Tips To Have A Better Brain & Better Grades, with Alize’ Castellanos

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

Class in is session! In this fourth and final episode with Alize’ Castellanos, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen wrap up their two-week long series on changing your brain and changing your grades. Dr. Amen, Tana, and Alize’ tackle such subjects as morning routines, communication styles, and how to remember that your teacher is a person, too, and treat them accordingly.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: 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
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
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We have just enjoyed our time with Alize’ so much. Change Your Brain, Change Your Grades, out September 17th. Get it anywhere where great books are sold, or enter our raffle. Go to Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Leave us a comment, a question, a review, and in the subject line, put Change Your Brain, Change Your Grades Raffle and we're going to raffle off a free book.
So we're going to wrap this up, and give people really practical tips on as you approach learning and you approach school, just talk about some of the most important things you've learned and Tana, also was an awesome student who graduated from Loma Linda, and I'll throw in a couple as well. What comes to mind when I said, what are just some of the most important things you do to have a better brain and better grades?
Alize’ Castellanos: Definitely balance, keeping that balance during ... I mean, like studying. It can take a lot of your time up during the school year. Definitely taking breaks in between and whether that'd be taking a walk, doing this, doing that. That's so important to prevent burnout just to start off with, but the approach to school and studying, I feel like that's very important. The approach you take to studying really determines your whole experience with studying. And for me, I've taken the approach where I enjoy it. I've already decided that I'm going to have, that this is a positive thing and I can see past it. And this is one of the things that we talked about in the book is the big picture and seeing past what you're learning if you don't like it, and seeing the significance of it and the importance. So definitely keeping the big picture in mind. That's always helped me because I'm like, "Why am I doing this? This is so excessive." But if you really see the importance of it, it helps a lot, having that perspective.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And looking at it from someone who's 65 in two weeks, so much of what I learned would have been relevant if I would have kept it in my hat. [crosstalk 00:02:59] It's like I had that sort of bitterness, you know? And it's like, "What? I'm never going to use this!" And when I decided to be a psychiatrist, it's like, "Well, why do I need to learn about the gut? Why do I need to learn about the heart?" And now that's all I talk about [crosstalk 00:03:15]. And I loved what you said. Enjoy the process.
Tana Amen: The process is so important. It's just the journey is so important and so many kids don't realize that. One of the tips that I would have, at least that really helps me, and I loved college, loved it. Didn't like high school so much because I was under a lot of stress too, but I loved college and leading study groups. So having be a part of a study group but teaching. So in school we had a saying in nursing school, "See one. Do one. Teach one" because it's when you teach. So I also would do tutoring and study groups. That's when you know you know it and to teach it you have to really know it. So that would really help me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: [crosstalk 00:03:53] There's a whole chapter in the book about that, Chapter 10, Two Heads are Better than None and actually how to study with a partner and if you are able to lead the study group because I did that [crosstalk 00:04:06] as well, then what you're doing is you're not only helping them, you're solidifying the information in your head. And so good for them. Good for me. That is the win-win.
Tana Amen: Yup.
Alize’ Castellanos: Yes. I agree.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Something else?
Alize’ Castellanos: In the morning .... So this doesn't, might not work for everybody, but for me, I have a playlist of songs that the words are really, really encouraging and maybe it gets me going and everything. Just having a playlist in the morning I feel like is really important because that's how you're starting out your day and making the mornings a very positive experience because in the beginning of the year it was a rushed morning, like I was like, "Come on! Let's go! Like woke up late, this and that, but I feel like the mornings are such an important part of your day. They're like, they set the tone basically for your whole whole day. And of course, that can be changed, but like practically like that's really, it's a really important part.
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:04:56] Well, and as a parent ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: When you first came you had trouble sleeping.
Alize’ Castellanos: Yes.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Alize’ Castellanos: And yes. Night terrors and stuff like that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: [crosstalk 00:05:01] And so that's such a huge issue.
Tana Amen: And as a parent, I want to touch on that because that is really important. So because of now people know that I have a lot of stress in our family, so lots of drama in the family, overall. I had a rule in my house because I thought it was so important for my daughter. I thought it was so important for Chloe to have mornings be stress free, unlike my mornings growing up, unlike your mornings growing up, that I had a rule, don't call me before nine unless you're bleeding out. No one was allowed to call the house before nine o'clock in the morning because that was a time that I set up for her to be a positive experience before school was a good experience. And I would do rituals with her to make it a good experience because it matters. It matters sending kids off, how you send them off.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Including having breakfast.
Tana Amen: Yeah. Together.
Alize’ Castellanos: A healthy breakfast, healthy breakfast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Kids who have protein in the morning, they do better in school.
