Book Review: Chemistry of Joy

The book, Chemistry of Joy, written by medical doctor (DR) Emmons is a guide book to bring relief, using holistic means, to those who suffer from depression. He promotes the use of mind-body-spirit interventions such as exercise, nutrition, and meditation for treating depression, to treat the whole person rather than just handing out prescription medications. Emmons offers interventions such as a mindfulness practice to increase the feel good chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins, through diet and exercise, thus he explains the relationship between hormone levels and depression. Emmons teaches Ayurveda and Buddhist philosophy to help the readers to understand the inner workings of their mind better; it is important for people to understand why they may be feeling depressed. Emmons offers simple guidelines for feeling more joy. He does a fine job of integrating western medicine with Eastern philosophy, making him a unique addition into the western medical science paradigm. Throughout this paper, I will discuss my perception of Emmons philosophy of healing from depression. I will begin by briefly describing what depression is. I will summarize Emmons key points in the book and discuss who this book may be meant for. I will discuss ways to find joy in life. Finally, I will finish with the greatest and highest message that I took from reading Emmons book.

Depression is a prominent mental disorder for those who are lacking joy in their life, experiencing loss of interest, or excessive sadness. On the contrary, depression can be seen differently. It can be a profound learning experience and offer transformation. It allows people the opportunity to make the necessary changes to live healthier lives. Depression can be viewed as a necessary component on the spiritual path. To become enlarged or grow more expansive rather than close up and become small. It’s a choice all depressives have, to sulk in the depression or to see it as a growing opportunity. Through times of hardship or depression we become more permeable and more open to the influences of love, spiritual transformation, and enlightenment, says Emmons (p. 249). There must be a thin line between depression and love. Furthermore, joy is not simply the opposite or absence of depression, it is the result of making daily efforts to experience inner happiness, as opposed to experiencing life in a mundane or melancholic way, rather, to see life through new eyes and in a different light. To see the light in the dark spaces. Joy can be experienced in many different ways, next I will discuss what Emmons had to say about seeking community.

Depression may be a time when people need to get outside of themselves and seek a supportive community. So he includes an exercise on building a house of belonging; to whom do we send love to? He emphasizes the importance of building a community of soul friends who help you on your spiritual path (Emmons, 2006). Joy can be experienced when actively engaged with community. The soul desires joy and community, and there is more joy when there is more community. There is much enjoyment by experiencing soul, through soulful living and increased awareness of soul in all things everywhere. Next, I will discuss more ways to seek joy.

There are many ways to bring joy back to life such as living a more active lifestyle, and eating the proper foods to aid the body in the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine; which are all hormones that influence the psychology and physiology of each person. Emmons describes depression as a chemical imbalance that can be corrected with a few minor changes in lifestyle choices. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the body, when the body is not sensitive to the beneficial hormones that are present, or the body is not producing enough of them. Depression can be the painful result of not living a well-balanced life. There are foods and exercises that help to release more of these beneficial feel good hormones. Emmons recommends people take vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and get consistent exercise and meditation to find balance and come back to equanimity. People may not always feel up to going on a long walk or visiting the gym for a workout, but exercise is the best and most cost effective way to beat the blues. Next, I discuss who this book may be meant for.

This book may be used for anyone taking medications and looking for a way to lower the dose, or as an alternative to taking medications. All people can benefit from this research and knowledge that Emmons is passing down. The book would help anyone who wants to better themselves. This book would be great for healers who are looking to help those with depression, to understand healing on many different levels and multiple dimensions. Emmons words of wisdom are especially helpful for Native Minnesotans who may suffer from a seasonal affective disorder, which includes symptoms of depression from not getting enough sunshine because getting enough light during the winter months is crucial for mental health. It is ok to feel depressed from time to time, but not all the time. This book is beneficial for the depressed person to find relief when they have nowhere else to turn or after other options have been exhausted. Talk therapy is always an option, so long as the psychologist is not trying to ‘fix’ the person. Emmons style of psychotherapy is to simply hold space for the person to work through things, he facilitates healing in a client-centered sort of way. Every person needs to feel that they can safely talk about their feelings without being judged.

This book skims the surface of Eastern philosophy with the recommendation for meditation, so this book may not be for the more advanced meditation practitioner, whom I don’t think would be in that much of a depressed state of mood if they are meditating regularly. This book may not be meant for the master in mindfulness meditation, if you are already advanced spiritually and well-read in Buddhist philosophy, or not experiencing symptoms of depression you can skip this book. This book is great for the beginner mindfulness practitioner, however, I do recommend this book even for the advanced meditation practitioner. Emmons includes lovely material that I find very welcoming to all people. These teachings apply to the world at large, to bring peace, love, harmony, and happiness to the masses with simple to follow techniques. It is simply a matter of helping people listen to their body better and to treat themselves right. To treat the body like a temple of God. To find spiritual perspective while life continuously has its ups and downs. On another note, these teachings are not new, this is ancient wisdom passed down from Buddhists and Holy Scriptures such as the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita. Many people have discussed this matter to great depth, Henry is only regurgitating these things in his own words. It is somewhat a short book, so it’s worth it just to read through it for the wonderful pages on meditation and nutrition, for increased feel good hormones. Emmons writes about Buddhist and spiritual philosophy and how they have integrated into western culture; these offer great tools to overcome depression amongst many other obstacles. Emmons brings perspective and light onto this very dark topic, depression. Buddhist philosophy relates to joy, I’m sure Buddhist monks have been studied and have the happiest brain waves around. Living a more balanced life, with proper nutrition, mindfulness, spirituality, mental and physical activity brings wellness.

This book goes to the heart of spiritual matter, spiritual discipline to overcome depression or emotional disturbances. He recommends Yoga and mindfulness practices such as breath awareness and meditation as a means to bring stillness and grounded-ness into one’s chaotic life.  Emmons practices and teaches mindfulness. “Mindfulness is awareness, on purpose, without judgment” as taught by Kabat-Zinn, the creator of mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Awareness is being awake. ‘Wake up and start loving life’ is a great motto that relates to the teachings in this book. Spirituality aids in the awakening of one’s psyche, awakening to higher consciousness, and awakening to living a life of healing and joy (Henry Emmons, 2006). Joy is a choice, and each choice that is made every day accumulates and creates our life, to choose joyful experiences makes for a joyful life.

Emmons offers quizzes for the readers to understand the types of Doshas (the nature of our being in Ayurveda system of health care, the sister science of Yoga) and the Buddhist psychology quiz for the readers to be more engaged with his teachings and understand their body and mind type, to make changes for the better. Doshas are the concepts that describe the three constitutions that people can be any one, two, or three of them. This quiz allows the readers to place themselves into a category so they can easily understand their health types.  Not everyone will find that they have only one dosha or Buddhist psychological type. At one time, we have a dominating dosha, and Ayurveda gives recommendations for balancing the doshas. Overall, it is nice to understand them all and be more aware of these life changing concepts. Furthermore, Yoga is a powerful practice to bring equanimity, balance, and wellbeing to all areas of one’s life. Yoga recommends a sattvic lifestyle, sattvic diet, sattvic attitude, satvic is a calm and peaceful demeanor. Yoga promotes relaxation. Yoga promotes respect to the body and give it what it needs. The proper amount of nutrition, sleep, movement, breathe, etc. Yoga teaches courage and presence. Yoga is meditative with a focus on breath awareness, generosity, gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, and living with a full heart.

Emmons encourages a meditation practice aside from yoga, such as walking, deep listening, dwelling in the heart, releasing negative emotions, navigating unhealthy moods, working through emotional blockages, living authentically, and living with a purpose styles of meditation. Dr. Emmons also guides the readers through a practice, the practice of having a dialogue with the soul. To dialogue with the soul so people may build a relationship and understanding of the self. It’s a beautiful thing to be self-sufficient, to inquire from within for deeper wisdom. To trust the intuition for any issues that might arise in life.

From the entire book, I feel my takeaway or the greatest and highest message that has the greatest and highest good for all is: love is the answer. Depression may be that we are disconnected from the love that is within. To me, love is listening to the heart and intuition is a powerful teaching taught in Yoga, to listen to the intuition or the inner Guru for guidance. I think this intuition comes from the heart space, the seat of the soul, the almighty heart! I love that Emmons recommends diet and nutrition, but this comes naturally with Yoga practice, as does a loving kindness practice with compassion for all beings. When Yoga is practiced your body, mind, and spirit become one and you naturally want to expend energy in a positive way. Overall, intuition has all the answers we need, all we must do is find a little silence and stillness to figure this out. I am a true believer that Yoga is a worthwhile practice that all would benefit from; and Emmons recommends a Yoga practice for improved mental and physical health, because Yoga promotes relaxation and wellness. It is in the stillness that we can hear the soft whispers from the deepest parts of ourselves which tell us right from wrong. Yoga can be done all the time, in all areas of life. Yoga helps to find increased awareness, interconnectedness with all beings everywhere, and to see the God in all things. Yoga brings light into the dark spaces. I commend Emmons for delving deeper into the spiritual wisdom of combating depression, while offering nutritional and lifestyle advice. He brushes on the topic of epi-genetics and us having the ability, with willpower, to change our fate and move away from a life of disease. Living the Yogic life brings ease. Books like this have the power to create change in the world, this can be a life changing book for the novice in Buddhist or Yogic philosophy. Thank you Henry Emmons, gratitude in all things. This book is a journey from darkness to light, from chaos to serenity, and from fragmentation to wholeness.


Emmons, H. (2006). The chemistry of joy. Simon & Schuster. New York, NY

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