Ars has a writeup of an article in the journal Nature about new research into the effects of exercise on depression. Essentially exercise stimulates the expression of certain genes that help prevent the symptoms of depression (or its nearest equivalent) in mice. I've always felt a certain serenity after a hard workout and it's good to see scientists working to ascertain the cause of this phenomenon.
This makes me mindful of how inefficient our reactive society is at dealing with many problems. Instead of exercise and a sensible diet, we stuff ourselves with junk food and then turn to diet pills to make us thin. Instead of living a more balanced life we complicate everything and burden ourselves with stress only to turn to Prozac and other "mood-altering" medications as a panacea. It seems like America wants to solve all of our problems by simply consuming more. More food, more booze, more drugs, more sex, more oil.
We focus on the perceived lack in our life and convince ourselves that only by filling those voids will we be happy. Hinduism uses a Pali word to describe this: dukkha. This word does not have a direct translation into English but it can best be described in terms of an allegory. Dukkha describes our life as a cart being pulled along a country road, but the cart has a wheel with a broken spoke. At times the road is smooth and so we do not notice the broken spoke and think that all is well. Other times the road gets rough and so we notice the one wheel which does not turn quite right. Until we attain personal enlightenment, we are on this journey with a cart that does not quite move correctly. We can change the load of the cart, pull it from the front, push it from behind, but until we fix the broken spoke our journey will be a painful one, particularly when the road is roughest and we are most in need of four well-balanced wheels. The world is filled with snake oil salesmen who will gladly provide us with all manner of "solutions" to make our cart ride more smoothly but these are all just distractions.
This holiday season we are faced with numerous opportunities to revel in consumption. After all of the celebrating is over it is the simple things which will truly bring peace and happiness. So when the guilt of all of that holiday gluttony descends upon us, we should take a walk and stimulate the expression of those anti-Dukkha genes.