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This week’s series of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast features more content from the popular End of Mental Illness Live Class, in which Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen help you to begin your brain health journey. In this episode, the Amens discuss how you can change the way you feel by becoming conscious of where you bring your attention, and what you can do if you feel stuck in a rut of negative thinking.
To take The End of Mental Illness 6 Week Class and Challenge, visit https://endofmentalillness.com/brainhealthchallenge/
Daniel 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.
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.
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:
Hi, this is Dr. Daniel Amen.
And, I’m Tana Amen.
We’re so excited you’re with us for this week series. What we’re doing is we’re playing the live class from the end of mental illness.
We wanted you to join us on this journey because we had such a good time in our class and the people who joined us had just saw such incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. So, we wanted to share this with you and we hope that you will join us in the challenge.
Hey everybody. I am here with my gorgeous wife, Tana, who just told me I told you so.
I told you so. My favorite words.
So, we are grateful for all the people that are on from Florida and Detroit and Green Bay Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Atlanta, Chicago, California, Idaho. My goodness. Welcome. We are so happy you are with us. We’re going to talk tonight about killing the ants and mental fitness. We are hoping everyone has pre-ordered The End of Mental Illness. It’s coming out now on less than no two weeks from today.
Two weeks from today. And, part of ending mental illness is learning how to not believe every stupid thing you think.
So, we’ve talked about how we need to get rid of the term mental illness and call these things what they really are. Brain health issues that steal your mind. We talked about bright minds, how to prevent or treat the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. And, last time you were gone and we all missed you terribly.
I know I missed you guys, but I was working with Chloe. That was really fun. I have to admit, it’s always fun for me when I get to be on set with Chloe. So, yeah.
We have a daughter who’s a young star and, but once you optimize the physical functioning of the brain, once you optimize the hardware of your soul, you then have to program it properly. And, so we talk about ants or automatic negative thoughts that steal your happiness.
Yeah, it’s really, so this last week I posted something on Instagram and you never know what’s going to hit with people, it’s so weird. But, it was just a saying, “Don’t let your mind bully your body.” Which is essentially killing the ants. And, it sort of resonated with people. And, it’s just so true. We so often allow our minds to bully our bodies, which is a really bad thing to happen. But, what really struck me, because these last few weeks I’ve been fairly tired, running around like crazy and we have sort of an adjustment in our house.
And, so it struck me, one of the things that causes people to allow their minds to bully their bodies or the rest of their lives is when something happens that changes your routine. Your sleep pattern is interrupted or you don’t eat on time or it’s not always just your thinking all by itself. Sometimes there are certain things that cause your thinking to shift, right? Maybe you’re tired or your blood sugar is low or, and so you want to really be paying attention to some of those things. And, as we go, maybe we can talk about that.
Well, the ants are more likely to attack when you’re at that time of your menstrual cycle for women.
And, when you go through-
But, by the way, if you’re a man, never say that. You don’t get to say it if you’re a man. At all.
No, no, if you’ve got five sisters, you totally can say it.
No, not say it out loud, not out loud.
Not to your wife, at least.
But, if you’re a psychiatrist you totally can say it because you want to know the truth that makes people vulnerable.
But it is true. It’s true.
It’s totally true.
When you’re not at that part of your cycle it’s, “Oh I know that’s true.” But, when you’re at that part of your cycle, you don’t want to hear that from your husband.
Or if your progesterone is low.
At all. Oh yeah. No all in the six o’clock news. I know it, so, yeah.
Here are progesterone. Your ants go high when your progesterone level is low. So, if you haven’t slept, if you haven’t eaten.
For me, sleep and not exercising, I just am not the same person.
If you’re going through stress.
Somebody from Canada, Arizona, Mexico, we have all of North America. Love that.
Does lack of sleep affect most people that same way as extreme as it affects me?
I just can’t shake it.
More people die from sleep related accidents, from being tired from sleep-related accidents than from alcohol.
Yeah, it’s weird.
So, the words you use matter for how you feel, how you act and how you get along with other people. So, today we’re really going to talk about the words you use and getting the language in your head correct. So, these are some simple principles to train your mind. Whenever you have a negative thought, the brain releases chemicals that immediately make you feel bad. Your hands get colder, they start sweating, your breathing becomes erratic, your muscles get tense and you just don’t think right. We actually did a study on negative thoughts versus positive thoughts, and negative thoughts cause your cerebellum temporal lobe and frontal lobes to all drop in activity.
Yep. So, it’s interesting today because I’ve been so tired lately and sort of stressed. So, I went outside and I know all this stuff, but when you’re tired and you’re busy, you don’t do it, you forget. And, so I’m, “I know I need to step back and do the things I know even though I don’t feel like doing them cause I’m in a bad mood and I’m tired.” But, I went outside because it was such a beautiful day. Sat in the sun and did my gratitude. The thought, just five minutes. Five minutes of focusing on things you’re grateful for. Just let the sun sort of hit me and focused on gratitude. And, then I went in the oxygen chamber and I came out like a whole different person. An hour later I was just a different person. So, it just really works.
The opposite is also true. Whenever you have positive thoughts, happy thoughts, hopeful thoughts, your brain releases a completely different set of chemicals that make you feel good. Immediately your hands get warmer, drier, your breathing slows down, your muscles become relaxed and you feel happier. Where you bring your attention determines how you feel. It’s worth repeating where you bring your attention, determines how you feel. Thoughts are automatic, they just happen. They’re based on complex chemical reactions, memories, scents, sounds. So, they just happen and they lie. This is the one thing I didn’t know before I went to psychiatry school is that thoughts lie. They lie a lot.
