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Book Review: Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil

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The ultimate goal of Andrew Weil — Harvard educated physician and founder and Director of the Arizona Center for Integrated Medicine — is to expand and strengthen integrative medicine while transforming the health care system in North America and the world.

What makes him different? He has decided not to follow the popular path of writing books about emotional problems, like depression, and how to treat them with drugs like Prozac. Instead, he has decided to work from a new science called integrative emotional health. So… take the heart as a measure of health. His medical study at Harvard would indicate a good heart has a regular heartbeat. His experience shows that a healthy heart beats at varying intervals responding to moment-to-moment changes in the rest of the body. A healthy individual is one who considers health a totality of body-mind-spirit aspects working in sync with one another.

His latest book, Spontaneous Happiness, spells out some amazing guidelines on becoming a healthy individual who run contrary to his own medical training and commonly accepted practices. He is adamant that quality of health is attained only as the body-mind-spirit connections are understood and practiced. A good way to improve one’s health, says Weil, is simply to choose to be with people who exemplify the lifestyle you wish to emulate. Weil also makes the case that the word medicine comes from a stem word for meditate — and was not originally thought of as the usage of drugs as inferred in most cases today. He further expounds on the changing health practices in today’s society with the idea that children may be less healthy because they aren’t allowed to be around dirt and can’t build up their immune system while they are young. 

These commonsense ideas aid in building confidence in the body’s innate abilities to maintain, repair, regenerate, and adapt to injury and loss. These abilities are spontaneous in nature and arise from internal feelings, independent of external sources. One internal feeling that is important to cultivate is happiness, and a very effective happiness feature is gratitude and the keeping of a gratitude journal. Weil quotes a study by Robert A. Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, proving that people who keep gratitude journals are more optimistic, happier, and have fewer physical problems.

The overall focus of Spontaneous Happiness was to encourage the wise use of integrative medicines, which was appealing because of my own personal experiences with the most used alternative medicine by the public – prayer. The use of prayer was instrumental in my emerging unscathed from a head-on collision on a mountain road that sent my car through the guardrail and rolling down the mountainside. For this and countless other healing experiences through the use of prayer, I express great gratitude, which Weil states is one of the strongest elements for happiness. And happiness is basic to good health.

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About Don Ingwerson

Previously in the education sector as Superintendent of Schools, Don Ingwerson now serves as the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Southern California and corrects misconceptions about Christian Science. Don is a frequent blogger about health and spirituality.
  • Mary R Perkins

    Looks like an interesting book. And the comment about keeping a gratitude journal is very true. Along with other techniques, I have seen keeping gratitude journals do wonders for my clients’ happiness levels. Mary.