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Can Dancing Improve Your Brain Function? with Julianne Hough

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Right now we’re experiencing an unprecedented period in history. With so many of us stuck at home, the temptation is high to put on Netflix and binge eat. But what if this period is really an opportunity for transformation? In the first episode of a series with dancer/actress Julianne Hough, she and the Amens discuss how expressing the body through movement such as dance can rewire your brain.

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Dr Daniel Amen:
Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen:
And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen:
The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging, to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit Amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen:
The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to Brainmd.com
Dr Daniel Amen:
Hey everybody, we are just so excited and honored to have Emmy award-winning actress, singer, performer, Julianne Hough, known to audiences around the world, world of film, television, music. She became a household name virtually overnight. Is a two-time professional champion on ABC's top-rated Dancing with the Stars. I mean, who she is. But what we're going to talk about today is the intersection between dance and the brain. She has a new dance method called KINGRY, which she's done on Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus. Julianne, both Tana and I are just so overjoyed to have you on The Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Tana Amen:
Yes, thank you.
Julianne Hough:
Thank you so much. I'm so honored to be included and to have a conversation that I'm so passionate about with you.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Well, and this is a hard time. I mean we're going to get into sort of the neuroscience of dance and your passion and why it's important to you. But before we started, we were just talking about the anxiety, and trauma, and grief the many people are experiencing. But it's also as you were talking about, a time to heal.
Tana Amen:
I love what you were saying, it's about being the eternal optimist. Maybe you can share that with our audience.
Julianne Hough:
Yeah, of course. I mean, look, we are in an unprecedented time. Nothing like this has happened for 100 years, and there's a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding it. I'm an internal optimist and so sometimes I can be annoying to be around because I always see the bright side of things. But what I am really grateful for that I keep having gratitude moments of every morning is looking outside in Los Angeles and seeing blue skies, and the green on the mountains, and feeling the air for the first time that doesn't feel polluted, and just realizing that the earth is healing itself and recalibrating and giving us an opportunity to do the same.
Julianne Hough:
Look, at the end of the day, I know I have a luxury and a privilege that I have a home and that I am healthy and safe, where a lot of people don't have that. And so my part and my contribution to society is to raise my vibration of gratitude and positivity to share that hope and joy that we can all receive in the world. I was talking to someone else the other day about how it's like a cocoon situation. We're safe at home. We are cocooning, where we are growing, where we can delayer all of the past belief systems of this old paradigm of how the world has worked, and actually transform into the people we want to become, as a new humanity steps into this new age and that's what I'm excited about.
Tana Amen:
I love that. I love what you said about what you have to offer and what you're contributing. I've read a little bit over time about your story and I think your vulnerability over just what you've shared about your life and how you've overcome, those stories of hope helped people, I think, especially when they're having a hard time. I just want to thank you for that. I mean, it's easy for people to look at someone like you or even someone like us and go, "Oh, yeah, but it's easy for them," and that's not true. I just thank you for being vulnerable in the past and sharing things about yourself. I just appreciate it.
Julianne Hough:
Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Well, some people are stuck at home. They ask us all the time, "Well what do I do?" And too often they sit in front of the couch and get on Netflix, when exercise during this time is so important for your sanity. Head to head against antidepressants, exercise has been shown to be equally effective. Plus exercise has no side effects. It only has good effects.
Tana Amen:
And for some of us, it's therapy.
Julianne Hough:
I have a question. Exercises is prescribed, right? When you go to therapy, exercise is prescribed, as a prescription. Maybe we can actually finally find a prescription to dance, because I think that that is one of the healthiest things that we can do for our brain, because it activates an emotion as well. I mean, you know more about the brain than I do, but the little research that I have had, in comparison, has shown me that when you activate your life force energy by moving and exercising and getting your blood pumping and all of that, you're accessing all this life force energy. But when you dance, you're actually creating an emotion, which is a new memory or experience. And that actually helps build new connectors in the brain, which is healthy for the brain. We're de-stressing, we're moving our body, we're getting healthy from the inside out. But then we're also creating new belief systems, which I think is what we need in the world right now. So let's do that. [crosstalk 00:06:37].
