EPISODES       SUBSCRIBE       REVIEWS       CONTACT

COVID-19: Get Off Your Couch & Do This To Feel Better, with Julianne Hough

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

Before she danced with the stars, Julianne Hough experienced the anxiety and depression that comes with leaving home at 10 to pursue a passion. However, she soon discovered that through the therapy of dance she was able to transform her brain and her thoughts to a more optimistic baseline. In this second episode in a series with Julianne, she illustrates why dancing is the universal language, and why we should all learn to speak it.

Read Full Transcript

Dr Daniel Amen:
Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Aman.
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:
Welcome back. We're here with Julianne Hough. We're having just such a great time talking about the importance of dance and the brain. Julianne, tell us how this became important to you. Why is this important to you? Tell us a bit about your story.
Julianne Hough:
Absolutely. I grew up the baby of five kids, and dance was always relevant in our household. I mean, we constantly had music on, we were singing, we were dancing. That was our form of connection, connection to self, to feel self-expressed, but then also to connect with each other as a family unit. I then left my home at 10 years old without my family and pursued dance as a professional dancer and doing competitions, and then did it more so in the world.
Julianne Hough:
Dance has become a universal language. It is a language that you do not need to speak and articulate the same words, but when you dance, you connect with someone and you see them for who they really are because you enjoy their company. You don't have to speak, you just know who they are. As this was happening throughout my life, I've danced my whole life, but I didn't realize the impact until a few years ago when I started doing research of mental health.
Julianne Hough:
When I was growing up and doing competitions, I lived in London. I was a normal teenager without my family, working very, very hard. I had a lot of depression from being lonely and a lot of anxiety, because I felt like I had to achieve, achieve, achieve and if I didn't, I would go home and then if I went home, then my whole life would be over. Especially as a teenager when you're in development, it's life or death at that point.
Julianne Hough:
What I realized though later on, is that with that anxiety and then that depression and sadness, if I didn't have my dance and my form of expression, I would be a very different person. My belief systems, my positivity would probably be very low in comparison to what they are now because I felt like through movement, through dancing, through that freedom of expression, I was able to transform that energy, that anxiety, that stress or that depression, and liberate it for me to move on to the next day and not hold onto it.
Julianne Hough:
A few years ago when I realized, you know what, I've done a lot of amazing things, I feel very fulfilled with what I've accomplished in my life, this next chapter of my life is about contribution. How can I give what I have learned throughout my life and what has helped me become who I am in my most free, effervescent self? That was through movement and dance and giving people an opportunity to heal themselves from the inside out, doing something that doesn't have to be scared, they're scared that ... Sorry, not doing something that they would have fear doing, like maybe going to therapy or something like that. Dance is therapy, dance is a form of expression for you to maybe say with your body or your mind or whatever that sometimes that you say something that maybe you didn't feel like you could speak in the past.
Dr Daniel Amen:
When you were training to be a dancer-
Julianne Hough:
Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Was mental training part of that? To get your mind right? I mean, I understand most dance teachers don't really understand the brain and how that works, but was there any mental training?
Tana Amen:
Like peak performance type thing?
Dr Daniel Amen:
Because dancers are vulnerable to eating disorders, they're vulnerable. I've treated many of them over the years for anxiety and depression, and I found many of them never get the mental training that is critical to be part of an athlete's journey, because you're really an athlete.
Tana Amen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Julianne Hough:
Oh, 100%. In fact, if you look at, we're artistic athletes. The reason why we started in the first place was out of passion, out of love, out of artistry, and then something happened where we took that art and we said, "We need to win and we need to be the best, and in order to be the best, these are the things that have to happen." Somewhere, something shifted from the artistry and the expression to now the mechanics of how to succeed. That, I totally agree with you. The art and the passion, probably with a lot of those people that have had eating disorders or addictions, whatever it may have been, it's because they lost the reason they started. A lot of what I went through as well was not a lot of mental training of continuing to enjoy and celebrate. It was win or lose, that's your option.
Julianne Hough:
For what I want to give to people, especially young people who are, whether it's dance or soccer or whatever it is, that they continue to celebrate their passions and really seeing the artistry versus it becoming something that defines their worth.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Well, I think so often, and this was on Dancing with the Stars, Donny Osmond is actually a friend of mine and I like to think he won or was runner up, I mean, it was something.
Julianne Hough:
Yes, he won. Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen:
But it's that number people hold up and they attach a number to you. What makes me more hesitant to do it in public is I don't want someone holding up whether it's a 2.3 or whatever that would be.
Julianne Hough:
Yeah, people judging you.
Tana Amen:
Because we're all afraid of being judged.
Dr Daniel Amen:
It's that self-consciousness we have and we don't want to feel less than or inferior to other people. I actually think it's the inferior flawed dragon that's driving the epidemic of teenage suicide, because of social media.
Tana Amen:
Yes.
Julianne Hough:
Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen:
It's like, "I'm not as pretty, I'm not as smart. I'm not as wealthy. I'm not as whatever."
Julianne Hough:
Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen:
But your message is that doesn't matter, what matters is you do it.
Tana Amen:
And that you do it for yourself.
Julianne Hough:
