Top 5 Strategies for a Stronger Brain & Better Life

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

In the final installment of the Success Starts Here series, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen give you the five steps you can take to put you on the path towards better brain health today. Implement these simple habits now and you can truly change your brain and your life.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I am 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: Success starts here. This is the last in this series, and success starts here really means between your ears and the three pounds of fat that run your life.

Tana Amen: Yep, I think most people don't even really think about that, they don't think about that it starts with their brain. They think about whatever new headlines are out, whatever new gadget or new book or new strategy. But they don't think about their brain.

Dr Daniel Amen: Because why?

Tana Amen: I think because they just don't know. Honestly I think I never was taught that growing up. I was never told, oh, your brain matters. It was always like be skinnier, look better, be fitter, but no one ever, ever talked about my brain.

Dr Daniel Amen: Have more passion. Have more purpose.

Tana Amen: Right, but where does all of that start? It starts in your brain.

Dr Daniel Amen: Between your ears. So as we finish this lesson, what we really want to give you is a strategy to have a better brain and a better life, to really how can you love your brain specifically so you love your life. I had no idea and I was a double board certified psychiatrist. I was actually top in my class in neuroscience, love that part, and still never treated my brain as if it was the most important organ in my body. I sort of cared more about my belly than my brain, which is fine.

Tana Amen: Well, as a society it's just what we tell people, but when I met you it was so interesting when you can actually see what's going on, it makes such a difference. I used-

Dr Daniel Amen: Isn't that the first part of you I really wanted to see?

Tana Amen: Yeah, so it was very odd. But it was so interesting. It makes sense when you really think about it. We just don't stop and think about.

Dr Daniel Amen: Why people don't care about their brain is because they don't see it. They never look. We live in Newport Beach and we have a lot of plastic surgeons here and we often say, "People care more about their faces, their boobs, their bellies, and their butts than they do their brain." You used to work for a plastic surgeon.

Tana Amen: Yeah, I worked in trauma unit and on our weekends they would always recruit us to work in their surgery centers. It was always so interesting going from a trauma unit to a plastic surgery center. The difference was like it was a little hard to adjust.

Dr Daniel Amen: And did anybody in the plastic surgery center really care about their brains?

Tana Amen: Well, they weren't talking about it for sure.

Dr Daniel Amen: No, they cared about fixing the wrinkles or their nose or their chest and so on. And if you really think about it where does happiness start?

Tana Amen: In your brain.

Dr Daniel Amen: Where does a relationship start?

Tana Amen: In your brain.

Dr Daniel Amen: Where does motivation start?

Tana Amen: In your brain. And it's so interesting. Like I said, it's easy to buy into pop culture and fads and headlines when you don't know. When I met you and still to this day there's this idea that drinking a glass of wine every day or even two is good for you. But when I started to see, I bought into that idea, I'm like, "Oh, I can have a glass of wine every night and it's not big deal. It helps you relax. It helps you sleep." I didn't think it was a big deal because it's what you were told is good for you. Then I started to see scans. You're like, "Really? You want to see," and you showed me scans of brains. And I was like, "Holy cow," like, "That's not good for you." So when you can see it, it changes everything.

Dr Daniel Amen: Changed everything in my life.

Tana Amen: Changes everything.

Dr Daniel Amen: When I looked at my brain and it wasn't very healthy.

Tana Amen: That's all it took for me.

Dr Daniel Amen: Compared to my 60-year-old mother who had a beautiful brain, which really reflects her life. She's in the hospital this week, I was so sad. I went and sat with her last night, and we're recording this right before Christmas and she shopped for 70 people.

Tana Amen: Crazy.

Dr Daniel Amen: But she knew what she had bought everyone and why they would like this or that. It was just so special.

Tana Amen: Here she is in the hospital and she's devastated that we are making the executive decision to cancel Christmas at our house where she's going to cook for almost 100 people. It's like, "No, I don't think so."

Dr Daniel Amen: It's like, "No, I don't think so."

All right, so success starts here between your ears. Let's talk about five simple ways people can have the brain and the success they want. The first one is you have to develop brain envy, have to really care about your brain, and then act on it every day. This is when you come to that fork in the road that people do dozens of time every day and you have a decision to make. We just want you to ask yourself, is what I'm going to do now good for my brain or bad for it?

Tana Amen: So I have to tell a funny story. We've effectively done this with our kids. Chloe, the youngest one, she is 14 now. Supper funny. She's got this idea in her head, and I love it, that she wants to be that kid who never tries alcohol or drugs. I love that idea. She just decided this and she's like, "I want to be, I want to actually be able to say that I never did this." She's got this idea in her head and she's just like, she's a little stubborn, which is helpful sometimes. Sometimes it's helpful. She's seen what it does to your brain and she just wants to nothing to do with it, and she's told me, "Why would people do things that they know can ruin the rest of their lives? I don't understand."

