As we look back on this unprecedented year, it’s important to see our challenges as learning experiences rather than just bad experiences. Through all of the struggles, uncertainties, and anxiety, there may be some silver linings that can help us to have a much better 2021. In the first Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast episode of 2021, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen share the most important things they’ve learned in the past year, and how we can all use these lessons to be in better shape for the future.
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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Happy New Year Brain Warriors. I know we’re just coming out of a crazy year and roller coasting into another crazy year-
Let’s hope not.
… That we are grateful for you and coming into 2021 with the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, we’re now over 11 million downloads.
I am so grateful that you are my partner as we roll in to this year.
What we’re going to do this week, we’re going to talk about lessons, big lessons that we learned from the pandemic and guidance on, as this thing continues on, how to really get the right mindset for 2021.
Yeah. No, I think there’s so much we can learn from what we went through. Historically, we’ve said this already, but it’s unprecedented in our lifetime. Certainly other generations have gone through crazy things that have been super challenging, but in our lifetime, this has been a hard thing, especially for the youth to be locked down. I’m not going to lie, I actually, selfishly liked that we could force them to stay home more, because we actually like our teenagers.
I know not everybody listening to this is feeling like that, but I think some of the things that I’ve learned through this last year is, number one, I’m super grateful for the partner I have. I think that’s one thing people should pay attention to, if you’re not married yet, divorce has gone up more, what is it like-
Calls to divorce attorneys went up a 122%.
122%, so big lesson to everybody listening, especially if you are single, make sure you can actually survive a pandemic with the person you’re with. We actually got closer. I feel like we just settled in and we just enjoy each other’s company and you really do settle me down. I feel like one of the big things, not that I didn’t know this, but that really helped me is you see me, you see [inaudible [00:02:59] anxiety, but you tend to settle me down because you’ve seen me, and I really love that, so that really helped me. That’s one of the lessons: know that you can get along with people during a pandemic before you say I do. And I learned that I really like being with you during lockdown.
Yeah. No. So many families, in one study I read, eight out of 10 families actually felt closer with each other, but there’s a new study out today on a part of your brain called the Default Mode Network. What the researchers talked about was that loneliness actually activated this part of the brain where you talk to yourself, where you think about yourself and when people are isolated and alone, the chatter in their head goes up.
If you don’t know how to manage your mind, your brain will torture you, and it’s so critical, whether you’re with someone else, we’ve been blessed, we’ve had more time with our kids and we gave all of them a tantrum a week. That’s one of the big lessons is grace and forgiveness, so important during stressful times, but when you don’t know how to manage your mind, it can torture you, and so learning how to direct it is critically important.
Yeah. One thing I learned is I’m a control freak. That’s not what I learned, I kind of already knew that. I’m a control freak, but when I don’t focus on the things I can control, I am seriously upset, so this whole thing has taught me, because it’s really easy to go off the rails and focus on all the things you can’t control during times like this, but if you can just do that one thing and discipline yourself to focus on what you can control, because there’s a lot you can control, so if I just focus on what I can control, then I’m happy because I’m a control freak, but if I focus on what I can’t control, I’m instantly miserable.
So over and over and over again, with my patients, with myself, with our kids, just [inaudible [00:05:25] or grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. That is just such a foundational mental health concept. You are not stuck with the feelings you have, you can learn to change them. I had a great session last week with Dr. Joseph McLendon III, and we evaluated him. The video will come out soon. We also had a video come out recently with Jennie Garth, the actress from 90210 and many other movies and things, on her memory, but when I interviewed Joseph, he really talked about how to manage your mind-
He’s brilliant at it.
… How to not allow the unhappy thoughts, feelings, behaviors to get stuck, and it just goes with managing your mind. We’re going to have him on the podcast and talk more about it.
Yeah. One thing, I know this is a big surprise to you, but I hate being told what to do.
If I want to suffer, I just go, Tana, you need to do this now.
No, it’s not true.
Because as soon as I say that, she will go, no, and then tell me why.
You are smart enough to figure out how to get me to do what you want.
Of course. I say, you probably don’t want to do this.
Or you tell me to do the opposite. He tells me I can’t do something and I instantly want to do it. I don’t like being told what to do, but I have figured out, I don’t like being told I have to be home, but I actually like being home, so it’s a little bit of a struggle for me because I get really irritated if I turn the news on and to hear that I have to be home, but if I just leave the news off and I just settle into being home, I actually like it. I actually like being home and I like that the kids have to be home with me watching old movies and playing games. If I just forget that one part, that I’m actually being told I have to be home, then it’s okay.
What have you learned? What have been the big lessons from the pandemic that you have learned? Write it down, write to us about it. We would love to know. Take a picture of it, post it on any of your social media sites and hashtag Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. If you had to pick one thing-
… That you learned during 2020, what would it be?
That mental health is more important than literally absolutely anything. It’s more important than your job, your income, even most relationships in your life, your mental health, because your mental health determines the outcome of all of those things. During 2020, I think everyone was challenged in that area. It’s like, how is my mental health going to be coming out of this? That is, I think, the thing that not only I’ve learned, but I actually read my comments on social media, and I go in and I answer a lot of them and it’s what people have been commenting on.
I think for me, I actually wrote it down March 10th, is that mental hygiene is just as important as washing your hands. That we need to constantly be vigilant and not let that little default mode network in our brain hijack our happiness.
That no matter what situation you are in, where you focus will determine how you feel. If you focus on what’s awful, you’re going to feel awful, and if you focus on what’s amazing, you’re going to feel really good.
I have a very special treat because this is launch week for my new book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. If you actually take a screenshot and tag 10 friends, you’ve got to tag 10 friends and send it to me, I will send you a signed copy, would love to be able to send this to people who really need it, who just can’t afford to buy it. There are so many lessons in there, just lessons that I went through that I learned, and people that I know and love, so the whole point of the book is to inspire and give people hope.
Wow. That’s amazing. Stay with us.
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