We Are Living In An Unhappiness Epidemic and Here’s Why

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

If you’ve been feeling down, you’re not alone. In fact, there seems to be a growing epidemic of unhappiness in our society, but fortunately there are things you can do about it. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the role the 4 circles of influence play in depression.


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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. 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 AmenClinics.com.

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 BrainMDHealth.com.

Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, and stay tuned for a special code for a discount to Amen Clinics for a full evaluation, as well as any of our supplements at BrainMDHealth.com.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. The Brain Warrior's Podcast, because you're in a war for the health of your brain, you have to be armed, prepared and aware. Armed, prepared and aware.

Tana Amen: Sometimes you have to fight.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Sometimes you have to fight.

Tana Amen: Which is okay with me.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm reading a book ...

Tana Amen: I know, I was so excited. It's not like you.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... by Tim Larkin called "When Violence Is the Answer." I mean, most often it's not the answer.

Tana Amen: Well, he says it's rarely the answer, it's very rarely the answer but when it is, it's the only answer.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's on self-protection, but he said the biggest weapon you have for self-protection is the three pounds of fat between your ears. It's avoiding things, it's when things to start to get heated, to apologize, to not have to be the macho, "I'm in charge" ...

Tana Amen: Well I really like ... Right. He makes a big distinction between asocial violence and social significance. Bullying would be like trying to gain social status or social significance. Those are the situations where he really emphasizes backing down, where he really emphasizes using your brain, because those are not things you need to get into a fight for. It's much better to walk away. Versus asocial violence, which is quite honestly, there's no possible way to make sense of it.

Those are situations where there is no way, those were the differences. Where there is no way to defuse it. Those were the situations where he's talking about your only option. When I was attacked on the street when I was 15, that was an asocial situation. That was not something where I could have defused it. In fact, I tried to, so that's not a situation where I could have defused it because this guy was not ... This was an asocial behavior. That was a situation-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Same as antisocial.

Tana Amen: Right, antisocial, so let's use that term because people understand it better. In a situation like that, he's saying that, and I was literally drug down ... Like pushed to a point where I was going to be raped and lord knows what ever else would have happened had I not fought back. That's his point. There are situations where you have no other option if you want to survive. When violence is the answer, it's the only answer.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Then know how to do it. It's actually, it's a really good book. At some point, we should get him on the podcast. I think it would be wonderful.

Tana Amen: See, I've been telling you this for a long time, and you've been thinking I've been crazy, so I love this.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I try to use big brain God gave me to avoid those kinds of situations, but it's obviously not true.

Tana Amen: You can't always.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I mean, on the podcast we talked about how last year we were walking on Corona del Mar Beach-

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... With our big, white sweet German Shepherd and got attacked by two Pit Bulls.

Tana Amen: Who saw that coming, and the guy wouldn't get his dogs under control, so totally situation where, I mean, you're just like totally taken off guard.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, today we are going to talk about the unhappiness epidemic, which is rampant. Before we do, I want to read a couple of reviews. Thank you for leaving the reviews. It's so much fun for us to read.

"My name is [Yadira 00:04:22], I'm a nutritionist and personal trainer and massage therapist, who is from Puerto Rico. I was so inspired for every episode to keep working on my practice. The Brain Warrior's Way has helped me with my patients."

Tana Amen: Oh, wonderful.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you so much. Then this past week, we were at Saddleback Church. You and I spoke together-

Tana Amen: So much fun.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... on the Daniel Plan.

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is the program to get the world healthy through churches and other religious organizations. We had a number of people come up and tell us that they love listening to the podcast, so ...

Tana Amen: That they listen to it while they walk and it's just, it's really great.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We're grateful for you, for sharing this time with us. Unhappiness just seems to be everywhere even though there's a dozen books, at least, on how to be happy. They correlated it in this one study with the amount of times kids were on the Internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting or watching TV. The person who engaged the most with gadgets were actually the least happy.

Tana Amen: Yeah, it's an interesting ... There's probably categories, I would assume. You got to ask yourself though, "What's going on with our kids in this society?" Recently, just I've heard of a couple of suicides with kids in high schools. One, a friend of ours, there was a suicide in their school. Then there was one here in Newport Beach at the school that my daughter went to.

You think to yourself, "These are kids that are socially isolated, they're bullied." No. This kid was one of the most popular kids in school. He was an honor student, he took all AP classes, he was being sought out by scouts. He was on the football team. He was Varsity football team and Varsity baseball. This was a popular kid. He left three suicide notes, so obviously he put a lot of thought into this. He put a lot of thought into it.

One of his notes was to his parents, tragic, just so sad, about how he felt like he was nothing more than this trophy for his parents to show off. Then one of the ... Now this is his perception, obviously. This does not mean that this is how his parents felt. That's his perception of the world.

