mental health relate to BECOMING vegan?
I would define good mental health as stability – one neither falls into depressions, or loses one’s temper, but also has the ability to feel their feelings to the extent they want to. Mental health is resilience – an ability to look at situations straight on, bounce back from failures, and learn how to achieve emotional balance. But mental health goes beyond emotional health, to intellectual health – the ability to allow new ideas to enter the mind and jostle our pre-conceived notions as we strive to be completely honest with ourselves.
I would argue that poor mental health makes it much more difficult for people to become vegan. Follow this train of thought:
My life sucks.
I am not connected to people.
My relationships can’t fulfill me.
All I have are my creature comforts.
My creature comforts are what I know.
I know what I like.
I don’t want to not like these things anymore or I would have nothing.
Please stop trying to take away these creature comforts – they are all I have.
Life is good.
My life is continually expanding and progressing.
I have dynamic connections with people.
I’m learning and growing with others in my life.
I have so much abundance and so many thing I love to do.
My creature comforts are just bonuses.
I know what I like so far, but since I’m learning and growing these things may develop over time, too.
I have so much to give. I want to share myself in the most positive ways possible.
I want everyone to experience the joy I feel.
Please show me how I can live to my maximum ability. I am open to change.
When I was depressed, I had given up on people. No one could understand my pain and so I couldn’t be myself around anyone. All I had were the small things. Milk chocolate, ice cream, etc. If I had been able to maintain a healthy connection to others and to my creativity, those things would have stayed small things and not taken on more weight to relieve me of my sadness. When you truly have a life, your habits fade away as details that can be changed.
When you don’t know your inner power, you don’t know the extent to which you can exert it. You believe that people and objects have power over you. You might go back to a dysfunctional ex over and over again. You might refer to meat as ‘my meat’, indicating an inseparable intimate relationship with the meat you’ve been eating – it’s yours, but it also ‘has you’.
Cravings are what your mind thinks of to soothe it based on neural pathways that you have created. If you think over and over again: sad>milk chocolate, then your brain will reach for the milk chocolate unless you reset the habit. As for chocolate itself, we’re SOL, it’s imprinted in our brain coding.
But just as people in Japan eat things that North Americans may find disgusting (eg. soft boiled fetal duck), we often love what we know and when we understand that we have the power to transcend tastes we were trained to have, then we are free to make ethical choices.
The BodyMind Connection
When our minds are sound, we want the best for our bodies because we see them as one. When in our minds we want to cause no harm, our bodies will carry out this desire and will refuse to be nourished by violence. Clarity of mind leaves no room for inaccuracies in our ethical choices.
I know many spiritual people who radiate positive energy and who devote themselves to living purely, but when it comes to their diets they throw up their hands as victims of a system where everything is made by slaves anyway.
We can’t always control who is indirectly harmed by our purchases, but we can control purchases in which people and animals are directly harmed.
Animal Products as an Addiction
Most of my formerly craved animal products are now pretty gross to me: red meat – haven’t touched it since I was a teenager and I imagine it would be hard to chew and hard to digest. Chicken? All I think of is biting down on a vein in a McNugget, which happened to me several times during my McCruel youth. Milk – sexist animal secretions, eggs – don’t necessarily have to be ‘cruel’ (say for instance if you rescued a chicken from a hatchery) but they can be pretty gross in a multitude of ways.
However some products in which milk is only an ingredient can be hard to forget about. There’s something about a Snickers bar that gives me a brain rush. This could be so easily solved in vegan chocoate bars were easier to get our hands on, like at Nice Shoes.
An addiction is a perceived dependence of something outside our ourselves to achieve a positive inner state. Once we realize how to get the same effect from within, the pattern usually ceases. I used to do ecstasy, acid, coke, smoke weed, drink, etc. but I feel so good on a day to day basis now that I don’t have the need to. I’m not judging drugs at all as they can be useful tools, but for me, I have outgrown them.
It is not the animal products in themselves that give us the feelings of pleasure or satisfaction, it is ourselves. So as we gain self-awareness, and open our minds to revising all that we’ve been told about food pyramids and food chains, our mental and physical health inevitably become stronger.
Whether you choose to go vegan to get happy, or get happy to help yourself go vegan doesn’t really matter.
Many people will argue that they have wonderful lives and consider themselves happy carnivores. I know many smiley, happy, rather amazing people who aren’t bothered about their animal-based diets. But, when you reveal to them the behind-the-scenes of their diets they are not so happy to hear it. They become excusatarians – defensive and unwilling to learn more. The information you’re sharing doesn’t fit with their happy lives, so they reject it.
True happiness can’ t be tipped so easily. I think someone strong and confident would be concerned that their happiness was coming at the expense of others. And they would want to iron out this area of friction so they could get back to enjoying whatever happiness they could.
When it comes to those who support animal agriculture – ignorance is bliss, but true bliss – bliss that can not be exposed as causing suffering – comes only from learning of the damage being done and then choosing otherwise.