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Spontaneous Happiness
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 6, 2017
This is a book I saw off of a recommended reading list this past summer, and I was in a mood to read through as many of the books on that list as I could, so I bought it several months ago, but didn't really get around to reading in it until recently.

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.
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I found this book quite enjoyable, although a little medically technical. I had to frequently look up the definition for words not in my common vocabulary, and read in short bursts. Dr. Weil seems to have a good grasp on the dramatic increase in depression in modern Americans. His recommendations to improve your baseline mood are relatively simple. He follows his discussion of the scientific research with an aggressive 8 week plan to implement all the solutions described in the book. All are simple (start taking this vitamin, practice deep breathing, etc.) although some are life altering and may be a challenge for many (cook more using real food, limit screen time, information exposure, spend time outside more).

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.
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on September 2, 2015
This is a fantastic book that I would highly recommend as required reading for anyone suffering with depression . It should be given out to anyone seeing a GP physician who wants to prescribe antidepressants . The physician should give this book to the patient first . Dr . Weil explains depression and the possible reasons for the condition , then he writes about all the options one can choose from to deal with solving the imbalance . Dr Weil has a great holistic approach for treating the mind , body and spirit . Antidepressants may be part of the approach to healing , but there are other alternatives . Do yourself a favor and read this book if you are suffering , or know somebody who is .
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on February 28, 2015
I've always loved everything Dr. Weil and this book doesn't disappoint. I first got the book at the library, and when I realized that I wanted to start highlighting things, I decided to buy my own copy. It's a sweet book full of common-sense advice and tips to make going through life a little easier. These two sentences from the Introduction sold me on the book, "...emotional well-being must come from within, because reaching external goals often disappoints." and "...the actual emotional reward of getting and having is usually much less than one imagined." So true.

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.
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on January 28, 2015
This is one my favorite books on the topic. I appreciate books that inspire without being trite or are basically otherwise full of shi*. Not only is this book life-altering, it is also full of evidence-based research, clear suggestions, and a comprehensive list of resources to further your education on the subject. Most books I read at the library I am happy to just read once and maybe borrow again in the future if I feel so compelled... this book was a book I needed to buy and keep on hand as a reference and source of, well, happiness.
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on December 16, 2013
I am personally a very analytical person who appreciates the data and/or science behind health and wellness recommendations, this is often referred to as "evidence based medicine" by people who work in healthcare. Therefore, I was very pleased with this audio book--it is full of explanations of the data and research about various methods for reducing stress, anxiety and depression. It also explains many of the downsides of pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for depression and anxiety, which is helpful because most doctors don't explain these very well during patient appointments. I was able to complete the audio book in less than 2 weeks during my commute to and from work--it went very fast and I didn't get bored listening to Dr. Weil speak. I wish I had a hard copy of the book too so that I could go back and study certain parts in more depth, which is harder for me to do in an audio book.
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on January 31, 2013
20 years ago I began having issues with anxiety and depression. If I had known then what I learned from this book, I would have been much better off. I recommend this book to anyone who is suffering from depression or anxiety. Dr. Weil goes over numerous options- supplements, yoga, meditation, breath work, journaling, etc. He also focuses on a proper diet, and regular (gentle) exercise like walking or swimming.
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on November 26, 2013
Dr. Weil provides useful information for those looking to understand and attain personal happiness. This is a self-care, not a self-help, book which I found refreshing. Though it does offer an 8 week guide to enhance happiness it did not feel like the traditional self help model. Instead these are life style changes, many proven, that the reader can gradually introduce, weekly, in an effort to experience a more serene life. I particularly liked his explanation of happiness, a word many identify as a goal in life but frequently are unable to specify what it would feel like. Dr. Well helps put happiness in attainable terms. A useful read.
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on August 24, 2016
The book arrived in a condition expected and in a timely manner. The author provides some helpful ideas that are simple to incorporate into a daily routine. You may find several tips that work for you or try just one. We all have times in our lives when we want to feel a bit more happy or need to get through a bad bump in the road. Why not try some of these simple ideas.
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on August 3, 2014
Useful summary of a number of natural approaches. There are many helpful approaches out there. We have yet to find the silver bullet. For good reason. It doesn't exist. And because the term depression is too broad and needs clearer definition. ifferent approaches can help different types. If we had clearer definitions of the qualities of depression, we could target our approaches better. One big and very surprising omission in this book though is light therapy - one of the most helpful and empirically validated therapies out there in alt and mainstream medicine.
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