Media and Mental Health: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I was looking at some old journal entries the other day, and saw that, several years ago, I had mentioned the 2006 book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. As I read the journal entry, I remembered loving the book—and then promptly realized, besides knowing I liked it, that I remembered almost nothing about what actually happened in it.

And so that’s what prompted me to get the audio book on Audible. I finished just a few days ago.

I love memoirs and non-fiction. I love real stories about peoples’ real experiences. And Elizabeth Gilbert tells her story beautifully. It’s one about struggle, and doubts, and of unhappiness: her failed marriage, her turbulent subsequent relationship, her struggle with depression. That must be part of what has made this book so popular—because it’s relatable. I think anyone who reads the book can understand what it’s like to feel hopeless, to experience failure, or to have aspects of their lives that didn’t turn out as planned.

Just like any reader could relate to her struggles, though, I hope any reader can feel motivated and encouraged by her drive to confront them. It’s faced with these difficult circumstances and hardship that Gilbert takes her now-famous trip through Italy, India, and Indonesia: In an effort to do something about it. Not all of us can take a year to wander the world—and since I can’t, I enjoyed being able to travel vicariously through Gilbert’s book. But also vicariously, I learned from someone else’s efforts to challenge depression and disappointment.

It’s this action step that Gilbert takes that makes this a good book for mental health. More and more, I realize my personal philosophy for facing a mental health challenge is just to keep going. Addressing this kind of challenge is about small steps, about exploring and trying new tactics, and about continuously doing a bunch of little things to help (instead of looking for one big miracle).

In her book, Gilbert does just this when she comes at her despondency from multiple directions: She seeks out experiences just to feel joy, like learning Italian and finding the best restaurants in Italy. She finds new friends (all around the world) and cultivates a social network. She throws herself into meditation and prayer. She finds ways to help others in raising money for an Indonesian friend to buy a home. And, all over the world, she allows herself to be open to new experiences—including the experience of healing and of feeling joy.

In taking these steps for herself, Gilbert motivated me. For one thing, inspired by her, I’ve been trying to meditate every day for thirty days. Meditation has already been helpful and rewarding, and I’ll certainly be posting more on the topic. More broadly, though, Eat, Pray, Love has encouraged me to keep moving forward, to keep being open to experiences, and to keep trying new things, especially when it comes to mental health.

It also reminds me: Even with difficult things behind us, there are still beautiful experiences ahead.

Would you like to check out the book?

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