The isolation of coronavirus quarantine life has many of us pondering our future and shifting our focus to the things that matter most in our lives. What is it that determines success? How do we know if we’re living a “good” life? In the first episode in a series with author and former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden, she and the Amens discuss what it means to age successfully, and how to effectively use your hard-earned wisdom gained from experiences.
For more info on Joan’s new book “Why Did I Come Into this Room?’ visit https://www.amazon.com/Why-Come-into-This-Room/dp/1948677296
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.
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.
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.
Dr Daniel Amen : Welcome everybody. We are so honored this week to have an award winning journalist, bestselling author, motivational speaker, host of Good Morning, America for many years, someone who hosted five Olympics, Joan Lunden. So, Joan, welcome to-
Tana Amen : Welcome.
Dr Daniel Amen : … Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast.
Joan Lunden : Such an honor, pleasure to be here with you guys.
Dr Daniel Amen : I was blessed to be able to do your Facebook live, and it was just such a great two-way conversation. I’m like our Brain Warrior audience really needs to hear what you have to say, and you have a brand new book. I mean, funny, The End of Mental Illness came out March 3rd, and then it all, the marketing stuff for it just got derailed by the pandemic. But you had a book that came out March 10th, Why Did I Come into This Room?
Joan Lunden : Don’t we all find ourselves saying that? Why did I go into the kitchen?
Tana Amen : Yep.
Joan Lunden : Know I came [inaudible [00:02:00] for something.
Tana Amen : Yeah. Yeah. All the time.
Dr Daniel Amen : And it’s such an important topic. And one of the things that kills the hippocampus, that major memory structure in the brain, is being bathed by chronic stress. And so since my book came out and your book came out, the world changed, and we have literally been assaulted by stress hormones, given COVID-19 and then the pandemonium from the societal unrest. How’s it impacted you and what are you doing about it?
Joan Lunden : Well, I’m kind of that type a girl, if you know what I mean. I’ve always gone about 100 miles an hour. So when the pandemic hit and I realized I was just going to be at home, I created a schedule for myself. I decided I was going to go live every day at [1:00] on Facebook… and you were so kind. I was going through my contacts and I got to Dr. Daniel Amen. I thought I’d love to have him on, and I was a little like, “Can I just send him an email and ask him to come on my little Facebook live?” which grew exponentially. I I’m telling you, you answered my email in maybe five seconds, and it was [crosstalk [00:03:30], I mean, awesome because I find that with a lot of… That’s one of the reasons I have such great access to doctors, because they know that I’m out here talking to people all the time. They all want to make sure I’m saying the right thing.
I mean, that was one of my most popular live sessions, was with you. I mean, you know how the questions just kept coming and coming because everyone was feeling like they were in this odd, odd predicament of, it’s not only saying you’re going to stay home, but there was like no actual end to it, nor is there even right now. But I just got busy doing things because when I was a little girl, my mom always used to say to me, “If you want to keep life exciting, you want to retain your vitality and you want life to be great, always make plans.” She always used to say, of course, she would joke, “I have at least one big party at home once a year, so I really clean the house.” But she was the kind that always said, she always would says, “Half the fun of doing anything is the anticipation and the planning of it.” And I think that that’s so important for people today in our predicament, but it’s also important in the landscape of aging. I think that that’s one of the critical components of aging successfully.
You get to that point, now it’s kind of called 50 plus. There’s an adage. What is it? With age, comes wisdom. But I think it’s true, or at least there’s a serenity and a calmness that all of a sudden comes about that lets you exhale and look back and say, “I didn’t do so bad. I came through a lot of challenges.” And it’s at that point that we have to remember that we have to pivot the other way. And that’s one of the things I wanted to talk about in the book, not just all the crummy, annoying, embarrassing things that happen specifically to women and what we can do about them, because there are a lot of fixes if we just talk about them. But also that sense of, “Hey, everybody, these days when you hit 50 or 60, you have like another 30, 40, 50 years to go.” It’s not like the old days and you have to make plans, and that’s what keeps you engaged in life with a lot of social and with a sense of purpose. Those are the three things that they say will predict how successfully you age.
Tana Amen : Yeah, I agree.
Dr Daniel Amen : Well, as I think back on my career the most important things I tell people, I think number one is you have to write down what you want. In a balanced way, relationships, work, money, physical, emotional, spiritual, health, what do you want? And then is my behavior getting me what I want? And no matter what your age, if you’re 15, it’s a good thing to do. Or if you’re 65, it’s a great thing to keep doing, so you’re looking forward, not backward.