One of them was to his teachers about how all they care about is test scores and they're not there to actually support kids. One of them was to students about how they bully kids and they don't support each other. He obviously was feeling really intensely isolated in his own way. As you often say, "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

Dr. Daniel Amen: To a temporary feeling.

Tana Amen: Right. This child needed help. I mean, anybody who considers when you have that much going on in your life and that much going for you, ending your life as opposed to figuring out what you can do ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: Let's take a biopsychosocial, spiritual approach to unhappiness that I think that will really help our listeners. We often talk about the four circles of why you do what you do and why you feel the way you feel, because it's complicated, right? To have someone that's so successful on the outside who feels so awful and hopeless on the inside.

Tana Amen: You see these people all the time.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes, I do.

Tana Amen: High level executives, I mean all the time.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. There's actually one study from Seattle that said 55 percent of the U.S. population at some point in their life has thought about killing themselves. Just having the thought is not abnormal, acting on it obviously is. If we think of any teenager who takes their own life or is chronically unhappy, it could be their thyroid.

Tana Amen: Oh my god. Talk about that. Thank god I'm not a suicidal person and I was so attached to my mother. That actually kept me, probably, from wanting to take my own life. My attachment to my mother and knowing that it would devastate and ruin her. I wanted to die. I would wish something would happen.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's when you had thyroid cancer and as part of the treatment-

Tana Amen: I was off of thyroid.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... they took you off thyroid, and they took your thyroid gland.

Tana Amen: No one told me. Nobody explained to me just being low on thyroid can cause that. I had no thyroid.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Okay, so having hormone deficiencies, having a head trauma. I just saw someone in the hall from South Dakota. When you have a head injury, it just literally turns your world upside down.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The high number of ... If you have one concussion, I just read this last week, you have triple the risk of suicide. One concussion triples your risk of suicide.

Tana Amen: I would strongly suggest if you missed the podcast we did with Denny Salisbury, who was the veteran who had 12 concussions and was blown up, literally blown up and watched his friends die in front of him in Iraq, Iraq, right? Afghanistan.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative), Iraq.

Tana Amen: Iraq. It was just gut wrenching, so and then he tried to kill himself so it's ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: Thyroid, head trauma, infections like Lyme disease can do it, or people who have chronic fatigue syndrome, which I'm convinced is a viral infection. If you have food allergies, remember the one story that we had in our PBS show of the guy that was sensitive to corn, that when he had tried to kill himself three times, he'd had ECT, electric shock therapy. He'd been on numerous antidepressants.

One of the things we do when people come to Amen Clinics, we often will put them on an elimination diet and eliminate gluten, corn, soy, dairy, sugar, artificial colors and preservatives.

Tana Amen: We figure out which one is causing the most problems.

Dr. Daniel Amen: He got so much better when we started to add one thing back at a time. Gluten didn't matter, dairy didn't matter, but as soon as he added back corn, within like 20 minutes he had the image of a gun in his mouth.

Tana Amen: Right, and we've had those same stories with things like MSG and red food dye, so extreme stories like that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: What you put in your body matters. There's also environmental toxins like mold and so on. Now obviously, there are also psychological reasons why people are unhappy. In listening to some of the things you said this boy wrote, he's probably filled with a lot of ants, a lot of automatic negative thoughts, which high achiever-

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... perfectionists like Chloe.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Chloe, if our daughter didn't have us as parents-

Tana Amen: Oh, she was headed, right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... that help us, that help you kill the ants so the automatic negative thoughts that steal your mind, that totally ...

Tana Amen: No, we've had to give her a lot of tools.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I had this great ... We had this great thing. As we've been talking about on the podcast, we've been sort of emotionally and other ways adopting our, your sister and our nieces. Tana works at night, and when [Analise A. 00:12:10] wanted to go ... She couldn't go to bed during the week. If mom wasn't there, she'd cry and get hysterical-

Tana Amen: I had that same situation when I was a kid.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... all of that. I actually took "Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions," and she and I'd read this before. We read it again, but with this-

Tana Amen: In the context, yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... anxiety moment in her head. She had fortune telling ants, where she was predicting her mom wouldn't come home. They had been in foster care, so she had some reason to believe that, and something bad would happen, and so she's filled with this undisciplined mind with these ants attacking her, and learning how to kill the ants.

In fact, she was at our Daniel Plan lecture and when I was talking about the ants she's, go, "That's my ant, that's my ant." I asked her recently, I said, "How are the ants?" She said, "They're gone, no more ants." I love that. Then there is social reasons why people feel unhappy.

Tana Amen: I love yesterday too when we were talking about all this. Yesterday, we were at church and the message was so appropriate to what we're talking about today. I loved it. It was about Moses and how he was basically adopted into this life of privilege-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Royalty.

