August 17, 2012

The Chemistry of Joy & the Nine Pathways to Resilience. ~ Henry Emmons, MD

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How Internal Winters Melt into Spring

Human beings are naturally resilient. But there are times when all of us experience an internal winter, a time of decreased vitality and life force, a period of hardship or depression. As a clinical psychiatrist, I’ve worked with countless people who’ve come to me in the throes of hardship, wondering, “What can I do to feel better, to bring myself back to life, to recover the joy that I’ve lost?”

From the past twenty years of practice in integrative psychiatry, I’ve worked to provide an answer to that question. My colleagues and I are a team of healers trained in holistic psychiatry, integrative nutrition, and the psychology of mindfulness. We’ve worked together to blend elements from our respective areas of expertise into a whole healing program whose goal is simply to offer insights, strategies and skills that really work.  We’ve incorporated the most current research in neuroscience, genetic expression, nutrition and the psychological sciences into a set of skills that we ourselves practice; we can vouch for their efficacy firsthand.

Through our practices we’ve seen thousands of people reclaim their lives from the harsh internal winters that keep them stuck in a lifeless cycle day in and day out.

The bedrock of a joyful life is resilience.

When our resilience has been broken down, we are less able to adapt to change, connect with others and experience lasting joy. Our research has shown that there are many forces that sabotage our efforts to remain resilient. These forces result in an imbalanced body, an unsettled mind and a disconnected heart. Each imply that resilience has been diminished and is in need of attention. Resilience is a renewable resource that depends more on skill than on genetics, circumstances or sheer luck.

Our evidence-based approach, the resilience-training program–which is outlined in-depth in our Chemistry of Joy Workbookis based on the principle that  joy comes of its own accord when we are in our naturally healthy state. Joy is not just a feeling or emotion, and to be joyful is not to always be happy or expansive. Sadness, loss and sorrow are not the opposites of joy, and they do not necessarily prevent us from accessing it. Joy comes from accepting that which is most life giving with an accompanying sense of gratitude that arises effortlessly when we realize the abundance that is present in our lives.

There are external forces that contribute to imbalance, but there are also choices, pathways we choose that unwittingly cause us more harm. The imbalanced body, for example, is exposed to toxins, pollution, food additives, radiation and other harmful external forces. But of course internally, we can choose our diet and lifestyle to offset the imbalances brought from the outside.

Our approach is designed to guide you toward balancing your body, settling your mind and connecting to your heart, so that the enemies of joy, the external forces beyond your control, have less power over you. These forces can be fierce, but you can be just as fierce in how you respond to them.

Within the body, mind and heart, there are pathways that will help you restore mood, regain balance and rediscover the capacity for joy.

Within the body our program focuses on nurturing, balancing and flowing, to lay the groundwork for restoring resilience. Attending to the mind we explore the pathways of settling, opening and knowing, which will help the mind to become more calm, open to experience, and to see with heightened clarity so that you’ll be able to face whatever arises in your life with greater wisdom and equanimity.

Lastly, deep within the heart there is much that happens beneath the surface of awareness. You can lay the groundwork of good physical health, tame your wild mind and expand your capacity to be with the full range of emotions, but without connection to the world outside of yourself you lose touch with your deepest and most life-sustaining energies. To experience joy, you must reconnect with the inner self, with others and with spiritual truths and practices. Our approach outlines the pathways of connecting, belonging and deepening in ways that nourish resilience and create the conditions for lasting joy.

Resilience is essential to living a life of joy. Developing the skills to maintain resilience allow joy to enter of its own accord because you’re able to adapt to change, face challenges and deal with life’s inevitable stresses without losing your way. When you are resilient, joy is just as the grass that grows in springtime, simply because the conditions for growth have returned.

Stay tuned for the next post: The Chemistry of Joy: The Body Pathways

For more information about the resilience training program, visit: http://www.partnersinresilience.com/


Henry Emmons, MD, is an integrative psychiatrist and author of The Chemistry of Joy WorkbookHe developed and runs the resilience training program, offered at one of the nation’s leading integrative health centers, the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis, MN. Resilience training has undergone extensive research and proven to help nearly everyone who follows the program. More than 60 percent of participants achieved full remission from depression, including some diagnosed with the severest form known as major depression.









Editor: Edith Lazenby


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