This Is Your Brain On Meditation

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

In his brand-new book, Feel Better Fast and Make It Last, Daniel G. Amen, MD’s describes how you can harness your mind to steer your thoughts towards feelings of relaxation and happiness. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Amen and Tana Amen discuss the amazing ways that meditation, hypnosis, and visualization can cause physical changes that leave you feeling better fast.


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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. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. Feel Better Fast and Make It Last. The book is based on BRAIN-XL. Got to get your brain right. Rational mind. Attachments, that's us. Inspiration, why do you care? Nutrition. The X factor, which is one of the big lessons from imaging. And L is love. You do the right thing not because you should but because you love yourself. You love your life, you love your mission.
We're on the brain part, and what we've learned here at Amen Clinics is that things you wouldn't think of that are related to brain function clearly are. Like hypnosis, meditation, diaphragmatic breathing. They're all changing your brain in a healthy way. We've actually published a number of studies on meditation, and it fooled us. It is clearly a technique that will help you feel better fast. So you would think, "Oh, you're meditating, you're spaced out and relaxed." It actually fires up your brain rather than settles it down, and it fires up the most human thoughtful part of your brain, your prefrontal cortex, so it can actually calm your emotional brain.
Tana Amen: And that makes sense because I love to meditate, and what's really interesting about meditation, and I've never really been able to explain it to people because it's ... When you say the word "meditation", people still are like ... It just sounds like something weird they don't want to take the time to do. But what meditation does for me, I feel like I get so much more done, which seems like you'd have more energy, but I'm calm doing it. So it's just an odd thing. I feel focused and relaxed doing it, and I end up getting more done.
And I get busy, we've been really busy this last week or so, and I don't do it. And all of a sudden, I just feel scattered and frenetic, and I'm like, "Oh, I know I need to get back into that little habit even if it's five minutes." I often even say, "I don't have time. I just am so busy right now." But I know I do because even when I'm taking my daughter around to her lessons or whatever, I can sit in my car and do it for five minutes. It's just when I skip doing it, that's when I have trouble.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And feel better fast. You feel better almost immediately-
Tana Amen: Almost immediately.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... when you do it. What techniques do you use that you can share with the audience to help them feel better faster?
Tana Amen: I love mindfulness. You talk about mindfulness. I know you like the loving-kindness meditation. I really like it also. That one and a grounding meditation that I do, which is super fast. And that's just one that I sort of came up with on my own. I have a mantra that I do, and it's actually one that I came up with for my martial arts, but I've learned to incorporate it into my daily practice, which is just how I ground myself, so I'm aware, I am focused, I am grounded. And I just do this really quick little mantra where I close my eyes, and I visualize being grounded, aware, focused, grateful, and I just sort of feel connected and grounded. And I can just close my eyes for three or four minutes, and it's amazing how I just breathe and feel myself being grounded and connected. And it's amazing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Say more about that.
Tana Amen: Okay. I close my eyes. For me, prayer and meditation are connected. Okay? Maybe they're not for everybody, but for me they are. We're Christian, and we pray a lot, so for me they're connected. And one of the reasons I do that is because, why I connect them, is because I have monkey mind. So to just shut my eyes-
Dr. Daniel Amen: We talk about monkey mind in the book. We're going to get that-
Tana Amen: Oh, dear Lord.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... when we talk about rational mind.
Tana Amen: Well, and people would say, "I can't clear my mind." Well, I can't either. If I just try to shut my eyes and clear my mind, it doesn't work. So what I do is I close my eyes, and I talk first, right? So I do all my talking to God, I get it all out. I pray for all the people I love. I sort of visualize, do all this stuff first. I visualize people I love being surrounded by light and do all that stuff and visualize myself being grounded. Then I focus on my breathing because then I've got it sort of all out of my head. And then I listen to God.
So I think of prayer as talking to God, I think of meditation as listening to God. And so then I'm quiet, I focus on my breathing. And then I can feel myself sort of being grounded, if that makes sense, and aware and connected. It puts me in this very relaxed, very aware, very just connected state. And it also is a way for me to connect with all the people I love. Right? So I see all the people I love, and I pray for them, and I wish them well. I think about forgiveness and empathy, which isn't always an easy thing for me. I'm very justice-oriented.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We're going to talk about forgiveness coming up because that is clearly ... Holding onto a grudge will make you feel bad. Forgiveness can actually help you feel better very quickly. So meditation-