Tana Amen: ... and royalty. He had everything that most people aspire to. He had money, he had title, he had sex, he had food, he had everything you could want in life, and he gave it up. What I loved about the message was he walked away from it. He made a decision, a conscious decision because he chose something bigger than himself.

When they really analyze what it took to do that, how he had to choose to not care about what society thought. The whole message was really based on this, don't choose ... Don't let your life be dictated by what people think about you. It was just such a powerful message about how he had-

Dr. Daniel Amen: That is so hard, having been attacked-

Tana Amen: It's so important.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... professionally for the last 25 years.

Tana Amen: It's so important if you keep your eye on the end game.

Dr. Daniel Amen: If you have a bigger mission.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Then their opinion, whoever they are, doesn't matter. Plus-

Tana Amen: Doesn't matter. That's what the kid was struggling with, so this kid that killed himself, everybody else's opinions mattered. His teachers with his grades, his parents with status.

Dr. Daniel Amen: As opposed to his opinion.

Tana Amen: As opposed to how he felt.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: It's really important to keep your eye on something. Have something bigger than yourself that is important, like our mission is bigger than us. That makes it possible for you to not care as much about what society ... Because what I love, your saying, "The masses are the asses." It's really true. I mean, it really is true. The social media-

Dr. Daniel Amen: I didn't come up with that. It was my philosophy teacher.

Tana Amen: It's really great. Because with social media and everything that's on the news, that's not what's important, so ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: Always remember this rule, the 18/40/60 rule. It says when you're 18, you worry about what everybody's thinking of you.

Tana Amen: So true.

Dr. Daniel Amen: When you're 40, you don't give a damn what anybody thinks about you.

Tana Amen: So true.

Dr. Daniel Amen: When you're 60 or in my case, 63, you realize no one has been thinking about you at all.

Tana Amen: So true. It's part of the reason-

Dr. Daniel Amen: People spend their days worrying and thinking about themselves, not you.

Tana Amen: Literally, just about the time I turned 40, I literally, because I used to be just riddled with worry about what people thought. Right around the time I turned 40 I went, "Who cares?" I mean literally, it was just this weird switch. Like what a waste of energy.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, when you've seen as many brains as I've seen, you know there's not a lot of them that are super healthy, so ...

Tana Amen: Why do I care what all these people out there who are making bad decisions think?

Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. Then one more when you think about the unhappiness epidemic is the spiritual circle, which is not just you believe in God, but it's, "Why do you care? Why are you on the planet? What is your deepest sense of meaning and purpose?" There's less of that now than ever before.

Tana Amen: It's all about in the moment. It's the Kardashians. It's ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: God is being taken out of everything.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's not just, "Are you Christian?" For sure it's, "What is your sense of purpose? Why do you believe you're on the planet?"

Tana Amen: Why is the planet-

Dr. Daniel Amen: "Did you happen by random chance?"

Tana Amen: I love a phrase that I heard you say a long time ago. "Why is the world a better place because you breathe?" The reason I like that phrase is because, "Why is the world a better place because you breathe?" It really means, "What are you doing?" It's an action phrase. "What are you doing to make the world a better place?" Don't sit around waiting for the world to make you better.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, let's give them four tips to counteract the unhappiness epidemic.

Tana Amen: Help someone else.

Dr. Daniel Amen: What's the one biological tip?

Tana Amen: Well, so I was going to tell them to help someone else. Biological tip, get your numbers checked.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Get your important numbers checked. I think that's great.

Tana Amen: If your thyroid's off, if your testosterone is off, if your blood ... Whatever it is, you need to your numbers, because Vitamin D-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, and start walking. Because head-to-head against serotonin, against Zoloft, exercise is equally effective.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Start walking. Psychological tip.

Tana Amen: Go help someone else.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's a social tip.

Tana Amen: Well, that's spiritual, that's spiritual.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's a social tip.

Tana Amen: Okay. It could also be spiritual but anyways, psychological, EMDR.

Dr. Daniel Amen: People who have had trauma-

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... in their past. EMDR, eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing.

Tana Amen: Oh, you're not going to like this one, but you need to go do karate. You need to go hit something, it's better than therapy.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's a biological tip.

Tana Amen: I'm sorry, no. It's doing some- ... Well, it kind of is because it's exercise, but it's also psychological. I always say, "It's better than therapy." It's awesome, it's just awesome.

Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. Psychological tip, whenever you feel mad, sad, nervous or out of control, write down what you're thinking and ask yourself if it's true.

Tana Amen: Then go hit something, but not a person. Hit a pad.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Hit a pad. A social tip. Go help someone.

Tana Amen: Go help somebody else.

Dr. Daniel Amen: A spiritual tip, ask why you're on the planet and do something today. Do a random act of kindness.

Tana Amen: Socially, you need to surround yourself with people who have meaning and purpose in their lives.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, but what if nobody does?

Tana Amen: Then find new friends.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.