Friday, August 17, 2012
As someone who has struggled with depression since my teen years I am always on the look out for good resources to put in my arsenal of defense. Spontaneous Happiness is based on the idea that there are many ways a person going to mild to chronic depression can, through a program of self-care, find relief and healing without drug intervention. Dr. Weil is not against anti-depressant drugs per se and strongly discourages those seriously depressed from going off their medications, but he does note that there are many non-drug interventions that have proven in studies to be equally efficacious. One example he uses that I personally know to be true is that a daily exercise regimen is a proven natural anti-depressant. He also points out that while the pharmacological giants try to encourage through advertising that depression is a physical condition that can be cured by just taking a pill (and you should see your doctor immediately to have him write you a prescription!), the reality is that depression is much bigger than biology alone. Societal pressures to always be happy and doing fine, coupled with a pace of life that militates against actually enjoying it, and a level of busyness which crowds out friends and family all need to be looked at and reconsidered by all of us. One surprising thought he brings out is that sometimes it is healthy to be a bit depressed if it causes us to take stock of what is going on internally and correct it or make peace with it. Along with suggestions for vitamins, supplements, and helpful herbs, he also makes suggestions about deep-breathing, yoga, and meditation techniques. Obviously as a christian, I would not commend some of the eastern spirituality that he does mention, but in fairness to the author who writes from the perspective of integrative medicine, I won't fault him for this as he is trying to convey all options in a non-judgmental way (which you would want your doctor to do) to help people in distress. Personally I have incorporated his 4-7-8 breathing technique which I'm sure comes from eastern meditation (although he doesn't present it as religious in any way) and it is so helpful in relaxing my body that I use it any time I'm feeling tense or stressed. This is a thoughtful, practical, and helpful book if you struggle with depression and a useful resource if you are a loved-one or friend of someone who is. But from my perspective it must be read with a mind to 'eat the meat, spit out the bones'.