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What Happens In Your Brain When You Pray Or Meditate?

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

In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen wrap up week 5 of the End of Mental Illness Live Class and Challenge with a Q&A session. Topics explored in this episode include the effect of prayer and mediation on your brain waves, sleep patterns, and the incredible story a mom who went through a horrific tragedy and managed to pull herself from the depths of depression to come out the other side.

To take The End of Mental Illness 6 Week Class and Challenge, visit https://endofmentalillness.com/brainhealthchallenge/

 

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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.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Hi, this is Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen:

And I’m Tana Amen.

Dr Daniel Amen:

We’re so excited you’re with us. For this week’s series, what we’re doing is we’re playing the live class from the end of mental illness.

Tana Amen:

We wanted you to join us on this journey because we had such a good time in our class. And the people who joined us just saw such incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. So, we wanted to share this with you and we hope that you will join us in the challenge.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Doc said I was low in vitamin D and need more sunshine. I told Doc, “I’ve been looking for Mr. Sunshine all my life.”

Tana Amen:

That’s funny.

Dr Daniel Amen:

You’re more likely to find Mr. Sunshine if your vitamin D level is right-

Tana Amen:

That’s funny.

Dr Daniel Amen:

… and you’re happier. Are cheap nutraceuticals better than nothing? Well, it depends on the quality of the nutraceuticals. But I don’t know if you know, and I haven’t talked probably enough about if you pre-order The End of Mental Illness, go to endofmentalillness.com you get a 50% off coupon for BrainMD supplements for your first order. So, order a lot, but use that coupon. So, if you pre-order the book, which is I don’t know, $23 and you buy $100 of supplements [inaudible [00:02:17] take $50 off that order. So, we really want you to pre-order the book. It’ll help get the book some momentum, which we’re really hoping to do.

Dr Daniel Amen:

We have just lost a family member and are going through lots of stress. Is there one thing in particular to help our brains at this time? Starting the whole program seems overwhelming right now.

Tana Amen:

Yeah, I would do one thing at a time.

Dr Daniel Amen:

The one thing, work on your sleep.

Tana Amen:

Yeah, agree.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Sleep is so important. Because if you calm down your nervous system and on BrainMD we have a brand new sleep product. We haven’t even formally launched it, but you can find it on BrainMD called Put Me to Sleep.

Tana Amen:

Yeah, I totally agree with you. And I think one thing is better and for some people it’s like, but I can’t sleep or whatever is… Pick the one thing you can do. If it’s meditating for five minutes and then working your way up and then working into sleep or if… But sleep has got to be the thing that you ultimately get to that’s going to help reset everything else.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Right. In that one habit is this good for my brain or bad for it? Just ask yourself, is this good for my brain or bad for it? And I have just this great, very sad story of Chris who, I was doing a lecture and all of a sudden it was in Northern California. She comes up to me and she starts crying, and this happens to me a lot. And so, I just waited, and when she stopped crying, she said, “Two years ago, my 12 year old daughter, Sammy, died of bone cancer.”

Tana Amen:

I cannot imagine.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Just heartbreaking. And she said, “When she died, part of me was glad because she was out of pain.” Bone cancer is just loaded with pain. “But I didn’t know how bad it would hit me. And I went to bed, drank alcohol, ate bad food, and ballooned up to over 200 pounds on a 5’2″ frame.” And on the two year anniversary of Sammy’s death, she’d planned to kill herself. And then she saw me on public television and it’s my book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. And she said, “Well, I’m going to go get that book and if it’s a bad book I’ll kill myself tomorrow.” Which is what she said to me. And I’m horrified. I’m just up in my office in my little chair writing and I’m like, well it really matters for some people, don’t make it a bad book. And she said, “But it was so simple, so easy that I just stopped drinking and I stopped eating bad food, and I started walking. And then I started running and it’s 10 weeks later.”

Tana Amen:

But notice she did one thing at a time.

Dr Daniel Amen:

She did one thing at a time. And then when I saw her was 10 weeks later, she’d been down 24 pounds. Over the year she lost 35 pounds. And she said, “I want you to tell the people you talk to, never let grief be your excuse to hurt yourself.”

Tana Amen:

And I got to tell you, that’s powerful because I cannot imagine losing a child and being able to think that way. I’m just being honest. I mean that’s really hard and we teach this stuff. But that’s like the one thing that I think has got to be just so hard, so challenging, so painful. So, to the people that-

Dr Daniel Amen:

One thing at a time.

Tana Amen:

Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Sleep would be the first thing I would think of.

