How Travel Cured My Long-Standing Depression!

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Depression is a common mental illness that negatively affects your mood, how you feel, think and act. I have suffered from chronic and recurring depression, PTSD and anxiety. It felt like I was falling into a bottomless pit, 'cause that's how deep the rabbit hole goes.

As seen in most cases, my depression took a long time to be diagnosed. Dutifully, I took my full course of medication post diagnosis. But it was recurring and would return after long intervals. Few years ago, when I was preparing for my CA exams I was under constant stress, and with no discrete purpose, I began travelling to escape the pressure, mostly to the mountains in the north. Gradually, I realised that travel had been tackling my depression, one trip at a time.

Meeting new people

When I went on a solo backpacking trip across India, I met many people from all walks of life. Some people were less fortunate, had limited means and were making the most of what they had. This was a humbling experience that made me appreciate the good things in my life. I also realised that sometimes we open up to strangers better than we do to our friends, because of lack of judgement. These heartfelt and honest conversations taught me a lot about myself and life.

Change of place

In my opinion, travel is the most sincere form of education. With a change in culture, people and festivals, the mood improves. Travel, through these people and their culture, teaches and heals us in a way that no experience or counselling can. As we nudge our way through new stories and experiences we gain fresh perspective on life and learn to reinvent ourselves. This change is powerful and essential.

The dogs and the tranquility of the mountains

When I had first started travelling, I'd only go to the mountains as they were close to Delhi. In no time I fell in love with the crisp mountain air, the dogs that followed me through the thick forests, the gorgeous cold deserts of Spiti, the clear blue skies in the backdrop of fluttering Buddhist flags, and the peace in pursuing all of this! Travelling to the mountains is like meditation. Spending time away from the pollution and hustle of the tourists and cities cleanses and calms your soul.

Getting out of the comfort zone

Travel forces us to get out of our comfort zones, it kills our inhibitions, and makes us do things that we didn't know we were capable of! This confidence is inversely proportional to self-worth that depression induces in one's mind. Travel also acts as an alternate to physical work out, which is known to enhance both mental and physical health.

Good Food = Good Mood

Sometimes, I have planned my entire trip around food and food alone. When I was struck with depression, my appetite had gone terribly low. So, I had made it a point to treat myself with sumptuous delicacies whenever I found a chance. Between the King Fish curry of Goa and authentic momos of Ladakh, my love for food has only grown. That is one way to pamper oneself and love life.

Photo of How Travel Cured My Long-Standing Depression! 1/1 by Abhigya S

Release of Oxytocin and endorphins

Although there has not been any scientific study related to how travel affects our mental being, I remember how while scuba-diving, para-sailing or even watching the beautiful sunsets from a mountain top in Hampi gave me a strange rush of energy. It got me all peppy and cheerful. This happens because such activities release endorphins, adrenaline and Oxytocin and our brain is then literally told to be happy!

Having said everything, depression is unique to every person, it is imperative for every individual to have a clear understanding of their diagnosis. And, even though travel did help me a lot in dealing with my depression, I assert that therapy is vital.

I hate how there is a huge stigma attached to it, making patients uncomfortable and almost ashamed of an illness they have no control over.

Depression is a serious illness, it is the most common cause of suicide among people (15-49 y/0) so never ignore any symptoms. According to a WHO survey, number of people suffering from depression in India is greater than the global average. According to another survey, do you know who are the most vacation-deprived people? Indians.

Now you can do the math!

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