DECEMBER 2013: ARE YOU READY FOR A LIFE LIFT?
By Hope Katz Gibbs Be Inkandescent
Dr. Andrew Weil is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine—a healing-oriented approach to health care that encompasses body, mind, and spirit. A Harvard University-trained doctor, he is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona’s Health Sciences Center.
We’ve been fans of the mind-body connection doctor since the 1990s, and we think you’ll be as fascinated as we are to get firsthand insights into one of his latest books, “Spontaneous Happiness.” Scroll down to read our Q&A. And click here to listen to our interview with Dr. Weil on the Inkandescent Radio Network.
Dr. Andrew Weil on the Art and Science of Creating Spontaneous Happiness
Be Inkandescent: In “Spontaneous Happiness,” you are honest about what it means to be happy—and how in America our culture is obsessed with the unrealistic notion of feeling blissful all the time. You also share that there have been moments in your life when you felt very sad, depressed even. Why is depression such a problem for so many Americans—and why, without trying alternative therapies, do the masses rush to take medication to brighten their moods?
Andrew Weil: I think most people think of happiness as something that comes when you get something that you don’t have, something from outside, whether it’s a new car or a better job. I don’t think that’s the way it works. I think what you really want to strive for is contentment, which is an inner feeling of being complete and whole and satisfied, regardless of what your external circumstances are.
First of all, moods are supposed to vary. We’re not supposed to be happy all the time. There are highs and lows, just as there are variations from everything in nature. And so the neutral point is not happiness. I think it’s a place where you feel comfort, contentment, balance, wholeness. And I think you want to cultivate that feeling more and more. And then it’s okay if you go up above that or below it. You don’t want to have huge swings and you don’t want to get stuck in the depth. But I think it’s good to accept the normal variations of mood.
Be Inkandescent: You have drawn a lot on Eastern psychology, especially Buddhist psychology, which offers many insights into the mind and what the goal should be.
Andrew Weil: Right. And I’ve also looked at Western psychology and the strategies that are available to help people. In addition, my work on integrative medicine has made me aware of lifestyle factors that affect our mental and emotional well-being. That includes how we eat, how we exercise, how we rest and sleep, a whole range of choices we make.
Be Inkandescent: The heart of the book has very practical tips. In fact, you help readers assess their emotional well-being, you offer advice on lifestyle, behavior, and dietary changes that will make you feel better. Can you give us some tips that our listeners and readers can apply today?
Andrew Weil: Sure. The strongest scientific evidence we have for physical interventions are for regular physical activity, both as a treatment and preventive for depression, and also for the use of supplemental fish oil. I recommend two to four grams a day for optimum brain health and mood health. On the mental level, I think there are a whole lot of things we can do.
One is to choose wisely what we expose ourselves to. If you constantly listen to sad music and read sad novels and watch sad programs on TV, chances are you will be sad. So you can make choices about that. And moods are contagious, so it is good to spend time in the company of people who make you feel optimistic and positive.
There is also a section on spiritual techniques, because there’s a great deal of evidence that gratitude can boost mood. Having gratitude for your blessings is so easy. You just have to remember to be grateful for things. Keeping a gratitude journal is an easy way to keep this list. Just get a little notebook, keep it by your bed, and during the day make mental notes of things you’re grateful for—it could be as simple as the rising of the sun or seeing a flower—and when you go to bed just jot these down. Doing that for one week can boost mood for up to several months.
Don’t stop now! Click here to read more of our Q&A with Dr. Andrew Weil in Tips for Entrepreneurs.