staying sharp cover

Emmons, Henry (M.D.) and Alter, David (Ph.D.), Staying Sharp: 9 Keys for a Youthful Brain through Modern Science and Ageless Wisdom, Simon and Schuster (Touchstone Books), New York, 2015 (280pp.$25)

 Despite the haughty platitudes about American “exceptionalism” in health care, ours is a nation plagued by ill-health—stress, obesity, heart-disease, chronic fatigue, prescription drug abuse and hypertension are each symptomatic of a society gone haywire in a plague of overwork, income inequality and employment uncertainty, light and noise pollution and traffic snarls, not to mention the distractions of television and “electronic devices”. Screen zombies and gun nuts are the signal human totems of social life today.

Although touted as a path to wellness for older folks, a new book by two Minnesota doctors is a valuable resource for any person (young or old) seeking a path toward a more resilient life. “Staying Sharp” has plenty of neuroscience couched in easy to understand language. But it also draws upon a wealth of “wisdom” teaching that is integrated with modern neurobiology, psychology, social science and natural healing systems to present a totally synchronized approach to wellbeing. Henry Emmonds is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body and natural therapies, along with compassion practice, into clinical work at Partners in Resilience in Minneapolis. His fellow-author, David Alter, is a psychologist with thirty years experience in health psychology, neuropsychology, and clinical hypnosis, and a cofounder of Partners in Healing, a center for holistic health in Minneapolis. They make a great team.

“Staying Sharp” presents its foundational teachings in an easy to comprehend analysis of brain chemistry, body physics, and the social dynamics of empathy, optimism and flexibility. Ultimately readers are urged by these two doctors to seek an authentic life that is both healthy and connected. Movement, rest, nutrition, self-delusion, attention, meditation and play all are examined in light of the latest medical and psychological studies. Taken together with Emmons two previous books, “The Chemistry of Joy” and “The Chemistry of Calm”, “Staying Sharp” is a grand amalgam of modern, science-based holistic medicine and ancient wisdom.

It can’t be easy for any of us to escape what has become a truly noisy, distasteful, nasty, angry and distracted America. But for our own sakes, and for the sake of those around us, it is time to try.