But today, let's focus on the first one. In the last post, Happy Spleen we touched briefly on a little of what Rebbe Nachman teaches about how to stay happy and healthy. Let's look more at that lesson, number 6 in part 2 of Likutey Moharan:
"A 'good sweat' (such as sweating while doing some holy act) elicits joy…This is because joy is brought about by the blood. Sadness is from the spleen, and the spleen deals with impurities of the blood, and when there is a surge in the blood impurities in the spleen, this causes illness….
"The remedy for this is sweating, for the poison in the blood impurities that had caused the illness is excreted through the sweat, and the blood is purified….Now that the blood impurities have been excreted through the sweat, there is joy."
If we put this into simpler terms, Rebbe Nachman is telling us that when we exercise enough to work up a sweat, that will help purify our blood from the build-up of negative feelings and emotional and physical toxins that are making us feel sad and depressed.
One way to do that is to dance - and Breslevers love to dance, because dancing doesn’t just keep you fit and happy, it also breaks the harsh spiritual judgements hanging over a person (which is another post, for another time. I know I say that a lot, but really, there is SO much that connects all this stuff up, and it's very easy to get side-tracked and / or swamped with too much information.)
But any exercise will have the same 'anti-depressant' affect.
One of my aims in starting this blog is that I wanted to start tying Breslev teachings together with modern science, so that readers could see for themselves:
a) the incredible wisdom contained in the works of our rabbis and sages
b) that so much of Western medicine flies straight in the face of core Jewish principles, and
c) that there are other, good, alternatives to maintaining our health that are much more in tune with Yiddishkeit
So with that intro, let me quote you something from a great book I read a little while ago, called: "The Emperor's New Drugs - Exploding the Antidepressant Myth", talking about the results of a clinical trial assessing exercise as a treatment for depression, in 2000, by a group of researchers at Duke University, North Carolina:
"Equally depressed patients were randomly divided into three groups. One group was given a four month course of aerobic exercise; the SSRI Lustral was prescribed to a second group; and the third group was given both Lustral and exercise. After four months of treatment there were no significant differences between the groups (emphasis mine)…In other words, exercise was as effective as medication in lowering depression."
But the biggest surprise was yet to come. Ten months after the trial began, some important differences did start to surface between the three groups: "By this point, significantly more exercise patients had recovered from depression, and more SSRI patients had relapsed. In other words, exercise was more effective than drugs."
Again, Rebbe Nachman knew this more than 200 hundred years' ago, which makes my mind boggle, if no one else's.
We'll come back to the topic of finding more holy, healthy ways to stay happy and out of depression in the future, but in the meantime, be a big tzadik, and go find that favourite CD, whack up the volume, and dance your socks off.