Since moving to New Zealand 5 years ago, I've been on the mend when it comes to mental health. A life time of depression, and anxiety have not gone unnoticed, but rather unresolved.
Challenging situations in South Africa certainly added to my previous condition, but it wasn't until I started cognitive behavioural therarpy (CBT) and followed that up with medication that I started to see improvements.
I'd go through phases – even in New Zealand – where I'd start to get a bit too comfortable, and therefore lazy, or uninspired.
This would affect my routines, my diet, and what I spend my time on.
In turn, that would affect my mental health.
So, it's been really interesting to see what would happen with radically altering my life by moving to Madagascar for a year, doing healthier work, and similarly living a healthier lifestyle.
After 3 weeks, I can already see improvements.
Positive changes in sleep
The first radical change has been in routine. I have to be at the school every morning by 7am, since that's when lectures start, or it's just before breakfast on Sunday. This means my alarm is set for 6am each day.
The early start is roughly an hour after sunrise, and by that time, it's already buzzing in Mahanoro. The streets are filled with people on their way to work, or active in their homesteads tending to their morning chores.
This change in waking times flies in the face of my previous lifestyle. I'd sleep in on weekends, or snooze my alarm (which usually went off on weekdays at 9am). Looking back now, I think waking later on weekends is harmful. Each day was a slog to get up, it always felt like I never had enough sleep.
Waking in the mornings now feels natural, I wake within 5 minutes before my alarm is due to go off, and I feel refreshed.
The new waking routine has also resulted in me feeling dead tired by 9pm. After an especially challenging day, my eyelids start to droop my 8pm.
The new routine also brings consistent meals, at the same time each day.
My digestion hiccups are gone, and the food we eat is more natural, organic, and not processed.
I can't help but think that a lot of western food is just… bad. I've been lusting after hamburgers, fried things, and chocolates.
Thinking back, the more comfortable and complacent I got, the more I'd spend time indoors, to the point that I wouldn't get much sun everyday, coupled with the Wellington weather, I'm sure that borders on a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
While it has rained for the last three days, there has been intense sunlight here in Mahanoro. My daily dose of vitamin D has probably quadrupled since moving here.
Walking every day, playing frisbee and football on the beach, and going for a weekly swim in the warm Indian Ocean have all been great ways to get fitter.
The last thing I need to do now is start running regularly in the mornings, it starts to light up at 4:30am.
Light-hearted, smiley, Shaun
I'm feeling strong, and my sense of humour is back. I'm getting good feedback from my team and my students. I think I just might be having a good time.