Tana Amen: And we have a series of videos-
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... and then-
Tana Amen: ... on meditation. Both of us do. You are masterful at hypnosis, and I've actually done some things on meditation to help people. So both of us have those resources available to people.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Another technique I talk about in the book of Feeling Better Fast is warming your hands because we talked about in the fight-or-flight response how when you get stressed, your hands get cold, your feet get cold. Well, there's actually a biofeedback technique where if you can learn to warm your hands with your mind, it has an immediate relaxation response. And so I've been doing this, goodness, for 30 years with my patients.
What do you do? You imagine something that would warm your hands. And not everything's going to work for everybody, every image, but we want you to find, well, what would work for you? One of the most powerful ones is in your mind imaging holding someone's warm hand or touching their warm skin.
Tana Amen: Yeah. I do that one in the mountains when it's really cold. It's amazing how much it helps.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Appreciating someone else. Putting your hands in warm sand at the beach. I love the beach, and so just imaging that can warm your hands. Imagine-
Tana Amen: I picture holding a hot cup of tea or something.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Or hot almond milk cocoa.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Sitting in a sauna. Cuddling a baby. Cuddling a warm, furry puppy or a kitten. So for us, it'd be Miso or Aslan our cat or our beautiful white shepherd. Putting your hands in front of a warm fire. Or when it's cold out, putting on warm, furry gloves. Being wrapped in a warm towel. Getting a massage with warm oil. Even holding a hot potato with gloves on.
But when you warm your hands with your mind, it counteracts that chronic stress response. And little kids can do this. And the reason little kids can do it better than adults is adults don't believe they can, where little kids-
Tana Amen: Let their imagination-
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... they don't have the [inaudible 00:08:26]. And so when my daughter [Breeann 00:08:29] was eight years old, she was so good at it that I gave a lecture on biofeedback to the local physicians in Northern California where our first clinic was, and I was giving them a lecture on biofeedback, so I took her with me. She's eight years old, and I hooked her up to the biofeedback equipment, and I said, "Sweetie, warm your hands."
And for the first two minutes, her hands just got ice cold. In fact, I'm like, "You are the worst parent on the planet, taking advantage, using your child and now she's going to have a failure response, and it'll scar her for the rest of her life." But I just whispered in her ear, "Sweetie, you know how to do this. Go to the beach, put your hands in warm sand." Because that was the thing that worked for her. And over the next 10 minutes, she warmed her hands 18 degrees.
Tana Amen: Wow, that's amazing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And just felt so proud of herself. You can do this, too. None of this is hard. Whether it's listening to hypnosis audios, meditating as Tana told you, learning how to warm your hands, you can feel better fast. One of my favorite techniques also is loving-kindness meditation, as you said, and it's so simple. I mean, like 10 minutes. Even on Brain Fit Life, our online community we have for you, it's four minutes. And it's basically, it's coming up with simple phrases directing love to yourself and to others.
So what I have is, "May I be safe and secure. May I be healthy and strong. Maybe I be happy and purposeful. May I be at peace." Repeat that about 10 times for yourself, and then direct it toward someone you're thankful for. So, "May Tana be safe and secure. May she be healthy and strong. May she be happy and purposeful. May she be at peace." And do that about 10 times. And then to someone you're neutral on, and then someone you're negative ... that you're struggling with. "May they be safe and secure, healthy and strong, happy and purposeful. May they be at peace." And then you do it to the whole world. It's so simple, but it's so powerful.
Tana Amen: It really is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's actually been found to lower your blood pressure, decrease migraine headaches, help you even with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. You're disciplining your mind to direct it in a positive way. You can feel better fast.
And if you want to get the book, we would just dearly love that, it would help us feel better fast. If you preorder it, you can go to And if you do, we'll immediately give you the introduction and first chapter of Feel Better Fast, quick-start guide with many of these techniques and just really simple, we call them "tiny habits" based on our work with B.J. Fogg and his sister Linda from the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab. We'll give you an audio series and Tana's new cookbook, The 10-Day Brain Boost. We would be grateful if you preordered the book. Stay with us.
Thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review, and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of The Brain Warrior's Way and The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook we give away every month.