This year’s Thanksgiving was a quiet affair. My family went to visit relatives in Georgia, but with my work schedule forever up in the air and the boyfriend’s birthday actually falling on Thanksgiving this year, I stayed behind.
Jo and I had originally planned to have a fairly quick daytime visit with his parents for lunch and a movie, but bit by bit over the weeks leading up that plan changed and we wound up spending several hours on his family’s farm with not a whole lot going on.
Between the unexpected down time and running out of his anti-anxiety medication, he was not a happy camper.
When we went outside to stretch our legs and get a little fresh air, he found a stalk of bamboo left in the back of his truck from a recent DIY project: a tiki hut that may or may not be going up in the backyard with the knowledge and approval of our city’s board of architectural review.
Desperate for something to do, he set to tracking down a few tools, splitting the bamboo, and turning it into a prototype of the bamboo roof he’s putting on the shed to show everyone inside.
His demeanor did a complete 180. Getting outside and doing something productive was really all he needed, proving once more that activity is the best medicine.
It was by that same token that I learned how to knit and how to cook. During my own struggles with clinical depression, the brunt of which hit me during high school (which is bad enough on its own, thank you very much), my therapist told me to find a productive hobby before turning to medication. Even though that first bout still needed additional treatment, I’ve pulled myself through two relapses with just that simple remedy: get out, get up, do something, make something.
I think a lot of mental health relies on not self-esteem, but self-efficacy — our ability to feel like we’re capable, competent, and in control of our lives.
Travel does wonders for that. In fact, a major factor in recovering from my second depressive episode was moving to England for four months to study abroad.
By physically leaving your comfort zone, you force yourself to do all manner of things you never thought you could. Even if it’s something as little as being able to navigate a foreign city without getting lost.
The more you get out in the world, the more active you are, the more you realize your capabilities, and the mental and spiritual benefits to that are boundless.