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141 of 147 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2011
I've always found Dr. Weil to the be the sound of reason and the perfect balance between natural health and science. I happened to see a Dr. Oz show that he was on and he was giving a few natural alternatives to antidepressants. Being someone who has always suffered from some level of melancholia that every so often leads to a deeper level of depression and anxiety, I listened closely. I decided to try the Holy Basil he recommended because it sounded like something safe I could try with no side effects. Keep in mind I had been mildly to moderately depressed for the last year with bouts of anxiety. I took it for the first day and felt nothing. The second day I started excitedly planning for the future and walked around especially happy. Later on in the day, I wondered why I was suddenly in such a great mood and feeling so motivated and optimistic and remembered the Holy Basil! Anyway, it worked so well it really sparked my interest and so I ordered the book. Everything is so relevant to not only me and my life with all it's stresses and anxiety but to everyone in this day of information overload. I found this book to be life altering. It's extremely well written and interesting to read and doesn't just address problems, it tells you what to do about them. I urge everyone to read this book, not just those who are depressed. It's about well-being and about reducing stress because stress leads to all sorts of problems... mentally and physically and this is something we can all benefit from.
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179 of 197 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
I am a Psychologist and Pharmacognosist (ethnobotanist), in large part because of being inspired by Dr.W's first books, "The Natural Mind" and his book about the miracle like qualities of mushrooms, and his classic book "From Chocolate to Morphine". His ability to speak to the reader in a conversational way while explaining complex subjects backed by a broad and firm base of scientific research is unique among scientists. He makes the reader comfortable with the concepts, the science, and the practical approach to overcoming depression and anxiety without talking down to the reader. Dr.W. is entertaining and has the nack of making you feel like you are listening to an old friend. Having heard him give a talk in the mid 1970's and reading everything he wrote, I know how truly exceptional he is as a scientist and physician, but he is remarkable in his ability to bring together the biology, psychology, and spiritual nature without resorting to quick fixes and aphorisms based on pseudo-science and secret knowledge. Dr.W' has done the work and spent a lifetime researching the mind-body-spirit relationship and how it applies to health and healing of people around the world. The reader who has followed his work from the beginning will find a continuity in this new book and will be familiar with many of the concepts from his earlier books. I always find his newest book to be based on his earlier work but still able to fascinate and inform me on his newest topic. This book did not disappoint, it goes on my shelf as my latest text book and further it is a book I will recommend to all of my colleagues and patients who are struggling with life. I plan to send several of my friends who fight depression and anxiety this book for Christmas. This is not just another feel good book based on pop psychology nor is it an esoteric treatise on spiritual practices that take years of practice. This is a great book for a fan of the good Doctor and a truly fantastic book for anyone who needs real practical help finding contentment in this world without joining a cult or taking another antidepressant. If I only recommended one book this would be it! Dr.Scott Freile (retired) SCOTTYDOGBOOKS.COM (AMAZON.COM SELLER)
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100 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2011
I came across this timely quote in Dr. Weil's latest book:

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.

--William Blake

Like many of his followers, I have read his other books and refer to them often. This new book shares a wealth of research on how many little things over time contribute to inner contentment--from gratitude, forgiveness, and laughter to meditation, nutrition, and spirituality.

My favorite part of the book is the section: "An 8-Week Program for Optimum Emotional Well-Being." In adddition to offering practical and easy-to-follow suggestions, if you start on this program now, most New Year's resolutions will not even be necessary! Thanks to Dr. Weil for his diligent work over the years to provide us with this plentiful harvest.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2011
I first learned about this book on the Dr. Oz show. I have been trying to cope with depresion for the last 8 years. Seeing up to eight different doctors all with pieces of the puzzle. Dr. Weil took 8 years of work and completed the puzzle in the first 20 minutes of the show. I now have hope and a clear path to a better life. I would like to thank Dr. OZ for putting me in touch with such a life changing Book and thanks to Dr. Weil for sharing his life experience with me.
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269 of 334 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2011
I always enjoy Dr. Weil. I've heard him speak and have had some contact with the Integrative Program that seems to be his legacy. All of this is real, compassionate and makes sense. I also am a Registered Nurse and have been working in the Mental Health field for twenty years.

I found his chapter on the prevalence (and causes of) depression within our society interesting. I especially resonate with his descriptions of the lack of connection to good old fashioned "hard work" and being outside. Bravo! His discussion of alternatives is good. Especially his advocacy of the use of Fish Oil, Vitamin D and the B vitamins. Common sense!

There are a few things that bother me about Dr. Weil. I write these things as a fan of the man. A person who respects him and the work he does.

1. I'm not too enamored with the cult of personality surrounding the guy. Yes, I know that branding helps sell books. But does he really have to display his cherubic, monster bearded face on every book he writes? And must he really have a corporation attached to his name and his ideology?

2. Footnotes please! Yes, he states you can go on-line to get more information. And there is a short end note section. The bibliography is quite deficient for further reading. The book is written for a lay laudience, but that doesn't mean that we can't have a bit more intellectual rigor attached to his claims.