Dr Daniel Amen: Oh talk about the Poison concert.

Tana Amen: Yeah, that's what I'm going to talk about. I took her to a Def Leppard and Poison concert and a couple of funny things happened. First of all, she's looking around and all the people my age and all the moms who were acting completely psychotic and she goes, "If I ever see you twerking I will kill you myself." She goes, "Is this how mothers act when we're not around?" So I'm like, "Oh my god, this is so embarrassing."

Then all of a sudden the people in front of us of course pull out a joint and they light up and Chloe flips out. She flips out. She's holding her breath. She's trying to get out of the isle. She's like trying to jump over people to get out of the isle. She was so upset because she's already made this declaration that she's never going to get high, she's never going to do drugs or drink or anything. So she's so angry at this person in front of us. I'm trying to shield her so she doesn't have, like so she literally doesn't go off on this guy in front of us, and she's trying to get out of the isle and get away from him because she just does not want to have to say that she even got a contact eye.

So she gets out of the isle. She's really mad. She's like, "Why would you bring me to a concert where people are smoking pot all around me?" She calls Daniel on the phone in the isle. She goes, "If you scan me and it shows up on my scan, I didn't do it. Mom did it." She was really upset.

Dr Daniel Amen: So she has brain envy. She wants a better brain, and actually when we scanned her it was so helpful because it showed the stubbornness.

Tana Amen: It showed that stubbornness, it showed the anxiety-

Dr Daniel Amen: It was so helpful.

Tana Amen: And the stubbornness and the intensity.

Dr Daniel Amen: So you have to care I mean. And then you make every decision from a mindset of love. You love yourself. You love your brain. You love your life. You love your mission. You love your wife. You love your daughters. So you make the right decision. People go, "Oh, it's hard," or, "Oh, don't you want to have any fun," and it's like I have more fun than anybody I know. I don't want to hurt myself because I love myself. It's an act of love to do the right thing. Until you get that concept it will be really hard for you to be well. It's part of the Brain Warrior's Way concept. Our book is coming out on paperback.

Tana Amen: I know.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's so exciting. The second part of this five step process is you avoid anything that hurts your brain, and you just have to know the list. If you listen to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, we've been talking about it. We've already talked about a couple today, drugs, alcohol, head trauma, environmental toxins, stressful relationships, which is why we try to keep ours reasonably stress-free.

Tana Amen: Yeah, the stress in our lives is because we're busy doing cool things, which can still be really stressful. You have to be able to manage it.

Dr Daniel Amen: And you finished remodeling the house.

Tana Amen: Oh don't ever, never again.

Dr Daniel Amen: Never again. So that would be on the list of bad things for your brain.

Tana Amen: Very stressful, very stressful.

Dr Daniel Amen: And then some unexpected things, I mean like getting Lyme, infections, environmental toxins like mold, I was talking to someone recently and they had really bad. It was actually my mom. They had to move out of their house because of all the mold and she kept getting pneumonia over and over and over again. And the mold was damaging her immune system. That's the second thing.

The third thing is to engage in regular brain healthy habits to create a strong foundation for success. What are the things you do that strengthen your brain?

Tana Amen: Well, I mean I love to meditate. So waking up in the morning and meditating and focusing on what I'm grateful for with my family. We do that a lot, even at dinner time. We'll just be sitting around and it's like, "Wow, we just a really good life," and we focus on the things we love, because we're really busy and it would be really easy to focus on the stress or the busyness or the ...

Dr Daniel Amen: We could totally be bitter.

Tana Amen: Oh absolutely.

Dr Daniel Amen: I mean you and I could just like make a list of all the things we're bitter for.

Tana Amen: We have multiple family members that we help and we take care of and we're getting. But we don't. We focus on the-

Dr Daniel Amen: But we're not bitter about that.

Tana Amen: But instead we focus on the fact that we can and we're grateful for that, so that we can make a difference in somebody's life. So it's really how you frame things. I think that's really important, exercise, eating healthy, staying hydrated, making sure you focus on sleep, all of it's important.

Dr Daniel Amen: I start every day with, "Today is going to be great day." In fact, I have that on my to do list, so the list I look at every morning and what I need to get done that day. It starts with, "Today is going to be a great day." Then my brain will find why it is going to be a great day. And then one of the things I do for you is I make your ...

Tana Amen: You do.

Dr Daniel Amen: Pumpkin spice cappuccino every morning.

Tana Amen: You're so funny because you call me. He calls me like almost every day. It's like, "Did I tell you I love you today?" And occasionally it's like we're running out the door and he didn't tell me, I'm like, "No, but you made my coffee." It's like that's a big deal.

Dr Daniel Amen: That's how I tell her I love her. Plus I love it.

Tana Amen: I love it.