Tana Amen:

Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:

I was wondering if you’ve seen any medical studies about prayer in reducing stress or having positive effects on the brain. Well, come to think of it, last year we did a study on prayer. We studied the brains with both quantitative EEG, looking at the electrical activity of the brain, and then with SPECT. And we looked at conversational prayer, I pray for you versus speaking in tongues. That was fascinating. Prophecy, discernment and it was so interesting.

Tana Amen:

Was it similar to meditation?

Dr Daniel Amen:

It was similar to meditation. The emotional part of the brain calm down-

Tana Amen:

Makes sense to me.

Dr Daniel Amen:

And the thoughtful brain went up with conversational prayer, but speaking in tongues, which people know from the book of Acts in the New Testament. It’s one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it’s where you’re actually channeling the Holy Spirit. And I know some people watching are like, what is this? And in evangelical or charismatic traditions, it’s not uncommon. And so, this channeling, what happened is the front part of the brain dropped in activity, which is what happens when other researchers have studied channelers. But in a couple of people [crosstalk [00:07:40]-

Tana Amen:

So, from a brain perspective it’s a similar function?

Dr Daniel Amen:

As channel.

Tana Amen:

Right, okay.

Dr Daniel Amen:

But the pleasure centers in a couple of our people went up just like they got a hit of cocaine.

Tana Amen:

Oh, interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen:

It was really interesting.

Tana Amen:

So, because for me, I know when I’m… when I meditate, I pray and I meditate at the same time. For me they’re very much connected. So, I was just wondering if the effect on the brain was similar.

Dr Daniel Amen:

So, what are other exercises you would recommend in place of walking like you’re late for 45 minutes in clement weather?

Tana Amen:

Rather than elliptical. I like the elliptical trainer because it doesn’t hurt my knee. So, elliptical trainer works for me. I have a walking treadmill that I can answer email on I love. So, it’s not an intense treadmill. I don’t like to run on the treadmill because of my joints, but my walking treadmill so I’m not sitting. So, if I’m writing or I’m doing email, I can just get up and move for an hour. I don’t have to go to fast paced but it’s really great. You can go to the mall and walk. Yeah, I mean there’s so many things you can do.

Dr Daniel Amen:

So, there’s an interesting comment. I knew the prior would get some comments, 100% sugar pill. If you believe it, it will work. Belief is so powerful.

Tana Amen:

It’s so true. But same with meditation, it’s like it’s got to be the thing you put your mind into.

Dr Daniel Amen:

But a sugar pill doesn’t mean there’s nothing to it.

Tana Amen:

No.

Dr Daniel Amen:

It’s that belief can literally transform your body.

Tana Amen:

Yeah, with the faith of a mustard seed-

Dr Daniel Amen:

Where you bring your attention determines how you feel. And when I was a young medical student, I saw a patient who had something called pseudocyesis. Do you know what pseudocyesis is?

Tana Amen:

You told me about this.

Dr Daniel Amen:

It’s about false pregnancy. It’s when a woman believes she is pregnant-

Tana Amen:

Yeah, I remember that’s [Crosstalk [00:09:28].

Dr Daniel Amen:

Even though she’s not pregnant. Her body actually begins to take on the shape of a pregnant woman. She loses her periods, her breasts get larger. She can even start lactate because belief is so powerful. Where you bring your attention determines how you feel.

Tana Amen:

The faith of mustard seed.

Dr Daniel Amen:

What are your thoughts regarding the saliva test to determine food sensitivities? I think that food sensitivity tests can be helpful. I think a more helpful way to do it, a cheaper way to do it is doing an elimination diet. And so, eliminate anything that you might be sensitive to and then add them back one by one. Is eating healthy fats okay even if you’re trying to lose weight?

Tana Amen:

Yes. Almost, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Because it helps decrease your [crosstalk [00:10:21].

Tana Amen:

It increases your satiety centers. It helps with-

Dr Daniel Amen:

So, we’re not talking cupcakes?

Tana Amen:

No, no, it has to be healthy fat. So, she said healthy fat. So, but small amounts of healthy fat and protein together throughout the day taken like medicine. So, like medicinal type doses, you would never eat like large amounts all at once with medicine, right? So, think of it like that. It increases your satiety so you feel more satisfied, increases your energy and decreases your cravings. It balances blood sugar, balances the hormones of metabolism. So, absolutely what you want to cut back on are simple carbs completely. You want to increase fiber but not simple carbs. So, low [inaudible [00:11:00] high fiber.