3. Culturally, this book comes from the White, Enviro, Suburban, BMW driving class. The book is written from, and for, the upper ends of the socio-economic ladder. Poverty is the number one predictor and cause of mental illness. There is no discussion of that in this book, with the exception to maybe glorify the hard life we used to have when we all farmed.

4. He relies too much on anecdotal evidence. I found all the letters to him tireseome. And it seemed like these letters were written from the same sorts of people that I talked about in my critique above.

5. Where are the nurses? Dr. Weil doesn't mention one nurse as an expert through out his entire book. The fact is that nursing has been way ahead of even Dr. Weil in their advocacy of the reforms he mentions. In fact, nurses have been quicker to adopt such reforms than the AMA. The Holistic Nurses Association has been around for 35 years. Nurses have re-invented the therapeutic touch movement---with no mention of that from Dr. Weil. Dr. Weil quotes pharmacists, MD's, LCSW's, psychologists, psychiatrists---but never does he mention a nurse who is an expert. He does cite one nurse who had retired to Sweden. This letter was written not as an expert, but as a client. In short, there is a hierarchical chauvinism present in Dr. Weil's writing that discounts the talents and skills of nurses. This is a systemic problem within the health care establishment. My rule of thumb is, if you really want to know what is going on with your patient, ask an experienced nurse who is taking care of the client. You'll get better and more useful information.

6. Dr. Weil's view of anti-depressants is contradictory. He cites a study that states that SSRI's are junk; later in the book he cites evidence that people should not go off of anti-depressants. He seems to think that anti-depressants should only be used for severe depression. My view is that anti-depressants are helpful, but should be used in tandem with all the things he talks about---and even more.

But my number one critique would be that he never mentions that poverty is the number one predictor and cause of mental illness.

In short, this book is a good first attempt at reforming our mental health system. Ending poverty would do more to reduce severe mental illness in our society. Also ending the stigma of mental illness to the point where it has less unappealing stereotypes to it. If Schizophrenia was seen the same way that Grave's Disease is, then we would have made progress.Ending poverty; ending stigma: accomplish those items and then we could go along with these more natural reforms that are intended for a more narrow, less severe dysthymic disorders.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2013
Weil argues that happiness is not something that we should always have. In fact, it is one's unrealistic desire to always be happy that may lead to some of his/her unhappiness. Instead, one's goal should be a comfortable, serene "sea level" for emotions that allows us to have highs and lows day by day, week by week.

This book `s primary audience, I gleaned, is a person with mild or moderate depression. Major depression, Weil writes, must be addressed with a trained psychiatrist and prescribed medications. However, for people with mild or moderate depression, he cites numerous studies that show the extremely limited successes of medications such as Zoloft and Prozac. Instead of medication, the author recommends a number of different mini treatments that can either be used alone or in conjunction with each other to help one's mood.

Before he does, however, he postulates why we feel low. In addition to having unrealistic expectations for our happiness levels, we also are bombarded with things that pollute our emotional well-being, such as 24-hour news channels (designed to get us riled up, anxious, scared, or angry) and technologies that keep us socially isolated and attached to our smart phones and computers. Not surprisingly, he recommends combating some of these contributors to bad/sad/low moods by limiting our news consumption and our time attached to other media.

In addition, he argues that we should be aware of other things that might be influencing our moods in powerful ways that we may not recognize, such as who we spend time with and what music we listen to. People who are unhappy and socialize with unhappy or pessimistic people are more likely to be depressed themselves. Also, people who listen to depressing music (even if they like the music) are more prone to depression or low moods than people who listen to upbeat, happy music.

Weil also recommends paying attention to diet (especially avoiding processed foods and caffeine), getting Vitamin D from the sunshine, exercising (especially outdoors), and taking supplements, the most important and highly recommended being fish oil. Not surprisingly, he argues that these three things may very well be the keys to better moods and feeling better/healthier overall.

Weil also recommends being aware of thoughts and how they influence mood. More specifically, he believes that one's getting stuck in one's negative or anxiety-filled thoughts will have negative influences on one's mood. So, he recommends a practice called mindfulness, a meditative practice that helps a person to pay attention to his/her breathing, become aware of what the body and mind are experiencing without judgment, and firmly but gently bring one's attention back to breathing when the mind begins to gravitate back to distracting thoughts. Controlling one's thoughts, Weil believes, gives a person more control over his/her mood.

And finally, Weil argues that there are other practices that one can do to lift his/her mood. He believes that doing charity work, feeling gratitude by consciously listing the positive things in one's life, forgiving others and letting go of resentments, and empathizing with our fellow man will all do powerful things in one's journey to emotional well-being. These actions, along with the strategies listed above are all tools to leading more serene lives with moments of spontaneous happiness.

I recommend this book to anyone concerned about his/her low moods. The author seems to have the credentials, life experience, and research to support his claims. However, I would say that readers can be picky about which chapters they read, as some chapters - such as those on drug usage - may not be relevant to all readers. Also, while the book is fairly comprehensive and allows readers to choose what strategies might best fit their lifestyles, the sheer number of strategies (and nutritional supplement information) can be overwhelming. And finally, a few sections of the book may be too technical for the general public to fully understand and are more suited towards health care professionals who are curious about the theories and practices of integrative medicine. That said, I think that all readers can take something positive away from this book. 3.5/5
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2011
Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil, MD is a new look at the emotion of being "happy." It also helps to give suggestions and a program to becoming happy and achieving an overall better emotional state for your health.

