Mike W's Reviews > Spontaneous Happiness

Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil
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Jan 01, 2012

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Read in December, 2011

In this book, Dr Weil offers some useful advice. He emphasizes the importance of exercise as well as omega-3 and vitamin D and recommends supplements for these. He also highlights recent advances in neuroscience concerning the plasticity of thinking and the ways in which our behavior and thinking can modify our brain structure and function, which can in turn affect our moods and well-being.

But some of its advice is hokey. For example, I doubt whether busy people will want to maintain a "gratitude journal" for any length of time. It seems likely that the feeling of gratitude is an important part of a healthy life, but formalizing it in such an artificial and even silly way will not appeal to many readers.

And Dr. Weil's philosophical outlook has serious flaws. He subscribes to what he calls a "secular spirituality", which seems to this reviewer pretty close to a contradiction in terms. On the one hand, he scathingly rejects reductionist materialism, but on the other, he seems skeptical about religion and does to seem to believe in any realm or being outside of the material world. This kind of "spiritual" atheism is not a serous or tenable philosophical position. But it seems to appeal to people who want to feel the comfort of believing in religion, without having to deal with any of the deep philosophical questions that naturally arise from such a belief.

That said, I think people who follow Weil's advice on diet, exercise and supplements will experience an improvement in health.
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message 1: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy K As always, a well-written review. I don't think I'll read the book, since it seems like it is 90% fluff and 10% obvious health advice. As for the "gratitude journal", that sounds very Oprah, and not the stuff for serious people who want to avoid doing silly things. It reminds me of something I once read about to improve your happiness - "gratitude therapy" - where you are supposed to thank everyone and everything for what they do to help you - including thanking your toothbrush for keeping your teeth clean and healthy. Very silly stuff that was probably conceived during an acid trip gone wrong. My secret to happiness - live in a city where the weather is nice and the sun is shining all the time, and get outside in the sunshine every day. Maybe that makes me happy because the sun provides vitamin D, or maybe it's just better live in a warm and sunny city.

Mike W Jeremy, I largely agree. A good portion of the book is new-age "fluff". But there is some merit here. Someone who followed Dr. Weil's advice very likely would feel healthier and better... I'm not sure it's really a guide to happiness, though. Happiness seems to me to come from things that this book does not deal with much or at all--a meaningful career, deep friendships, good family life, and a satisfying philosophical outlook--and a reasonable amount of money helps too.

This book is more a guide to health, and maybe as one other reviewer put it, a means to getting out of depression, than a guide to happiness.

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