Tana Amen:
It's been a long time. Right?
Dr Daniel Amen:
I have.
Tana Amen:
He's been talking about dance for a long time, and how much he likes it.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Well, but there's a specific reason. And how we met, who works with you, who's one of your dancers, had a bad car accident and had a head injury. She came to our Chicago clinic and saw Dr. Creado, who we love-
Tana Amen:
I love Dr. Creado.
Dr Daniel Amen:
And her brain looked way better than we thought, given what had happened to it. And that's when she told us about what she did and about how KINRGY and you-
Julianne Hough:
It's KINRGY. Yeah, KINRGY.
Dr Daniel Amen:
And so that's how we got introduced. And one of the reasons I've been a huge fan of dance... Now, I step on her, so that's another discussion we don't have to have right now. But if people see the brain, here we're looking underneath the brain. Well, the back bottom part of the brain is called the cerebellum and the cerebellum is Latin for a little brain because it's only 10% of the brain's volume, but it contains half of the brain's neurons.
Julianne Hough:
Wow.
Dr Daniel Amen:
I call it the Rodney Dangerfield part of the brain because it gets no respect, but it's incredibly important. It's involved in physical coordination, but also thought coordination, how quickly you can integrate new information. So how do you activate the brain, is you activate the cerebellum with coordination exercises and dance, which you've already said is way more than exercise. But it's activating this most important part of the brain, which then helps with memory. It helps with learning, it helps with processing speed, along with mood. I mean, it's like now, this is something you want a bottle.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Since 1987, the incidents of antidepressant use has gone up 400% in the United States. 23% of women between the ages of 20 and 60 are taking antidepressant medication. That's not okay with me. If we can teach the world to dance, we would probably cut that in half.
Julianne Hough:
Oh, that is like [crosstalk 00:09:17].
Tana Amen:
[inaudible 00:09:17] recently lost someone very close to her and she was grieving and she was sad, and she was lonely. She took up dancing and suddenly she was... Well, right now, sadly, she's not able to do it as much, but it made her happy. She said, "This is the one thing that is making me happy." And so I thought, "That's really cool." For a grieving, older female to be able to say that about dance, bringing her sort of back to life.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Well, and it's something people can do at home.
Julianne Hough:
You can do dance anywhere and I think there's a big misconception that you have to be good, or that you have to do something right to dance, and that's just not the case. We were born to move our bodies. We were designed to dance. When you look at babies and they're in their highchairs, the minute they hear music, what do they do? They just start grooving. I mean, if you look right now, all the things people are posting on social media are of kids dancing and people dancing because it brings joy. And so our bodies are designed to move and to celebrate our freedom of expression. And somewhere along our journey, we told ourselves that we weren't good enough, or that we're not dancers, or that we had to be perfect in what we did and that's just not the case.
Julianne Hough:
What KINRGY does is, we activate people's imaginations to come back to that child and enjoyment and self-expression. While we're doing that, we're breathing, so we're activating this internal energy and then we're moving our body at the same time, so we're completely present on what we're doing, where we can't focus on anything else because we're just focused on our body moving and our breath and we're activating our imagination to play. When people start doing that, all of a sudden they have all these releases of emotion that happens and then they feel free within themselves, and this anxiety or this depression that feels heavy, all of a sudden feels liberated.
Julianne Hough:
Again, maybe you can talk more about why this works so much with the brain and the functionality. But I've seen people who have literally transformed their belief system of what's possible, where before they've felt like, "Oh, well, this is my life and that's going to be it the rest of my life." And then after they do this class, they think, "I want to create. I want to become this. I want to cook again," or all of a sudden there's effervescence for life that just happens and they feel alive again.
Dr Daniel Amen:
When we come back, I want you to tell us more about your story, and how this became important to you. Stay with us. We're here with Juliana Hough.
Tana Amen:
If you're enjoying The Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode, and while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating, as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen:
If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code, podcast 10, to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at Amenclinics.com, or a 10% discount on all supplements at Brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.