Spontaneous Happiness

Merle Haggard sang "Everybody sings the blues sometimes" and nobody can refute that wisdom. Along comes Dr. Andrew Weil, who agrees, but says that we're treating it all wrong. Here are his recommendations for treating "the common cold of modern emotional life."

Dr. Weil has studied wellness and the inter-connection between our bodies and our minds for decades. In his new book, Spontaneous Happiness, he says that our approach to achieving happiness is flawed, and it's making us sick.

Depression can have many causes. Some bouts of depression are unquestionably linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Without correcting that imbalance, no amount of attitude adjustment will cure the depression. Yet many times depression is not based on a chemical problem at all.

Dr. Weil considers depression to be a disorder of modern life. He found that the more affluent become, the more depressed they tend to be. People in third-world countries have far lower rates of depression than those living in industrialized nations.

This all seems counter-intuitive, yet forms that basis for his book. He believes that our minds have not adjusted to modern life and the result is depression. We are inundated by a ceaseless flow of information, rarely see the sun and eat processed foods while attending to other priorities. Surprise! This affects our physical and emotional health.

This modern, machine-driven lifestyle has been termed "nature-deficit disorder" and is earning increasing attention from therapists and medical doctors. This disorder has been blamed for many behavior issues with children who spend their days in classrooms and evenings glued to laptop screens.

But what are we to do? Countering these trends is not easy, but possible. Just spending 20 minutes a day outside can work wonders. Your body can generate vitamin D, the lack of which has been long associated with many physical ailments. Your body will respond dramatically to the natural light (remember SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and those clever desk lamps?) and buoy your spirits dramatically. Nature's sounds will sooth your ears and calm your nerves. This will also help to reset your body clock so that you go to bed earlier and wake up rested.

Dr. Weil's new book offers specific tips on re-aligning the mismatch between modern life and our mind and body. He recommends aerobic exercises, getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and spending time with positive people. Through his series of coping mechanisms, he says that we can all learn to regain the contentment of childhood. What's not to like?

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