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:05:53] I'd make her breakfast every day.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So you have to balance your blood sugar by what you eat. So nutrition is important. I love the playlist idea because your choosing how to direct your mind. You're not a victim of the thoughts that just come into your head and often they're not positive. I mean, we evolved in an environment that was dangerous for humans. We evolved. So when we wake up, we're often focused on, "Well, what's the thing that's going to eat me today"
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And even though those things are long gone, our brain automatically goes to the negative, but by choosing to help it go to the positive and you and I talk about when your feet hit the floor, go, today is going to be a great day. And when you go to bed at night, what went well today?
Tana Amen: Yep.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I, it's amazing. You know, I'll go bed and go to bed and might not be in a great mood, but as soon as I say a prayer and do what went well today, I just remember all the cool things that happened.
Alize’ Castellanos: Yeah. Gratitude, yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Like doing this podcast today with you, that's going to be one of the three things I'm going to think about today.
Tana Amen: Yep, absolutely.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So you can actually direct your mind. How cool is that, that you can direct your mind? The other thing I did, I came prepared to class. I actually would read ahead of time. I'd often outline the chapter we were going to talk about because it's no more studying.
Tana Amen: Right. It's the same.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's actually less big because if you come prepared, then the lecture reinforces and then I'll have my notes that I've honed during the lecture and I'm feeling good about.
Tana Amen: I know one thing I did and most teachers liked this, every once in a while I'll get a teacher who won't, who's rigid and won't let you do it. So I would go and, because I was trying to graduate early so I was taking extra classes. It was hard, right? I had a lot of work. So I would go in and advance and I would, we had a paper due in every class, usually more than one paper due in every class, a research paper.
So I would go in before the quarter started and I would get all of the information I needed to write the papers, I'd get everything I needed to know to do, and I'd have all my papers written before the quarter started. So do that on during the break. And so that would give me that head start. It would give me that advantage because I had a heavy load. I was trying to graduate faster than ... I was on a fast paced, fast track and, but I had one professor that just was rigid. He's like, "Nope, you have to do the same way everyone else is doing." I'm like, "Why? Why, if I am smart enough to come get an advantage, why aren't you going to help you do it?" But he wouldn't. So, but most of them liked it. Most of them, you know, were like, "Oh, that's a good idea. If you're willing to get ahead then do it."
Alize’ Castellanos: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well and one of the things you do that I've noticed is you work on having a good relationship with your reasonable teachers.
Tana Amen: Yeah, you do.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Not all teachers are reasonable [crosstalk 00:08:48]. And so-
Tana Amen: To all of you unreasonable teachers, pay attention.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But was one of the things I was gifted at not being the teacher's pet because I know I wasn't, but having a good relationship with them. And one of the fun things for me actually a couple of my teachers that I had 40 years ago or longer have come to see me because they don't want their brains to go. And it's just so fun. I remember, and I tell this story in the book that I wrote this paper and I'd always get A's in this philosophy class, but I never thought he was reading them. You know, I just "A, no comment." And it and so-
Tana Amen: It bugged you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And my next paper, I wrote on the fourth page on the bottom, if you're still reading this, I'll buy you a milkshake. And in the margin, he said make it chocolate. And that was it.
Alize’ Castellanos: That's so funny!
Dr. Daniel Amen: And actually I am still friends with Dr. Dempster.
Alize’ Castellanos: That's so funny.
Dr. Daniel Amen: More than 40 years later. And being playful, respectful, but playful with teachers is so important because they're people too. And so having empathy for them, not just thinking about you is critical.
Tana Amen: You know, one trick, one really good trick is something called matching and mirroring. So because sometimes it's hard to understand how to communicate with especially people like teachers because you're a kid and they're no. They're adults. One thing you do is you match energy, you match communication style. And I would do that sometimes with my professors and that's why the one that I ended up, that ended up writing me a letter of recommendation and thought I should go to medical school was he was my anatomy and physiology professor. He was argumentative and so I was more intense with him. I was more argumentative with him, but we got along so well. I would never normally do that with some of my female professors that were much more, you know?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Proper?
Tana Amen: Yeah, no, I would never do that. So knowing your audience is really important, right? Knowing who you're talking to.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which means you have to take care of your brain because being able to read other people is a brain function. And if your brain's not right, you'll never be right. Wow. We hope you pick up a copy of Change Your Brain, Change Your Grades. Go to and leave us a comment or review or question. And in the subject line, put Change Your Brain, Change Your Grades raffle. We're going to give away one after every podcast. Alize, thank you so much for being with us.
Alize’ Castellanos: Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us. We'll be back.
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 and 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 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 or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.