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The Chemistry of Calm: A Powerful, Drug-Free Plan to Quiet Your Fears and Overcome Your Anxiety

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  787 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Marrying Eastern techniques of meditation with traditional Western solutions of diet and exercise, celebrated psychiatrist Dr. Henry Emmons offers a proven plan to combat anxiety—without medication—that has helped tens of thousands gain inner peace and start enjoying life.

The debilitating effects of anxiety can affect your sense of well-being, health, longevity, productivi
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ebook, 288 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Atria Books
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  787 ratings  ·  78 reviews


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Start your review of The Chemistry of Calm: A Powerful, Drug-Free Plan to Quiet Your Fears and Overcome Your Anxiety
Allie
This book was fine. It wasn't as interesting as The Chemistry of Joy, and it definitely wasn't as helpful or informative. It's clear that he's a professional psychiatrist and therapist, but it also seems like he's never had anything even close to a panic attack (not that it's necessary, but he seems only clinically familiar and not actually familiar with it). In fact, the information he includes about different forms of anxiety and its roots is brief and feels pretty empty.

I dislike that this bo
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James
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an individual with longstanding depression and chronic pain, this awesome Resilience Training Program espoused by Emmons et al simply, naturally works. After nearly 15 years of prescription sleep aids, I now fall and return to sleep with ease, safely and naturally, without meds. My sense of optimism and self-confidence has rebounded as I've relearned to trust that my body and mind tend toward wholeness and calmness with proper self-care and support. An awesome, evidence-based program that wor ...more
Robin
Some helpful suggestions about how to approach and practice meditation, but often repetitive. More new age than I prefer. The book would have made a more compelling zine or piece in a Sunday newspaper.
Chelsea
2.5 stars

I guess I am kicking off 2020 with a nonfiction bender.

The Chemistry of Calm purports to be a "powerful, drug-free plan to quiet your fears and overcome your anxiety" - a pretty significant claim, as the research on depression and anxiety and what exactly causes them (as well as how to effectively treat them) still leaves medical professionals baffled to this day.

As a health and wellness book, this one has some great tips on how to incorporate eating well, sleeping well, socializing
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Christina Bouwens
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very helpful, important book on balancing chemistry naturally -- through diet, exercise, healthy supplements, mindfulness, and re-thinking new understanding of neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, and gene expression. A positive reinforcement that who we are today doesn't necessarily have to be who we are tomorrow; we are less victims of our own biology than previously portrayed (think Freud...). As Dr. Emmons puts it, "we are resilient beings by nature. Everyone has a different degree of stress toler ...more
Renee
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book has really helped me begin to find my way out of anxiety. The supplements recommended in the book work better than anything I have tried so far. As this book is about finding a balance between mind and body so you become more "resilient" to anxiety and stress, I feel that I will be referencing this book for a while to come.
A word of caution...I felt that the author of this book came off as rather arrogant (though perhaps he was just trying to establish a connection) with his repeated u
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Becca
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Found the first few chapters extremely motivating in regards to diet and exercise. A great reminder that what I put in my body and what I do with it matters! Didn’t love the section on meditation but was able to glean a few insights about thought patterns and how that impacts my mood.
The sections on supplements and nutrients and how they impact the brain and anxiety will be a resource I will return to.
Kathryn
This book was laid out really well. Each section talked about different aspects to work on when dealing with anxiety. The mind body connect was the best for me and his meditations were well thought out and easy to follow. I'm really glad I read this book ...more
Danielle Trent
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Clear and approachable. A great guide to empower and help develop a stronger sense of self with measurable tools. Will cite and use as a course for my workplace.
Jennifer
Mar 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2011reads
Liked this so much, especially the meditations, that I'm ordering a copy for myself to own. I have to admit I skipped the chapter on supplements and found the food advice to be a reiteration of things I've already heard (Emmons believes in Pollan's food strategy - Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.) or common sense (Anxious? Perhaps you should cut down on your caffeine, hmmm?). I didn't mind hearing some things again though; I'm hard-headed enough that it can take several times for something ...more
Anne
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Part 1 "Build a Strong Foundation" is totally impractical for someone who's unemployed. He wants you to eat certain foods, avoid pasta, and take loads of supplements. RIGHT, like I can really do this right now. Part 2 "Awaken to Equanimity" would be easier for me to do but it's due back at the library & I don't have the $15 to get my own copy. He talks about mindfulness meditation but I have a book edited by Susan Piver, "Quiet Mind: A Beginner's Guide to Meditation," which can be a good substit ...more
Jenesssa
Sep 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
A huge disappointment. Henry Emmons, if you wanted to write a book about nutrition, write a book about nutrition. If you wanted to write a book about Buddhism, write a book about Buddhism.

Just please, don't write a book directed at calming anxiety and turn it into a vague, non-supported clinical ha-blah of promoting your teachings.

Just, ah, God. I was reading this and got so distracted by my own thoughts asking myself to just kill me now.

