Tony G.'s Reviews > Spontaneous Happiness

Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil
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's review
Dec 26, 11

Recommended to Tony by: No one.
Recommended for: Anyone who wants to be happy.
Read from December 09 to 22, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

I have followed Dr. Andrew Weil's work since reading "The Natural Mind," recommended to me by a friend during my hippy-dippy college days. His later books, "Spontaneous Healing" and "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health," in which he advocates an "integrative" approach to health, were a big influence - although I admit not fully adhering to the guidelines and recommendations contained therein.

Something about Weil's methodical and exacting approach to health and diet, juxtaposed with his openness to new ideas and approaches, has always appealed to me. Here was a Harvard trained physician who didn't always tow the company line, who broke the rules when he saw fit without venturing into the realm of absurdity, and felt it permissible to talk about spirituality in a medical context.

In his latest book, "Spontaneous Happiness," Weil addresses a subject more ephemeral than physical health but just as important - human happiness. Weil makes no attempt to define happiness other than to say that humans are not designed to experience it on a continuous, uninterrupted basis. Instead, Weil says, a more realistic goal is what he calls contentment, peace and comfort. This state, he claims, can be achieved by applying the same integrative principles he recommends for attaining physical well-being.

Weil tells us we can adjust our emotional "set point" to achieve greater levels of well-being, with happiness emerging occasionally in a spontaneous and unpredictable way. And we can become more resilient so that we return to the oasis of contentment, peace and comfort after only a brief detour into the desert of painful emotions. This condition he calls "emotional health," a concept that the psychotherapeutic intelligentsia may or not believe is possible or even desirable. But for those of us who want to feel better, Weil offers a plan described in his usual thoroughly researched and methodically presented manner. It encompasses the physical, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of human life, backed by scientific research, much of it previously cited in earlier works on happiness.

Fundamental to his notion of well-being is the understanding that humans have the capacity to experience feelings of contentment despite adverse external events and circumstances. In fact, Weil recommends that we not tether our emotional well-being to the shifting sands of fate and circumstance. This resonated for me, as I have long felt that I have within me the ability to experience a basic sense of well-being regardless of life's ups and downs. I have somehow lost contact with that fundamental capacity owing to the routines, stresses and strains of adult living.

Weil's methods for achieving emotional independence involve a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes, exercise, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness training and increased physical and emotional intimacy. To that end, he offers an 8-week program for achieving emotional health, which I have started following. While it's too early to tell how well Weil's approach works, I have found that one of his main recommendations has made a game-changing difference in my overall levels of contentment - aerobic exercise. The first time I exercised after a long hiatus, I felt a giddy kind of euphoria I hadn't felt in a long time. I have been exercising regularly since with a remarkable effect on my well-being.

I plan to continue implementing Weil's recommendations, using them as a kind of blueprint for reinventing my life with peace, contentment and comfort in mind. With Weil's help, I hope to regain my inner capacity for well-being and eventually experience a little spontaneous happiness along the way.
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