Celebrations of all kinds–but preferably without druggie gunmen and nasty brides breaking up over chocolate tortes–have been known to fire up neurotransmitters in the brain and protect brain cells in the prefrontal cortex from shrinkage and death. When people sing, dance, and eat with their friends, they are generally happier than when they are at home alone worrying about global warming.
Beliefnet’s Wendy Schuman just interviewed author Barbara Ehrenreich about her newest book, “Dancing in the Streets,” which explores humanity’s desire for collective joy, historically shown in ecstatic revels of feasting, costuming, and dancing.
Ehrenreich believes festivities and ecstatic rituals are traditional cures for depression, and she cites some examples among different cultures throughout the world. For example, with certain Islamic groups in North Africa, a Zar (or healer) may be called, coming with musicians and lots of people, to visit a woman who is very depressed.
I’m not sure I’d take the Zar and his choir (or belly dancers?) over my Zoloft, but I do think everyone (and especially depressives) should take partying more seriously.