A Calm Brain by Gayatri Devi, M.D. – Mini Review

A Calm Brain: Unlocking Your Natural Relaxation System by Gayartri Devi, M.D.
Published by Dutton Adult, an imprint of Penguin

From the publisher:

Our ancestors used the fight-or-flight mechanism to protect themselves from predators. We use it to fend off daily crises. In a world filled with too many toys, too much technology, and too many choices—how can we possibly keep up? Our bodies have been trained to react to the beeps and alarms of all our different technologies, be it the ever present cell phone, an angry text message, or a frantic voicemail. The result is chronic stress and a learned inability to relax.

With a warm, lucid voice, Dr. Devi shares stories from her medical practice of ordinary people—suffering from migraines, neck pain, gastrointestinal upsets, and sleep deprivation— trying to work through life’s difficulties. With practical advice she shows just how to promote a higher “vagal tone,” and delivers the best news yet: you don’t need more drugs. Here are the keys to more tranquil, productive, and enjoyable life.

Dr. Devi explores a paradigm shift in our understanding of the brain’s relaxation mechanisms. It is hard for our brains to talk our bodies into feeling calm, but our bodies have strong wiring that makes true enduring calm possible. The body does this through the vagus nerve, a powerful conduit that taps directly into our brain’s built-in relaxation system. This revolutionary science can transform your work life and your home life.

A Calm Brain is no simple self-help book; Dr. Devi is clearly an expert in brain science. She intelligently and clearly lays out the workings of the brain and the nervous system to explain first and foremost how and why we get stressed out and what happens to us physically when we do. She is actually quite gifted at such explanations, as she is clear for those who have little background in brain-based science without dumbing things down. Dr. Devi’s clear expertise in her subject matter was impressive to me, but she does have a tendency to explain everything about how all of this works without offering specific steps for calming your brain throughout the book. There is a list at the very end of the book, for those who want to see the suggestions sooner, but the lack of concrete action steps throughout may bother some readers. That being said, I think that having the 200+ pages of background and understanding makes the list much more meaningful – not to mention you will certainly pick up ideas throughout her discussion of the brain.

This does seem to be a very helpful book, even when both girls are crying at the same time, I have found myself staying much calmer than I would have expected, and I am giving at least some of the credit to actually finishing this book while I was in the hospital waiting for them to be born. Recommended.

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