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Treating Depression Without Medication, with Dr. Steven Hayes

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

Depression is everywhere these days, and more and more people are turning to antidepressant medication for relief. But what many don’t understand is that antidepressant meds can have harmful side effects and be hard to get off of. In the fourth and final installment in a series with “ A Liberated Mind” author Dr. Steven Hayes, he and the Amens discuss the cutting-edge cognitive behavior therapy technique that treats lasting depression without the use of a pill.

For more info on Dr. Hayes book, visit https://www.amazon.com/Liberated-Mind-Pivot-Toward-Matters/dp/073521400X

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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.

Welcome back. We are still here with Dr. Steven Hayes, and we are just having such a great time talking about ACT therapy, and just really how to free your mind. And I love this. And in our last episode, Dr. Hayes, we talked about being able to witness the self. And I was telling you about something that happened to me as a child, and I’m just going to really quickly throw this out there. I went through a severe depression in my early twenties, didn’t want to live. And I told you, someone had taught me this technique of being able to witness it from a distance and figure out what to do. And it was so powerful. It was so helpful. One thing that I learned, and I don’t know if this means I have like split personality or what it means, but I learned… and I figured this out on my own, and I don’t know if this is a technique or not, but I’m just curious what your thoughts are.

There were times I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have the answer. And I started thinking to myself, “Well, I’m removed from the situation. And if I were watching TV, there’ll be people I could ask.” And I started asking people that I trusted. I know that sounds really crazy, but it… I know you’re looking at me. See, only psychiatrists look at you with that look. He’s doing it right now. He’s psychoanalyzing me.

I found it helpful. I started imagining people that I thought were the smartest people on the planet, and what would they say?

Steven Hayes:

Yeah.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And it started to open my mind to possibilities.

Steven Hayes:

Exactly. Which shows you have wisdom within, you actually have some answers to this, but you’re grooving a particular mode of mind that doesn’t give you easy access to it. When you touch the perspective taking sense of self, by changing time, place, or person. So you could go to the future. If you were to have your life evolve in a positive way, imagine yourself going to the future, looking back at this very moment right now. What might you want to say to yourself?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Okay.

Steven Hayes:

I almost guarantee you it’s going to say something that’s actually more useful, more values-based, more helpful than what the monkey mind’s going to give you.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I love that.

Steven Hayes:

You could do it in the form of a person. Can you think of anybody who’s powerfully lifted you up? Who’s been there for you? Whom you would pick as a guide for a moment like this?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah, that’s me.

Steven Hayes:

Time to picture his or her face. Go behind those eyes. Have them look back at you. What do they see in you right now?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Well-

Steven Hayes:

And if they were to say something to that person called you, what would they say? Little micro techniques do it, exactly what you did. This “pick a guide” is actually in the ACT cannon.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Oh, interesting.

Steven Hayes:

So we will happily make the connection because we’re fellow travelers. What you’re doing is really resonant to what the entire science underneath the act of psychological flexibility says, but often what will come out, and I’ve done this with people in inpatient facilities who are… just have lost everything, they’re at the edge of the rope. And the wisest things come out, and often that theme will be: It’s okay to be you. You can open up to your history. You can do this. And that values matter. You’re here to do something. What you really will yearn for is legitimate. Your deepest yearnings are legitimate. You’re not broken. You’re just stuck. You’re in a cul-de-sac. Have faith in yourself.

And these things that are almost truisms start showing up, love makes the world go around… two that come to mind, my mom would always say, “Keep it in balance, dear, keep it in balance.” And the other one she’d say is, “Be yourself, just be yourself.” And wow. When I’m really stuck and struggling and… is that wise? Yes, it’s wise! So we’re carrying wisdom within. Some of it is ancient wisdom, it’s in our culture, traditions. But it’s dominated by cultural forces and folks trying to sell us products. And if they can make us miserable enough, they will or not, on it goes. And it just…

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So I missed two things because I’m trying to write at the same time-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Because writing what you’re saying?

Daniel Amen, MD:

… I just love it so much. So the first thing I heard was, “It’s okay to be you.”

Steven Hayes:

Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And do you remember what you said after that? There were four things. Up to four things. values.

Steven Hayes:

Okay to use that, though. Found sense…

Daniel Amen, MD:

What do you care for?

