Image by Pixabay user Unsplash.

I can’t pinpoint when I started struggling with my mental health.

I know that I’ve always been prone to sadness, struggled with obsessive thoughts, and was super critical of my body. When I write it all out on paper, it seems obvious that I was dealing with something out of the norm.

But that’s the black magic of mental illness. It twists and turns in your mind, tricking you to blame anything other than the actual cause.

In my particular brand of distorted thinking, if I felt sad, I blamed my body, partner, or career situation. I thought, If I just get fit, find “the one,” or travel the world, I could be happy.

Here’s what happened: I accomplished all of my happiness goals. I lived in a thriving Asian metropolis, had a multitude of friends from culturally rich backgrounds, my partner and I were rock solid, I had successfully built a freelance teaching business — but I still felt despair.

What filter colors your world? Image by BenFrantzDale~commonswiki via Wikimedia Commons.

There was nothing left for me to “fix” about myself. I was just sad — it was at the core of my being. Until I could fix that, no matter what I accomplished in life, I was not going to be happy.

Sometimes happiness IS situational.

You can improve your mood by changing something in your life. Travel is great for that. It expands your mind to think in different ways, challenges you to explore new surroundings, and moves you with gorgeous scenery.

But despite where you are in life, every now and then it’s a good idea to check in with your mental health.

To start getting help, I had to evaluate where I was in my depression to gain a full understanding of why it needed to be treated with means other than just working out and eating healthy.

I used the Burns Depression Checklist to evaluate the severity of my depression.

It’s a simple checklist developed by David Burns that you can fill out within minutes. Even if you are not feeling down, this is a great tool to get a visual check on your happiness. And if you are experiencing travel blues, this might help you to take the first steps toward emotional wellness.

Read each question carefully, and put a check in the box that accurately describes how you have been feeling for the past few days. Do not skip any questions, and if you’re unsure, answer as best you can.

The Feeling Good Handbook, David Burns, M.D., Penguin Group, 1999 via

A note about understanding this checklist: If you fall within the 0-5 range, you are probably feeling pretty good already. This is considered within the normal range for happiness, and you’re probably pretty content. Lucky you!

6-10 is within the range of normal happiness, but perhaps you might feel a little blue sometimes. You could use a little mental health pick-me-up.

11-25 is categorized as mild depression. In this range, you’ll want to address the issues you’re experiencing with some mental health practice. I recommend using David Burns’s The Feeling Good Handbook and working with the tips he presents to retrain your thinking and improve your mood.

If you are in the 26-100 range on this checklist, I highly recommend seeking professional help. There is no shame in needing assistance to gain mental and emotional clarity.

No matter what your score, you CAN feel better. You do have the right to feel happiness, and I encourage you to seek it out relentlessly.

If you have any more questions about this checklist or need more information about where to purchase The Feeling Good Handbook, please write in a comment below or contact me personally at