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Spontaneous Happiness Hardcover – November 8, 2011
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Everyone wants to be happy. But what does that really mean? Increasingly, scientific evidence shows us that true satisfaction and well-being come only from within.
Dr. Andrew Weil has proven that the best way to maintain optimum physical health is to draw on both conventional and alternative medicine. Now, in Spontaneous Happiness, he gives us the foundation for attaining and sustaining optimum emotional health. Rooted in Dr. Weil's pioneering work in integrative medicine, the book suggests a reinterpretation of the notion of happiness, discusses the limitations of the biomedical model in treating depression, and elaborates on the inseparability of body and mind.
Dr. Weil offers an array of scientifically proven strategies from Eastern and Western psychology to counteract low mood and enhance contentment, comfort, resilience, serenity, and emotional balance. Drawn from psychotherapy, mindfulness training, Buddhist psychology, nutritional science, and more, these strategies include body-oriented therapies to support emotional wellness, techniques for managing stress and anxiety and changing mental habits that keep us stuck in negative patterns, and advice on developing a spiritual dimension in our lives. Lastly, Dr. Weil presents an eight-week program that can be customized according to specific needs, with short- and long-term advice on nutrition, exercise, supplements, environment, lifestyle, and much more.
Whether you are struggling with depression or simply want to feel happier, Dr. Weil's revolutionary approach will shift the paradigm of emotional health and help you achieve greater contentment in your life.
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In this book, Dr. Weil argues for an approach to treating depression and anxiety that blends both Western medicine and eastern medicine traditions. Which, as a person who has managed to live through some of the downsides of western medicine in the last few years, is something at this point in time, I'm fully supportive of.
There are a couple of important points I want to make right off the bat before I go into any additional thoughts on this book. It was published in 2011, so it is important for you to keep in mind that medical science is not a static thing, studies and new information are actively coming about all the time. There is a lot of information in here as relates to studies, and my recommendation is if there is something in particular you are planning on relying on, especially when it comes to the herbs and the supplements, that you look up what the current information is.
And for the supplements, it is important that you look up the contraindications and interactions before you start taking any of them. Ideally, you'd be looking into these with the support of a Dr, but often times, Dr visits are short in duration, and your PCP may not be able to evaluate all of your medications and whether or not you should be on these supplements in your typical office visit. And some Dr's are not open to taking these kinds of supplements at all, so if you're Dr. is one of them, and you want to try these, you may need to seek elsewhere. Some of these supplements, like St. John's Wort, interact with medications. St. John's Wort interacts with a ton of them, and I mean a ton. And SAMe really shouldn't be taken without physician guidance if you are already on an anti-depressant. And you need to be aware that some of these herbs can have effects on the body just as strenuous as prescription or over the counter meds, so checking for the contraindications for any of your medical conditions is a must if you want to avoid undesirable outcomes. And for me personally, as a person who experienced medication induced liver damage, I am hesitant to take a product like Rhodiola, which hasn't been studied enough to know the impact on the overall human system.
For some things, like Omega 3, there are options on the market for vegetarians and vegans, but you do have to be careful to look up the dosing, because he gives all of his recommended doses in grams for fish oil, and those don't really translate over to the same amounts for algae or flax seed products. So based on what I looked up, it's about 1500 mg of omega 3's that's in the amount of fish oil he's recommending. I don't particularly need that high a dosage (it's about 3 times what is recommended for the average daily intake for normal conditions), but I've started paying attention to the amounts in the omega products I'm using and ordering, because there are a couple of people I would like to recommend try adding this to their regimen for mood support, and not all supplements will provide the amount you need for any of the therapeutic uses without taking multiples.
If you were to ask me what I would sum up as being the most important pieces of advice in this book, it would be: take care of your body, and what you focus on matters.
Exercise, nutrition, getting enough sleep,...I agree with him, the benefits of all of these in mood regulation are profound. He also references Seligman's work in here, and I've read some of his stuff myself, and I think that some of the selective optimism techniques have been very beneficial to me personally over the years. And Dr. Weil emphasizes meditation in terms of helping to reshape thought patterns and reduce stress, and I think he lays as strong enough case that studies are certainly supportive of that.
My daughter asked me the other day, “Mom, how is it that you are not absolutely miserable?” She went on to reference the things people say to me about her brother (who has significant disabilities), the reactions I sometimes get from others about things like my muscles, the things that happen in the course of providing care for her brother, and the things I've been through in recent years. She'd been to the store with me and her brother that day, and got to witness some of my challenges in a few of those areas. I was still pretty surprised by the question, but I told her, “you know what, that's an important question, and I'm glad you asked it.” I told her: It's about what I focus on. I could focus on all of that bad stuff, and sometimes, I just can't help it, it still does cross my mind. But what I prefer to focus on as much as I can are the positives. I got to build a puzzle with you today. Your brother has a new skill. These arms are successfully raising a boy most people won't even babysit-they're freaking gorgeous as far as I'm concerned at this point and I can't be bothered to care what they think. Yes, things are hard, and life is certainly no fairytale. But the good moments are in there too. And that's what I want to focus on the most, because they are the things that make me happiest.”
And I think that is for me, one of the more powerful tools in this book based on my personal experience. So, I do think this is an interesting read, and I can certainly recommend it. I would just strongly caution you to make sure you've done all of your research before you start ingesting any of the supplements on his list.
Like the saying goes, there's no escalator to success, you must take the stairs. I haven't yet started to implement his suggestions, but can see the potential for major stumbling blocks along the way.
I bought the paper copy for my wife, and she bought the Kindle version for me. I haven't yet cracked the paper version, preferring to read on my Kindle Paperwhite. The one challenge I had with the Kindle format of this book is the plethora of hyperlinks in the text. Because the Paperwhite doesn't have physical page turn buttons, you must tap the screen to change places. This often had the unintended consequence of sending me off to another section of the book, or a website. Luckily, the back button works. This is a shared flaw with the Kindle device and the text formatting. The hyperlinks are useful, although they could have been formatted better so they didn't span multiple lines of text. I'm not in the market for a new Kindle device, but this book does give the the reason to consider an Oasis or Voyage over the Paperwhite.
I have seen some of the advice in his other books, and through other sources, but it was good to be reminded of it again, such as taking time to do breathing exercises daily. I will keep this book available and refer to it occasionally when I need a reminder to stop and smell the roses.