Tana Amen : In fact, we still do that together every year. So instead of just a New Year’s resolution, we do it together as a couple. It’s like, what are our goals for this year together? What do we want for our relationship? What do we want for our family? And we start making plans for the year just so we have that to look forward to and to strive for together. I think it just keeps it sort of exciting, like you said. It keeps us looking-
Joan Lunden : Well, I kind of flip it to the [inaudible [00:07:08] in the book. At the very end of the book, one of my favorite chapter titles, I want to be cremated. It’s my last chance for a smokin hot body.
Tana Amen : That’s so funny. That’s hilarious. That is great.
Joan Lunden : You can’t write a book about all the embarrassing, annoying, worrisome things that happen all throughout your life without writing it with a sense of humor and that sense of humor come out as much as in this book, which made it a lot of fun. But towards the end of the book, I take my readers through an exercise. I found the first time I ever heard it was I was waiting to give a speech, and I listened to another speaker out in front taking this like 26,000 people in a big auditorium through this. Stephen Covey did this and he had everybody close their eyes. And in the book I say, “Close your eyes and imagine yourself at your own funeral. And here, the people are coming in the room. What are they saying about you as they go by the coffin? Are they saying, “She was so caring. She was so compassionate. She was such a great friend. She was always there for me. She was the life of the party. Or are they saying, “Oh, I don’t know which way she’s going to go.”
Whatever it is you want them to be saying, and I take them through an exercise of writing their own obituary, and then a much bigger task, writing your own eulogy. What kind of person do you hope to be in life and do you want to be remembered as? Whatever it is that you would like to write there in your own eulogy that will be read. And for all you control freaks out there, this is a great exercise because you can be in control. But then you have the rest of your life from now until your passing to work on that.
Tana Amen : I love that.
Joan Lunden : When I did it, I said, “I want to be a better listener.” And I thought, well, of course, I’m a good listener. I’m an interviewer. But there’s a tendency, like with a lot of like my… I just have this astonishingly amazing life and have gotten to do so many things, but that doesn’t mean I have to talk about it all the time. Like I’m great at a cocktail party, but I said, “I want to listen more. I want to add to other people’s stories to my repertoire.” And so that’s something, I want to have more patience with my kids, and I’ve got four teenagers under my roof with their eye rolls and the “whatever.” And so, I have my own little Buddhas to work on, and I [crosstalk [00:09:49], I really took things out of that exercise and I’m applying them to my life.
Tana Amen : I love that. That’s actually something I learned to do. Actually, I got pretty sick at 23 and I figured that out then. Because at 23, you think you are invincible, and then you realize, “Oh wait, I’m not.” And so, I sort of learned that exercise, then it took me a while to figure it out. But when things get really bad, I will sort of do that. It’s like, “I’m going to die anyway, so what do I want? How do I want to come through this?” And then I chunk it down.
And we taught the kids going through this that are in the house. We’ll chunk it down, because I have a 16 year old who lost her mind when the quarantine happened. I mean just lost her mind and she’s not normally like that. And so, we had a talk, a family talk. It’s like, “Who do you want to be at the end of this?” I love what you’re saying, “Who do you want to at the end of your life?” So you can even chunk that down and go, “How do you want to be seen when this is over with, as the person who lost it or the person who helped? What kind of person do you want to be thought of? You can either be proactive or reactive. And so we sort of used that exercise and it’s just so helpful. Love that.
Joan Lunden : I have twins who are 17 and twins who are 15. My 15-year-old daughter, we came out of, because we do these really intense workouts, and she came out of it yesterday. When we’re back at home, we don’t do these intense workouts every day like when we do up here. We play tennis in the afternoon, like we’re really exercising. And I said, “Just imagine what you’re going to be like in September when you go back to school,” and she lit up because she’s going into a new school. Her brother goes to a private school, and she’s going to go over there because she’s in a huge, she’s been in a gigantic Greenwich High School, 3,400 kids. It’s like bigger than some college campuses.
She’s said “I’m taking my geometry during the summer, so I’m going to be working on my math skills, and I’m doing these workouts and we’re doing all.” She said, “I’m going to be that girl that they’re going to say, who’s that girl?” And I said, “That’s awesome,” fabulous goal to have in your brain and then you do everything to reach that goal. I was so excited to hear it because I was like, “Okay, so maybe they do listen to some of the things I say.”
Tana Amen : Exactly.
Dr Daniel Amen : Good. When we come back, we’re going to talk more about Why Did I Come Into This Room? We would love for those of you listening or watching, what did you learn during this podcast? I mean, for me, it just reminds me, write down what you want, and then ask yourself, is your behavior getting you what you want? Post it on any of your social media sites and then tag us, brainwarriorsway.com. You can also leave us comment, question or review. We would love that, and you can get Joan’s new book out now, Why Did I Come Into This Room? available anywhere great books are sold. Stay with us.
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.
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 podcast 10 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.