In his latest book, Spontaneous Happiness, Dr. Weil walks readers through the steps necessary to create the conditions for emotional well-being. He defines happiness as as feeling of bliss or joy, but emphasizes that ceaseless joy is neither obtainable or desirable, and that variations in mood is normal. The key is not to get stuck emotionally, but to achieve a “sort of affective emotional sea level, a place characterized by serenity, calm and a sense of contentment. “
Below is a summary of 10 tips Dr. Weil outlines as helpful to those struggling with mild to moderation depression:
- Exercise: Studies have shown that depressed patients who stuck to an aerobic exercise routine improved as much as those on medication. In healthy people, exercise can also boost your mood and appears to prevent depression. A fan of integrative exercise (exercise that occurs when doing a productive activity, such as gardening), Dr. Weil says people may find it easier to stick with this type of workout.
- Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Recent research indicates there may be a correlation between inappropriate inflammation and depression. Managing this kind of inflammation is important for both mental and physical health.
- Take Fish Oil and Vitamin D: ”Adequate blood levels of these nutrients has been strongly tied to emotional health. They are so necessary and deficiencies are so common in the developed world that I believe everyone, depressed or not, should take them,” states Dr. Weil.*
- Take Depression-Specific Herbs: Dr. Weil recommends several different kinds of herbs for those with mild to moderate depression, such as: St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), SAMe (pronounced “sammy”) and Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea).*
- Do Breathing Exercises: The 4-7-8 (Relaxing Breath) is one of Dr. Weil’s favorites, and is a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.” Conscious breath control is helpful for achieving a relaxed state and clearing one’s mind.
- Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): According to Dr. Weil: ”This relatively new form of psychotherapy helps patients overcome habitual negative views of the world and themselves, and has been shown to be among the most effective psychological interventions for anxiety and depression. A full course of treatment is 14 to 16 sessions, with occasional booster sessions during the following year to maintain improvement. CBT can be done individually or in groups, and people can also get started with self-help books and online programs.”
- Laugh: Smiling and laughing can help elevate one’s mood.
- Limit Media Exposure: Too much exposure to digital media results in fractured attention spans and attenuated human relationships. Dr. Weil suggests cutting down the time spent on digital media and instead spend more time with friends, outings, nature, or exercise.
- Forgive: Modern research shows those individuals who can forgive when appropriate benefit from better emotional well-being.
- Practice Gratitude: You can foster gratitude through regular practice. Dr. Weil suggests keeping a “gratitude journal” by setting aside a specific time each day or week to record things for which one is grateful. One can also simply take a few minutes each morning to reflect and give thanks for all the good things in ones life.
* for Dr. Weil’s dosage recommendations, please see his book