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The Antidote to the Self-Help Book Craze:
A Real Solution

By Debbie Mandel

The undeniable facts: There are more diet books out there than ever before, yet obesity has reached epidemic proportions. The shelves are lined with self-help books, yet stress is at an all time high. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the depression du jour along with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder claimed to be responsible for distraction. Could there be an inverse relationship between public focus on emotional aberrations and our happiness index? Here are some ways to counteract our hyper-education.

Stop Introspecting
Too much introspection along with over-analyzing conversations, situations, dreams and people’s motivations can make you miserable. There are no absolute truths and sometimes a horse is just a horse and not a zebra. When we over-analyze, we become investigators and interrogators. We are never satisfied because human nature introspects in quest of buried unfulfilled experiences. Let them go! Release the old hurts and live in the moment. If you are eating, really taste your food. If you are exercising, bring your attention to the muscle you are exercising.

Surround Yourself with Positive People
When you feel inadequate, unwell, or lonely, call or get together with positive people who can affirm you. Feel revitalized by exchanging thoughts and most importantly expressing your concerns to others who can objectify the problem and advise you optimistically. When your feelings are hurt, they really hurt you physically. Unburden yourself to your friends and feel lighter. Go to your house of worship and pray communally. Singing and chanting will literally lift your spirits. Attend exercise classes to raise your endorphins and speed up your metabolism. Find exercise buddies in the gym to workout with you in order to keep your motivation and commitment levels high. Group energy is inspiring. Schedule a girl’s or guy’s night out to laugh and have fun.

Cultivate Your Primal Intuition
Cultivate your primal intuition. Listen to the small voice inside you steering you towards or away from certain people, situations and locations. Begin your sentences with “I feel” instead of “I think.” When you feel your body and your longings, you will naturally know when to stop eating because you feel full. You feel when you don’t want to deplete yourself by accommodating others. When you agree to do what you don’t want to do, you become depressed because you have not truly expressed yourself. Moreover, you are the first line of defense when it comes to illness. If you don’t feel well, then you know even when the doctors don’t. Choose a physician who will keep investigating. Many women have suffered heart attacks that could have been avoided because they did not have the same symptoms as men. They felt fatigued, short of breath, nauseous, dizzy and anxious, but had no crushing chest pain, or shooting pain down the left arm. Male physicians dismissed them as being hysterical or as Victorians would have put it, having the vapors. However, the symptoms resolved themselves by the heart attack, unfortunately.

Think Outside the Box
Who cares what other people think? Be creative, impulsive and fun loving. Color outside the lines. Think independently and rejoice in your invention. Dress to please yourself; that might mean more formally in a casual situation or more casual in a formal situation. Learn new skills to stimulate the brain. Neural pathways are formed when you break with routine even as you age. In a recent landmark study people whose brains were autopsied and looked like characteristic Alzheimer’s brains, surprisingly did not show symptoms of the disease while they were alive. This discrepancy was attributed to the fact that these people thought outside the box. Their brains formed alternate neural pathways to compensate for the shrinking of the hippocampal fissure and plaques associated with Alzheimer’s. Not only will you be happier living outside the box, but your brain will be sharper and healthier.

Start to See Life as a Divine Comedy
Norman Cousins is still right on the mark: Laughter is the best medicine. How can you be depressed or overeat when your life is filled with deep belly laughs. Puck from a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream would say, “Lord, what fools these mortals be.” If we perceive indiscretions, failures and arguments as funny, we would not be trapped in a web of our own miserable spinning. Everything that is sad or irritating has a comical side. The more you practice reinterpreting, the more adept you become. Even when my husband and I argue, I often burst into laughter because if I step back from the situation, the dialogue or argument does have its humor. I remember literally falling into the plane of a connecting flight, an infant crying and his five year old sibling pushing my chair. In front of me sat two people who culturally did not believe in bathing. I laughed loudly like the village idiot—after all this would make a funny sit com and the flight was only eight hours. What’s eight hours in the ultimate scheme of things?

In Conclusion
Stop reading all these books; instead read life.

Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: