THE BOOK

"The Instinct to Heal: Curing Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Without Drugs and Without Talk Therapy," by David Servan-Schreiber (Rodale). The book explains several approaches to improving mental health that avoid drugs and talk. All involve methods by which the body can heal the mind.

THE AUTHOR

Servan-Schreiber has serious mainstream cred: An MD, a PhD and a clinical psychiatrist, he has headed a National Institutes of Health unit studying cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging. A professor of psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh's med school, he's co-founder of Pitt's Center for Complementary Medicine.

THE PREMISE

The brain's limbic core (center of emotion) can be damaged by trauma and experience. But the cerebral cortex (the center of thought) has little ability to affect the limbic brain (i.e., you can't reason away irrational fear or pain). The author's methods bypass the cerebral cortex and activate the limbic brain's capacity to heal.

THE DETAILS

The methods include acupuncture, light, heart rhythms, exercise, meditation, nutrition and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a controversial treatment for trauma. Sound fishy? The book is well footnoted with research that demonstrates the methods' efficacy (if not an explanation for how they work).

FURTHERMORE

Little of the cited research is gold-standard quality, a fact the author attributes to lack of commercial interest and the difficulty of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies with these techniques. The author provides a nine-point plan to implement the ideas in the book. Even if you don't, this is a fascinating read that reframes the mind.