Spontaneous Happiness isn't going to make you spontaneously happy all of the time just from reading it. The title is a bit misleading in that way, but who really thinks that achieving happiness can be done by just pushing an easy button anyways?

The first part of the book is the theory of emotional health and well-being. It is a bit of a boring read if you aren't used to reading medical books. However, it does a very good job in explaining it in a way that everyone can understand. Don't just skip over this part because it is important.

The second part of the book is putting the theories into practice. This section is where you'll learn how to optimize your emotional well-being by caring for your body and mind. It also looks into the spirituality aspects of our lives that also contribute to our emotional well-being. Each of these sections is extremely important for our health and should not be just skimmed over. To really put the theories into practice, these need to be fully read and utilized whenever possible.

The last section puts it all together by outlining an 8 week program for optimizing your emotional well-being. I found this program to be very helpful and when used, it is quite effective.

This book won't give you a quick band-aide fix to make you become happy overnight. However, it will help you to expand your current thoughts and feelings towards your emotional well-being. If you use this book as a tool to help you change your life, you might be surprised by what it can do for you. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of Spontaneous Happiness, Little, Brown and Company, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2012
I practice behavioral medicine and have always promoted life style with medication as an adjunct. I, therefore, have recommended this book to all of my patients. It is easy to read and has so many good hints as to how to live your life in a manner which promotes the highest level functioning possible. It is on my "...must read..." recommendations for all of my patients.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2011
This book is about emotional wellness and well-being. Happiness is just a piece of the equation. According to Dr. Weil, emotional wellness/well-being is "contentment, serenity and comfort." Therefore, the book's title is too limiting. But, I get it. Spontaneous Happiness can be seen as the flip side of Dr. Weil's early book, Spontaneous Healing. The subject of happiness is also a hot topic right now, thanks to the work of the positive psychology researchers. Happiness sells! Don't let this discourage or dissuade you though. Spontaneous Healing is still worth your time and money.

Since he is a renowned integrative medicine physician, it should come as no surprise that Dr. Weil approaches emotional wellness/well-being from an integrative perspective - what he refers to as integrative mental health. Integrative means the integration of mind, body and spirit. Since he is a physician by training, a large portion of the book explores the relationship of the body to emotions and how to improve emotions through physical interventions. Despite this, Dr. Weil does not, in any way, shortchange the aspects of the mind or spirit.

Interwoven throughout the whole book is the subject of depression. Depression is the number one subject readers ask about at [...]. Dr. Weil addresses depression through an integrated - mind, body, spirit approach.

The book is laid out into three sections: Theory, Practice and Putting It All Together (an 8 week program for optimum emotional well-being). Dr. Weil's writing style is easy to read and engaging. I found the book to be a nice mix of Dr. Weil's philosophy and personal experiences, published research and case studies. Well done Dr. Weil.

As a worksite wellness specialist, I particularly like the book for the practical steps offered which can easily be incorporated into any worksite wellness program.

So if you are interested in emotional wellness/well-being in general, or depression in particular, this book is a must read for you.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon March 11, 2012
This book has as its major message the message given in the traditional Jewish text, 'Pirke Avot'. It asks 'Who is the rich man, the happy man?' The answer is "He that is content with his portion'. My mother of blessed memory, Edith Itkie Freedman often elaborated on this by saying 'Happiness is from within'. This is the major message of this book. It is not what you get outside yourself which brings you happiness it is the attitude and direction you give your own life from within that brings happiness.
Dr. Weil smiling happily on the cover of this book seems to be exemplifying this teaching. He provides in the book guidance in the realm where he is most competent, that of our physical health, but also writes of our emotional health and spiritual health. He provides a long list of useful information, much of which is well- known, to help the reader escape Depression and attain a greater level of personal happiness. He makes it clear that Happiness cannot be attained all the time, and that to think so is unreasonable. He traces the root of the word 'Happiness' 'Hap' to the Old Saxon where it means 'circumstance' His suggestion that depending on circumstance is not what we should be doing. Instead he places emphasis on attaining a level of inner serenity and peace. At the end of the book he provides an Eight Week program for improvement. I suspect every reader of the book will be able to find something of value, something that can help in it.
If all is so good, why do I seem to be a bit reserved about this 'Happiness Book' and all Happiness books. It is simply because there are so many people in the world who are suffering so greatly, who are in such pain, who are so damaged and hurt that for them this kind of work, or at least some of them, might seem superficial and insulting.
Chekhov wrote that behind every happy man should be an unhappy man with a hammer in his hand who every once in a while gives a klop on the head to the happy man to remind him what Reality is. I don't wish Dr. Weil or any of the other Happiness Gurus a klop on the head but I do wish they would somehow show an understanding that their Advice their Wisdom however confirmed by 'studies' is probably irrelevant to those who most need help.
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