Zero stars. Negative stars. Who published this guy anyway
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Elizabeth
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An excellent reference source for those looking for a multi-pronged approach to tackling their anxiety. While Dr. Emmons has been trained in the Western tradition, he heavily incorporates Eastern influences into this book, and his excellent advice runs the gamut from diet and exercise to mindfulness practices. The later chapters on meditation and the nature of thoughts are especially insightful. This would be a wonderful complement to a more CBT-focused work, such as Burns' When Panic Attacks. ...more
Ying
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was hospitalized for depression and anxiety. This book is a great resource to reinforce many of the techniques I learned from the group therapy in the hospital. I started taking some of the suggested supplements and practice mindfulness taught in this book. I'm recovering very well. I think it's a great and complete program. I highly recommend it. ...more
Eileen Ptacek
Jun 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Not much new information, but the book did remind me that I need to meditate regularly for good mental health. My MD said not to take the recommended supplements except for B complex. Too little regulation of herbal supplements, in his opinion.
Feeling Good is another book on this subject and is very helpful for dealing with thoughts that cause anxiety.
Ommmmmmmm.
Jeff Priesmeyer
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good book. This book doesn’t have to be read all at one time. I skimmed the last bits because I knew I’d have to go back when I had time to do the different mindfulness techniques. However there was a lot of good information on diet, supplements and sleep. If you have high or moderate anxiety this book is for you. Just get past the opening chapters and I promise it’ll be worth it.
Dina Natale
Jun 25, 2012 rated it liked it
I will learn to relax if it kills me :)
William Schram
With the Chemistry of Calm by Dr. Henry Emmons, we are introduced to holistic methods to treat anxiety and stress disorders. It isn’t necessarily the case that he frowns upon medication or its use, Dr. Emmons seems to want to use a different approach. This I can understand. A lot of medications and drugs used to treat anxiety and stress might do more harm than good. If I can fix something by changing my diet it might be easier than having to go through the side effects of certain drugs. Also, a ...more
Tracy
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
"The Resilience Training Program is founded on the belief that you are fundamentally healthy, but that something has gotten in the way of that natural health to create what is often considered “disease.” Resilience implies that it is possible to bounce back."

A positive book that pulls together diet, exercise and mindfulness training to address anxiety and stress. I think a lot of his "program" has been incorporated into wellness thinking in the years since it was published so there's not necessa
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Jessie
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and it was great! It was chock-full of tips for managing stress and anxiety that were widely applicable. I appreciated the author's approach in mentioning a wide variety of options that people can adapt as they're able, taking into account cost hesitations or a readiness to commit to making certain changes. It made following through on the advice more doable right from the beginning because there was less pressure to do things in one single "righ ...more
Lekeshua
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
“When your fears surrender to your strengths,
You will begin to experience
That all existence
Is a teeming sea of infinite life.” - Hafiz

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass
how to be idle and bless, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.” - Mary Oliver

“Ordinary happiness depends on happenstance. Joy is that extraordinary happiness that is independent of what happens
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Beckie
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this holistic perspective to deal with anxiety. The discussion of herbs, mindfulness, sleep, etc. as a way to enhance Western standard treatments with medication and therapy, offers a comprehensive way to have more tools to deal with the issue. I hadn't heard of terminal insomia before, but understand it as waking too early. Also appreciated the "thoughts are just thoughts. The mind automatically makes them appear real. When we see them as what they are we can question their val ...more
Autumn Kotsiuba
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
These books always leave me feeling like I’ve just come out of a pseudoscience fog, even if some of the advice is sound. I’ve found that eating less processed food, limiting caffeine, exercising, and meditating, while not eliminating anxiety, do curb it. These were recommended in the book so I trusted it a bit more. I think there’s some good stuff in here, but it’s like weight loss: you can’t expect a magic solution to a condition that takes a lot of managing.

Personal notes:
Personal Types = Ru
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Krysten
So I'm just gonna go ahead and not finish this. My psychiatrist recommended it, and now I know why she has me taking so many supplements. Luckily for me, she doesn't buy wholesale into the 'drug free' approach that this book takes, because some people actually really chemically need medications. A lot of this book is the same advice you'll hear everywhere about diet and exercise and my main takeaway is that anxiety is gonna make you take a fistful of vitamins every day. Ain't life grand. ...more
Diana
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing super earth-shattering here but a good read with lots to consider. I'm not sure anyone has the money or time for ALLLL of those vitamins and supplements (despite Emmons' claims that he is sensitive to the fact that the plan is rather cost-prohibitive) but overall, it was an interesting, practical book with some good examples of mindfulness meditation. ...more
Amanda McMillen
Jun 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Overall, a great introduction to how our body functions with anxiety and practical ways to deal with (and even alter) our brain chemistry. I skimmed the section about food (no way I'm going to track how many mgs of different supplements I'm taking in, EVER, in my life), but loved the last few chapters about self-acceptance especially. ...more
peakshelfcare
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: home-collection
As promised in the description, this psychiatrist offers practical ways to deal with anxiety and stress. Writing with one foot in the science of western medicine and the other foot in the wisdom of eastern philosophy, he really delivers an integrative approach I’m excited to try. I marked up the book as a student might, as this is one of the best self-improvement books I’ve finished.
Ashley  Brooks
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I skimmed most of this one since it reiterated everything I've learned from my therapist and naturopathic doctor, but it's a great starting point for managing anxiety naturally if you don't have those resources available to you. Many of the suggestions are accessible even if you're short on time and/or money. The writing itself is on the dry side, but it's good information. ...more
Ann Zito
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I learned a lot from this nook, and it went along nicely with other books I have read about similar subject matters. I enjoyed it and will put many of the practices to use. It did not rely on scientific jargon, and when it did use scientific explanations, they were explained clearly without being condescending.
C.E. G
May 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
I found the information about the supplements the most interesting part of this book. I am a mildly anxious person, and my anxiety makes me more avoidant than dwelling, but the book seemed more geared toward the latter. I also have a fair amount of background in meditation/mindfulness, so I skipped or skimmed a lot of that part of the book.
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Henry Emmons, MD, is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body and natural therapies, mindfulness and allied Buddhist therapeutics, and psychotherapeutic caring and insight in his clinical work.

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“She began using B vitamins, magnesium, and 5-HTP twice daily, along with tryptophan and a melatonin complex at night. Sure enough, within five days she clearly began to feel better.” 1 likes
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