We grow up thinking that, “Well, I have a thought, it must be be the truth.”
But, no one teaches you that the thoughts that run around in your head-
May just be ridiculous.
Ridiculous. Sabotaging you. I look back to my adolescence and I’m, “If I could just erase all of that.” But, I didn’t have the tools.
Do you have an example?
Oh my gosh, “I’m fat, I’m ugly.” Things that all adolescents think. But, it’s you let it ruin your whole day. “I’m not as good as other people. Why is it so much harder for me?” All of the things that most adolescents think. And, you just let it ruin you.
I understand. More than you know. But, you don’t have to believe every thought you have. You can learn to kill the ants. And, so I wrote this cool little book I’m very proud of called Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions : Don’t Let The Ants Steal Your Happiness. And, we talk about different kinds of ants. We’ll go through each one of them, but here’s the exercise.
Whenever you feel sad or mad or nervous or out of control, write down what you’re thinking and then ask yourself “Is it true?” So, for example, these are all or nothing ants where things are either all good or all bad “I’m the best mother that ever lived” or “I’m the worst mother.”
I hear that one all the time, all the time.
All the time. And, the fact is the world is gray. In fact, in college, if there was a question on a test, things are all this way all around.
Yep, it’s almost always wrong.
It’s almost always wrong because so few things are either black or white. And, so my patients are getting better at this month, everybody’s been getting better. I’ve been pretty happy about that. Then I’m, “I’m the best doctor that ever lived.” Then I might come up with someone who’s not getting better because not everybody gets better. I’m, “Oh, I’m the worst doctor that ever lived.” Now, thankfully I practice this so I don’t beat myself up. All or nothing. Eliminate those. Just the bad ants, where you focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right in a situation.
So, if you spoke in front of 2000 people, so you did that and did a masterful job. I was so proud of you.
But, if one person fell asleep in the front row, you just go, “Oh well, I was so bored.”
Yeah or in my case, the woman that kept giving me dirty looks not, and she was throwing me off and I’m, “Why is that woman giving me dirty looks?” It was everyone else was giving me positive feedback. This woman was just staring at me and I’m, “Oh, this is really creepy.” I’d never had that happen before. I’m getting so upset. So, I stopped looking at her and I just looked at other people, but every once in a while I’d catch her and then afterwards I’m, “Why was that woman so bothered? What was her problem?”
She comes up to me with that same look on her face, so intense and so aggravated and she goes, “I need to hire you for my next event.” I’m, “Okay.” It was just her expression of intensity when she had something on her mind. She was unaware that that’s how she looked, but it was making me feel like, she didn’t like me and that wasn’t what she was thinking at all. It’s just she was just super focused. It’s crazy.
Can you imagine if she was your mother?
Oh gosh. That was so scary. It scared me. I was, “What is happening right now?” And, what she was doing was just really focusing, so. You don’t know what they’re thinking.
Negative look from someone else may mean nothing more than they’re constipated, you don’t know.
Or they just are focused.
I’m glad we can do that.
Do you remember that? Do you remember I got came off stage and was, “What did I do wrong? Did I offend that woman?”
Guilt beating ants where you think in words like “should, must, ought or have too.”
This is mad.
I also call them “should and shaming.”
You should all over yourself.
Dragons where we’ll talk about that coming up over the next year. But-
I’m good at this one.
You’re really good at this one.
I am. I’m good at shoulding all over.
And, when you grow up Catholic like I did, or you know what? I’ve realized it could be Jewish, it could be Russian, it could be Asian, that the should and shaming ants are just so prevalent in our society. Now, let me be clear. Of course there are things you should and should not do, but trying to motivate behavior with guilt, just doesn’t work.
If I think I should go see my dad, well, I won’t do it because the thought makes me feel bad. But, if I replace should with “I want to” or “it’s my goal to” then I’ll go do it.
It changes how you feel.
So, if, when I think about my relationship with my dad, well I want to go see him I love him. He’s one of my best friends or it’s my goal to have a relationship with my dad. And, so then I do it because I don’t feel bad about it and I don’t want you doing things because you should do them. I want you doing things because they fit your goals because it makes your life better.
Like, I should kiss you at night.
You should do that.
It fits my goals.
But, you still should.
Wow. But, as soon as you go, should, then you don’t want to.
Labeling ants. This is where you label someone else negative.
This is when you get on the freeway in Los Angeles.
Yeah, it’s full of ants.
The problem with labeling and psychiatrists do it all the time. “Will, Oh, you’re bipolar, you’re borderline, you’re antisocial, you’re narcissistic.” The politicians do it. “Oh, you’re a Republican.”
I can’t turn on the TV.
“You’re a liberal, you’re left-wing, you’re right-wing, you have no wings.” Whatever. The problem, when you label someone with a negative term or yourself, you can’t deal with them anymore, but you lump them with all of the jerks or brats or idiots or clowns that you’ve ever known and you end up not dealing with them. You deal with all of them, which makes it impossible. And, so labeling doesn’t help. Labeling [crosstalk [00:16:31].
Yeah. It’s almost like you dehumanize people when you do that. When I’m on the freeway and I get frustrated and you say something to yourself, hopefully. But, you get so frustrated, but you don’t see that person as a person. It’s just this anonymous sort of faceless person. It’s easier to be mad when you, then all of a sudden you pull up, you see this little old lady driving and it’s, “Aww. They become human again. Right? So, it’s much easier to dehumanize people. I think.
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