Dr Daniel Amen:

When it comes to sleep patterns, is there documented research regarding night-shift workers? In other words, is this harmful to people’s health? Absolutely. I’m a night owl and often get eight hours of sleep, but I get them at weird times [3:30] AM to [10:30] AM. So, it’s the quantity, not necessarily the time of sleep. Shift work absolutely does hurt people. So, knowing how to manage that, I think if you go back to… I think it’s less than three where I talk about sleep in great detail. I actually talk about shift work there.

Tana Amen:

But isn’t there some research that says your circadian rhythm, it’s not just about the amount of sleep, it’s the circadian rhythm. So, if you are a shift worker trying to stay on a more regular schedule, because some shift workers will go back and forth. It’s like, “Oh I’m going to sleep at night than sleep in the day.” That will mess up your circadian rhythm which can then cause problems.

Dr Daniel Amen:

And the Bright Light Therapy Lamp can actually help reset your circadian rhythm. Do CT MRI scans necessarily show brain damage after a serious fall? The answer is no, they don’t. Often they don’t. I know a child that fell down concrete stairs at age one. Doctors monitor for a couple of years, said she was fine. But a few years later she was diagnosed with ADHD and learning problems.

Tana Amen:

So common.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Single most important thing I’ve learned from 160,000 scans mild traumatic brain injury like this one ruins people’s lives. And nobody knows it because they do structural scans, not functional scans. So, MRI and CT typically they’re looking at the structure of the brain, which could be fine, but the function of the brain is not.

Tana Amen:

Right.

Dr Daniel Amen:

I’ve attempted to eliminate things from my diet in the past. I’ve suffered from FOMO, fear of missing out. How can I control my cravings and feel I’m not depriving myself of something pleasurable? Well, that’s the big lie is that Drew Carey said it best, eating crappy food isn’t a reward. It’s a punishment. And so, until you get your mindset right that what you’re craving is a weapon of mass destruction, it’s going to be hard.

Tana Amen:

So, I actually have a lot of tips on this, the cookbook, in The Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook. When Chloe was in seventh grade, she actually has the classic example of this. So, she came home and she’s like, she would never talk to us about eating healthy because she was so afraid that it was going to make her the weird kid at school, right? She was so afraid that she was going to miss out just like you’re talking about. She didn’t want to show up somewhere be the weird kid, but she started to get really anxious. She started to notice that her moods were not right, her skin was breaking out. She started to gain a little bit of weight and she’s like, “I want to eat healthy, but I don’t want to be the weird kid and if I go to a pizza place with all my friends, what am I going to do?”

Tana Amen:

So, we talked about it. We came up with strategies, the same strategies that are in the Cookbook, same strategies that are on my website. And so, she came up with a strategy and I loved it. She went out with her friends a couple of times. She came home, she goes, “This isn’t hard.” She goes, “This is so much easier than I thought. They don’t even really notice. They order pizza and Coke and I go get a salad and tea, and no one really pays attention.” So she’s like, “I thought it was going to be such a big deal, but it’s not.” She’s like, “As long as I have a strategy ahead of time, it’s not hard.” She just thinks ahead of time, what am I going to go get? She does it. She follows through and then it’s not hard.

Dr Daniel Amen:

All right, we’re almost out of time and we are so grateful for all of you that are watching. Over the week we have thousands, almost 7,000 people are staying with us. We’re really grateful for you. So, day one of your tasks this week is learn to kill the ants. Do the five questions with five thoughts and we have a handout for you on that to start each day. Where today is going to be a great day and end each day with what went well today. And these are things you should just do ongoing.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Three gratitude appreciation journal, three gratitudes and three appreciations. Appreciation is gratitude squared where you feel grateful and then you share it. I am grateful for you. I appreciate you every day.

Tana Amen:

Me too.

Dr Daniel Amen:

We have a hypnosis audio download for you that comes from Brain Fit Life. I think you’ll like it. I actually developed this for Tana when she took her black belt test.

Dr Daniel Amen:

There’s a great comedy routine just to begin to train your brain to be happier. It’s called The Tale of Two Brains by Mark Gungor. It’s [crosstalk [00:15:51]-

Tana Amen:

Is that the one with the male female brain? Oh my God, it’s so funny. So funny.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Day six, write down five of your happiest experiences and relive them in your mind. We have an exercise for you. And day seven, use your memory to feel great anytime, anywhere. It’s an exercise I developed in my book Memory Rescue. I think you will like it a lot. What we want from you is stories of change. Both Tana and I live for the stories you tell us of how this information has helped you and your loved ones.

Tana Amen:

It’s okay to tell us about struggles, but we want to hear about the process. We want to hear what you’re doing, so yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:

Great. Stay with us. We’ll see you next time. Thanks so much.

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 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.