Steven Hayes:

Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And in our work we always think about four big circles to understand people. So what’s your biology? And that’s why we look at people’s brains, because how will I know unless I look? What’s the psychology, how do you think, what was your development like… the social circle, who do you hang out with? Because-

Steven Hayes:

Sure.

Daniel Amen, MD:

…contagious. But what most psychologists and psychiatrists never talk to their patients about is your spiritual self, which is… It’s not just your connection to God.

Steven Hayes:

Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s why do you care?

Steven Hayes:

Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

What is your sense of meaning and purpose? And you can have the three other circles right but be terribly depressed because you don’t have a sense of connection to why you’re here.

Steven Hayes:

Yeah. That spiritual sense of self empowers connecting, I think, with meaning and purpose and building behavioral habits around that. In part, because I use the metaphor of… it’s kind of like a hinge of a windshield wiper. And the ACT model on the left, you’ve got acceptance and diffusion, we’ve talked about. In the center we’ve got contact with the now from the spiritual point of view. And on the right we’ve got values and committed action. Those are the six, okay?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Okay.

Steven Hayes:

You imagine them from left to right like a windshield wiper, and things are happening. Yes is happening.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right.

Steven Hayes:

And this stuff is getting kicked up on the… driving a car on the windshield in front of you. This windshield of the spiritual sense of self, this anchor of this… the, “I-here-now in the self-awareness,” allows you to open up to the difficulties of your own history and the chatter your mind is giving you. And then to take it onboard and come into the present moment in a way that’s flexible, fluid, and voluntary, and then carry your consciousness over to what brings meaning and purpose to you.

What are you about? What are the qualities of being and doing that you want to show, you want to instantiate, you want to reveal in this next moment? And then, okay, what would you have to do in the world of behavior and actual actions and choices, situational changes, that would manifest that quality? If you’ve connected with the importance of love, what would be a loving thing to do? If you connect with the importance of cooperation, how could you… If you connect with the of genuineness, are there some things you need to clean up now about places where you’ve hid and lied and went into pretense with friends or people who you can trust with being more genuinely you? And you go into the depression example you’re trying to give, that arc includes opening up to painful, kind of dark, emotions and thoughts, but then coming into the present and connecting with values.

And you look at some of the things that move depression powerfully. It includes things like behavioral activation that is linked to being in the now, nature walks, things like that, friends. But also in the service of something bigger than yourself. And I ask you this: to think about the number of people that have come into you depressed, who have cut themselves off from their friends, from the charitable work they do, from the compassionate things they do for others. And they’ve turned their consciousness inward. If you can help the person turn their consciousness outward and take that meaningful step, I haven’t met many people who are really on a values-based journey where depression wraps them around an axle.

Yes, it shows up, but it tends to be transient. Why? Because we’re doing meaningful things. You know your life matters because you were there for that child, or you raised that money, or you helped them, that thing that really moves you, or you were there at the ASPCA, and you saw that wounded animals eyes and knew that it mattered that you were there. So life is a depression drug. If you can connect into meaning and purpose.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I like that. That’s great. Life is a depression drug.

Steven Hayes:

Life is a depression drug.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

If you connect.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Depends who you’re living with.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

He said, “If you connect to meaning and purpose. If you connect to meaning and purpose.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

You are my anti-depressant.

Steven Hayes:

So true.

Daniel Amen, MD:

You have just been so wonderful, Steven.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So great.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Thank you so much for sharing with our audience. I know a lot of people will want to learn more. Steven is the author of “A Liberated Mind”. Steven C. Hayes, Steven with a “v,” .com. You can learn more.

Now I’m sad we’re not going to be in person at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I know.

Steven Hayes:

Oh, yeah. I’ve been trying to… to be able to actually be in your presence physically, but post-COVID we’ll find a way.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah, no. Well, I’m looking forward to it very much. So we thank you for your time-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So fantastic.

Daniel Amen, MD:

… and I’m looking forward to learning more about it and sharing it with people at Amen Clinics and our audience as well. So thanks for being with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Thanks, Dr. Hayes.

Steven Hayes:

…but thank you.

Daniel Amen, MD:

All right. You’re listening to The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I know you learned something. Write it down, take a picture of it, post it on any of your social media sites. Go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, leave us a comment, question, or review.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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Daniel Amen, MD:

If you’re considering coming to 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 amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.