‘Spontaneous Happiness’ by Andrew Weil, MD was a book I had high hopes for. Prefaced with that sentence, you can imagine there’s a ‘but’ in there and there is. However, while much of the book was an enormous bore, there are several things that made me feel like I’d had a concept put to me in a new way that helped it click a little better than before.
Filled with information I either already knew or didn’t care much about (by being overly technical and therefore lost my interest), the elements that I appreciated are the following concepts:
- Happiness is not a state that can be maintained constantly. It is a high point on a natural algorithm. Being sad, depressed, et cetera, are necessary mood points. The true state we should actually be achieving is contentment, which is the mid-point on the wavelength that we should bounce back to most of the time. Euphoria is nice but, like mourning, cannot and should not be maintained for extended periods.
- Positive therapy to help condition the mind and body for contentment is made up of three major areas: pleasure, flow, and meaning. Pleasure from tasks such as the extremely positive feelings from eating good food or sex and intimacy. Flow such as when you lose yourself in a task for a good period of time that is neither too easy or too hard. And meaning, which seems pretty self-explanatory, but can be summarized as doing tasks that fulfill you by utilizing your personal talents towards a larger picture.
- Our minds needs occupying like an elephant’s mischievous trunk. He pointed out that during parade processions in India elephants are given a bamboo cane. Because with their trunk preoccupied with the bamboo, they cannot pluck and grab at everything they pass. He uses this analogy toward understanding how sometimes the human brain needs training back to a harmless focus so that we don’t get ourselves into emotional trouble.