Yeah, you're doing it for yourself. Our KINRGY philosophy is once you can connect to yourself, first and foremost, put the oxygen mask on for you first. Then you can relate and see the people around you with no separation or division or judgment, but just who they are. Then you can actually experience the world and it's most true and pure form, which is love and acceptance.
Julianne Hough:
I can't even imagine the amount of information and content that we are receiving today versus a hundred years ago, that that content is defining who we are and our self-worth.
Tana Amen:
Yeah, [crosstalk 00:08:37].
Julianne Hough:
On social media, young girls, young men, the suicide rates, the depression, the anxiety is because we're receiving content constantly. It's like a library of information that, at least for me and what KINRGY is about, is about getting rid of all that information, like clearing that information out that doesn't serve you so that you can actually create the authenticity and truth that wants to come from within you and let that out versus receiving all of this coming in at you.
Tana Amen:
I've never ... Well, actually it's not true. When I was in high school, I was a dancer, but I was never at that level or very good at it competitively or anything like that. But a totally different I can relate to what you're saying, I took up martial arts about 15 years ago and all of that negative talk that kids go through went through my head. I'm too old, I'm never going to be able to compete. I thought finally, but as an adult I was able to talk myself through it and go, "I'm not doing it for that reason. I'm doing it for myself. I'm doing it for self-empowerment, for all of these different reasons."
Tana Amen:
Once I was able to talk myself through it and go and just hit pads and just have fun with it, I fell in love with it. There's this passion that happens. I'm listening to you and your passion, I'm like, "Oh, that's how I feel when I walk into a dojo."
Julianne Hough:
Yes.
Tana Amen:
You have to be able to talk yourself through that though and be able to do that, and I think kids have a harder time. I love what you're doing, helping them do that and not define themselves by what other people are saying about them.
Dr Daniel Amen:
How did you go from this sort of incredible competition and competitiveness to being the eternal optimist? Was that something you were born with or that was something you developed over time?
Julianne Hough:
I think a combination of both. I think I was definitely born that way, and then I think life and survival tactics and social conditioning and all of that happens and you build up layers of survival mechanisms. All of that, I've had to unlearn. I had to unlearn the thing that I learned to protect myself. I had to unlearn it around 25 years old. I got really lucky that I was 25, some people don't start unlearning and delayering until they're in their 60s you know? Everybody's on their own timeline, so again, it's not about competition, but I got lucky that I found this awareness of, wow, I'm not living my life for me anymore, I'm living it to be validated for the success that I have achieved. As I started to unpack and delayer, I just realized, man, I don't ever want to live any other way than just feeling free. So that's how I feel.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Well, it's funny when ... Tana and I, when we work with our patients, we help them not believe every stupid thing they think. We call it killing the ants, the automatic negative thoughts that steal your life.
Tana Amen:
But it's work, it's a discipline.
Dr Daniel Amen:
The exercise is whenever you feel sad or mad or nervous or out of control, write down what you're thinking. Then we have these five questions, but the question that I love is, who would you be or how would you feel without the thought? If you didn't have the thought-
Tana Amen:
If you couldn't think it.
Dr Daniel Amen:
... if you couldn't think it. Invariably, what people say is they would feel free.
Tana Amen:
Free.
Julianne Hough:
Free.
Tana Amen:
Free and peaceful.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Learning to manage your mind is absolutely essential. But back to dance for a little bit, why I got so excited about it was at Amen Clinics, what we do is brain imaging. We looked at Rebecca's brain, we do a study called brain SPECT imaging. SPECT looks at blood flow and activity, it looks at how your brain works. One of the first things I learned was mild traumatic brain injuries ruin people's lives and nobody knows about it, because most psychiatrists never look at people's brains. So that's been sort of my professional fight to get psychiatrists look at the brain.
Dr Daniel Amen:
But then I realized hitting soccer balls with your head is just flat out stupid. Your brain is soft, about the consistency of soft butter. Your skull is really hard and has sharp bony ridges. Playing football, I did the big NFL study when the NFL was lying they had a problem. We scanned 300 NFL players and the level of damage is terrible. Don't let your kids play football. It's like, "Well, what do you want them to do? Play table tennis?" and I would go, "Yes, and dance," because there's no brain injuries with dance, mostly no brain injuries with dance, it's great aerobic exercise. Then as you're teaching us, it also helps you to connect emotionally to yourself and then to whoever you're dancing with. Now of course, if you drink when you dance, that ruins the benefit.
Julianne Hough:
But that's where, again, we throw these sober dance parties-
Tana Amen:
Sounds great.
Julianne Hough:
... because the endorphins, the experience that you get from the high that you get, the expansiveness that you feel, is what people drink.
Tana Amen:
Right.
Julianne Hough:
If you can just allow yourself to just be a little vulnerable, just go in and it's not about doing it right or wrong or good or bad, you just express yourself and have fun with it, all of a sudden the high is higher than anything you can experience and there is no comedown. In fact, it's more sustainable.
Dr Daniel Amen:
I love it.
Julianne Hough:
Yeah, I'm so grateful for the work that you have done and that you're continuing to do it, because I really do believe, especially in this time, we're shifting into a new paradigm of how the world works. People are connecting to what's important and what's not important, and how do they clean their slate and have a new path in front of them and a healthier path that gives more freedom, more aliveness, more knowledge and less brain fog, and just allowing us to live our most extraordinary life. That's my hope and my dream for the world.
Dr Daniel Amen:
Awesome. When we come back, we're going to talk more about dance and the brain. Stay with us.
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. 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 Podcast10 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.