Changing Your Mind: An Interview with Andrew Weil, M.D.

The author of Spontaneous Happiness shows us new ways to relieve depression and foster emotional well-being

Why is the idea that the mind can affect the body such an important concept?
Changing the way you think and perceive can change the structure and function of the brain. Not to deny brain chemistry, but it’s only one of many factors in depression. Most of psychiatry today only looks at brain chemistry, and so the only solution is drugs. And the drugs don’t even work that well. Physical activity and supplemental fish oil work as well as antidepressant medications.

There are other things you can do, and some are so simple. I was amazed in researching this book how much scientific evidence there is for the power of feeling and expressing gratitude to create lasting changes in mood.

What do you wish primary care physicians would do when someone comes in with mild or moderate depression?
Before reflexively prescribing a drug, I’d like them to look at the person’s lifestyle. Look at all the factors before resorting to medication. Severe depression can be life threatening, and requires medical management, and maybe medication. But even here, I’d like it to be limited to a year, and then [the doctor] should work with the patient to get off the medication and substitute other measures.

You recommend mindfulness for emotional well-being. What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing full attention to the present moment. Mindful eating, for example, means eating not in front of the TV or in your car. It means putting the food in your mouth and tasting it. One reason we have an epidemic of obesity is that so much eating is unconscious. Next: A Media Vacation?

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