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Dr Daniel and Tana Amen discuss strategies on avoiding depression, by focusing on the Four Circles of Wellness with New York Times bestselling author Jay Shetty.
Daniel G Amen, MD:
Welcome to The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
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.
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Now, Dr. Amen, I know I was speaking to your team and they share these incredible statistics with me from your work. This is what they shared: Every 14 minutes, someone commits suicide in the United States, every eight minutes, someone dies of a drug overdose. And according to a large epidemiological study, 51% of the U.S. population will struggle with a mental health issue at some point in their lives. Where do we start? Because I think looking at those stats, we all know someone or know of someone who’s going through this right now. Even if it’s not ourselves, where do we stop? What’s step one. And I’d love to hear from both of you and both of your unique approaches as to how you think people need to stop.
Well, those statistics are actually from before the pandemic. So, before March, 8% of the population struggled with significant depression, which has been creeping up over the last decades. In September was 27% just with depression. So, the mental health challenges have skyrocketed. I have never seen suicide at this level, the level of hopelessness. And when the pandemic started for me, it was actually March 10th. The End of Mental Illness had just come out. I had to trip, I was going to be in a special show in New York and that got canceled. And that night I wrote down: “Mental hygiene is just as important as washing your hands”.
So, where we all start, the end of mental illness will begin with a revolution in brain health that we see this organ. I’m in a new docuseries with Justin Bieber called Seasons, and it came out. I’ve been his doctor for a long time. And I love Justin, but, like many celebrities, sometimes he’d do what I’d say, and often they wouldn’t, but he came into my office and he said: “My brain is an organ just like my heart is an organ. If you told me I had heart problems, I’d do everything you said”.
And that’s how we need to start the revolution, is love, honor, take care of the brain. And it’s super simple. It’s three strategies: brain envy, and you’ve got to care about it, avoid things that hurt your brain, know the list and do things that help. And the little tiny habit, I talk about many tiny habits in The End of Mental Illness, but the one that’s the most important, as you go through your day, to ask yourself, whatever you’re doing: “Is this decision good for my brain or bad for it?” And if you can start answering that with information and love, love of yourself, love of your family, love of your mission, you’re going to start feeling better from a mental health perspective because ultimately your brain creates your mental health.
I love that. Before we hear from Tana, Jenny says: “Never thought about it this way. Thank you so much, guys”. Jenny says: “Amen, completely agreed with that”. Shrina agrees: “Everything starts with your brain”. We’ve got someone here, who’s that S? Anna saying:”Great information on how to get a different perspective”. Courtney says:”Mental hygiene is just as important as washing your hands”. “Absolutely love that”. So, a lot of people are agreeing with you, Dr. Amen. And Tana, I’d love to hear your perspective. Where do people stop? When you hear those statistics? I saw your reaction on your face immediately. And now that we know that those stats were from before the pandemic, and Dr. Amen has told us that it’s actually 27%. I mean, where do people stop?
So, I agree with my husband a hundred percent, but for me, it’s more personal. It’s one of the things I write about in my book. My heart goes out to people who are struggling with this right now, because there was a point in my life where I wanted to be dead. I fortunately didn’t have it within me to take my own life, but I kept praying that a truck would hit me or something would happen so it wasn’t my fault because I was wasting oxygen on the planet. When I met my husband and I started learning about our work and looking at mental health through that lens of the four circles, because I had cancer, I had all these things that happened in my life, besides the trauma growing up, that just devastated me. And it all crashed in at one time.
When I really understood those four circles, the biology, the psychology, the social circle, the spiritual circle and I realized how bankrupt I’d become an all of them, right? It’s like four tires on a car. If one goes flat, the car will drive for a while. Not well, but it’ll drive. ,If two go flat, you’re probably going to crash. And I had crashed. I had had four tires that went flat. So, the car kind of flipped. And so when I look at it through those circles, when I met my husband and I started to really look at it, I’m a neurosurgical ICU nurse. So, for me it was all biology. It was just like getting this person, stop the bleeding. But when I really started to understand this, it was so freeing for me. It released the shame. And if I could tell people watching one thing, if you’re struggling with this right now, I wanted to be dead.
It’s the worst time in my life. It was a pain, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to rip my skin off, only I couldn’t get away from the pain. It’s not like a toothache where you can take a pill. It’s something you can’t escape. But what I couldn’t know then that I know now is that, that pain, all of that pain, all of that shame, all of everything I felt back then, there’s no way I could know that that would be the thing going forward. That would become my purpose in life. So, please just hang on, get help, reach out.
And one of the things you talked about in the book is about pain and to purpose, which is just so important. And another thing I think that was really critical is learning how to not believe every stupid thing.
Discipline. You’re a monk. You know this. Discipline.
Disciplining your mind is so important. So, whenever you’re sad or whenever you’re mad or whenever you’re nervous or out of control, write down what you’re thinking. And then just ask yourself: is it true? You don’t have to believe every stupid thing you think. How many of your listeners were good at talking back to their parents when they were teenagers? I was excellent. And my mom will totally verify that I was a pain when I was a teenager, but no one ever taught me to talk back to myself, that thoughts are not real, right? It’s sort of like the weather, it comes, it goes, it’s not the thoughts you have that cause suffering, it’s the thoughts you attach to, it’s the ones you let stick around. And so, yes, get your brain right. But then you have to program properly, and where you bring your attention always determines how you feel.
And so, learning how to focus your mind on what’s helpful rather than what’s hurtful. And during the pandemic tax, I did really well. I mean, she’s an ICU nurse, but when the societal disruption came, when the riots came, she sort of lost her mind a little bit. [crosstalk [00:08:30] And one of the most important thing she did was turn off the news because when she watched the news, she’d start screaming at the TV and it wasn’t helpful for her.
And you know, Jay, the news is actually not the news anymore. The news is about driving clicks. And what does the brain pay attention to first? Fear, negativity, and that’s what they’re doing, they’re driving that, which is increasing the incidence of mental illness. And in The End of Mental Illness, I have a writing device where I just imagined if I was an evil ruler and I wanted to create mental illness around the world, what would I do? I’d create our new system. I’d create our food system. I’d let children hit soccer balls with their head because you know, happiness is actually in the front middle part of the brain. And you’re really going to hit that repeatedly. And it’s not going to cause a happy a person.
Everything that you just shared there, it makes so much sense. And I hope everyone who’s listening or watching right now, I hope you’re taking this in.
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