Dr Daniel Amen: Engage in regular brain healthy habits. And then one that probably nobody else will tell you about is you have to know your brain type. Not everybody has the same brain. So you want to know your brain. I think one of reasons Chloe is awesome besides you read to her every day, every night-

Tana Amen: And I've read really cool books.

Dr Daniel Amen: And for years.

Tana Amen: Really cool books.

Dr Daniel Amen: I just, I attribute that so much. And we eat dinner together. It's actual physical time that relationships require actual physical time.

Tana Amen: I was cleaning out her little library and I'm like, "I had some cool books I read to that kid." Kid versions of John Wooden and Stephen Covey and all these really cool books and your books and Byron Katie books, and like just tons of them, stacks of them that I had read to her when she was little, it was so cool.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right, the brain has hardware and software. By feeding you right, by not letting kids engage in sports that could damage their brain, that is helpful, but then you have to program it.

Tana Amen: I need to say something about this, this idea of brain types because when Chloe was little she was very ... not an easy child when she was little. She's an amazing teenager but she was not that easy when she was little. So there was this time when in addition to her anxiety we actually suspected that she might have ADD. I wasn't sure what was going on. Her anxiety was making it really hard for her to focus. I didn't know if she had ADD or what. Well, without getting checked I actually put her on one of our supplements to help her focus more and I didn't really know her type and it was not a good move. Made her like really over-focused. So when she got scanned it turned out that was totally the wrong thing because she actually has a really over anxious brain, so to put her on something that's going to stimulate her more was not a good move.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right, so ...

Tana Amen: And the flip. Wait, the other side of it was I have a niece that wanted to be scanned. We thought for sure she had like, I thought for sure, she had anxiety like off the charts and that's not what it was. She had like something toxic and she had really low activity. So you can't guess.

Dr Daniel Amen: So it's critical to know your type. There are five major types. There is the balance type, which is fairly rare. People who have nothing going on, they just have a healthy brain. The second type is spontaneous. These are the people who have trouble focusing. They're spontaneous. They tend to be impulsive. They don't have a great filter. They just sort of say the first thing that comes into their mind, but they are very creative. They often have sleepy frontal lobes. Type three is the persistent type, that would be Chloe, where the front part of their brain works too hard usually due to low levels of serotonin and worried, rigid, and flexible. [crosstalk 00:15:31]

Tana Amen: And can beat themselves up if things aren't perfect.

Dr Daniel Amen: Get upset. They tend to see too many errors in themselves but sometimes also in other people. Is very important. I often see that type in children or grandchildren of alcoholics. Then there's the sensitive type can be really sad, and the cautious type, which tends to be anxious. We have recommendations for supplements for each of these types, also behavioral interventions, and it's just critical to know your type. If you want to know your type go to, it's completely free,, you'll learn your type and what are the things I recommend to help people with ...

Tana Amen: Much better than guessing.

Dr Daniel Amen: That type.

Tana Amen: You don't want to guess.

Dr Daniel Amen: And then the last thing to optimize your brain to really welcome success in your life is I think everybody should take a multivitamin. Brand new study up by the CDC, 90% of Americans do not get anywhere near five servings of fruits and vegetables.

Tana Amen: And even if you do, I'm just going to jump in here because most people don't eat the way that they should, but even if they did, it's not just about that, it's about the environmental toxins in the air. Unless you're getting perfect sleep, you're not being exposed to toxins, you're under no stress, it's what that multiple vitamin does is it just bridges the gap.

Dr Daniel Amen: Omega-3 fatty acids a study we did, 98% of the patients we see have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids that are associated with every bad thing pretty much in the body, heart disease, cancer, inflammation, dementia, depression, so I think everybody should be taking omega-3 fatty acids supplements, particularly fish oil. And then everybody should measure and optimize their vitamin D level.

Now when I was working on my next book I came across this quote from Warren Buffett and it's his rules of investing. Rule number one, don't lose money.

Tana Amen: Don't lose what you have.

Dr Daniel Amen: Rule number two was refer back to rule number one. As I thought about it I said, "This is perfect for our work here at Amen Clinics." Rule number one is don't lose brain cells. You go, "Oh, it's New Year's Eve. I need to get drunk." And it's like, "Okay, you're going to murder millions of brain cells."

Tana Amen: Murder brain cells.

Dr Daniel Amen: And you know, they don't come back that easily. I mean there's this whole new concept of neuroplasticity and your brain makes new cells. But not at that kind of rate. I mean hippocampus makes 700 new stem cells every day. You really want to be murdering millions when you're making 700 a day? I'm not thinking that's a great idea.

Tana Amen: Yep.

Dr Daniel Amen: In order for you to have the best success of your life it is absolutely essential for you to take care of the three pounds of fat between your ears. Success starts here between your ears. 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.