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What If Mental Health Is Really Brain Health?

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

For Dr. Daniel Amen, using imaging to actually look at people’s brains completely changed the discussion around mental health. What he found was that mental health is actually brain health, and when you get your brain right, your mind will follow. This episode of the podcast continues the discussion from The End of Mental Illness 6-Week Live Class and Challenge.

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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. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: 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: 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 had just saw such incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. We wanted to share this with you and we hope that you will join us in the challenge.
Dr Daniel Amen: The imaging work we've done at Amen Clinics just completely changed the discussion around mental health for me. And so you said you almost canceled your first date with me when you found out I was a psychiatrist.
Tana Amen: I was told psychiatrists are weird.
Dr Daniel Amen: Tana is a neurosurgical ICU nurse.
Tana Amen: And I also worked for Medtronic in their neuro division. So brain anatomy was something I was highly focused on. But psychiatry, not so much.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, but you're a highly trained person that worked with really complex patients. And actually, after our first lunch 14 years ago, which have been the best 14 years of my life.
Tana Amen: Me too.
Dr Daniel Amen: I'm not kidding. That you went, "Oh, you do things differently."
Tana Amen: Oh no. I was immediately interested. As soon as you told me what you do, I was so confused at first. I'm like, "Wait, what? I'm confused. Why don't all psychiatrists do that?"
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, that's our goal. The End of Mental Illness is to get our colleagues to start looking at what they do before they do it. So, imaging changed everything, and what I learned a long time ago is nobody really wants to see a psychiatrist. So, you're not alone.
Dr Daniel Amen: 1979, when I told my dad I wanted to be a psychiatrist, he asked me why I didn't want to be a real doctor, why I wanted to be a nut doctor, and hang out with nuts all day long. Now, that is not a cool thing to say to your son. Right? He did not get father of the year. He was working when Father Knows Best was on TV, trying to model healthy parenting for fathers.
Tana Amen: That's so funny.
Dr Daniel Amen: But I sort of get it, after 40 years of doing this, that it's sort of our fault because we don't act. I mean what doctor doesn't look at the organ they treat? Do you know any other medical specialists that never look at the organ they treat? No one wants to be labeled as defective or abnormal, but everybody wants a better brain.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, what if mental health was really brain health? So, if I had to summarize The End of Mental Illness, which it's a big book, and it's got 1084 scientific references in it, but if I had to sum it up, mental health is brain health. Get your brain right, your mind will follow. And then I tell you exactly how to do just that.
Dr Daniel Amen: When you re-imagine mental health as brain health, people see their problems as medical and not moral. It decreases shame and guilt almost immediately. It increases compliance because people want better brains, they have more trust in the diagnosis, and it increases forgiveness and compassion in families. And that's just so important, because if you have a mental health issue, you're [inaudible 00:04:34] Your kids are suffering, your parents are suffering, your siblings are suffering. Brain health issues affect everyone in the family.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, that's step one. Let's get rid of the term mental illness, call these things what they really are, brain health issues that steal your mind. Well, that's true. And it is. Step two is you have to fall in love with your brain, and nobody loves their brain because you can't see it. You can see the wrinkles in your skin or the fat around your belly, and you can do something when you're unhappy. But because most people never look, most people don't know.
Dr Daniel Amen: And early on, when I started scanning people, I scanned my children, my ex wife, I scanned an aunt who has a panic disorder. I scanned a lot of my friends, who I knew needed scans. And then I scanned my mom when she was 60, and she just had a stunningly beautiful brain. Now, that actually doesn't surprise you, does it?
Tana Amen: No, because your mother's amazing. She's still amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: She's 88 and she has 53 grandchildren and great grandchildren. She knows everybody's name.
Tana Amen: It's insane.
Dr Daniel Amen: I don't know everybody's name. She knows everybody's birthday.
Tana Amen: She's so organized.
Dr Daniel Amen: She's everybody's best friend.
Tana Amen: And she's so incredibly organized. It's just so crazy.
Dr Daniel Amen: And so she has this really great brain, and then I got up the nerve to scan myself, and it sort of looked terrible. And I'm like, why does my brain look so bad? But I played football in high school because I didn't know better. I had meningitis twice as a young soldier. I was an infantry medic and I had bad habits. I wasn't sleeping. I ate fast food like it was my best friend.
Tana Amen: And no residency.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yes residents, medical students, they don't model brain health for you. And so, when I got scanned in 1991, I developed brain envy. I wanted my mother's brain. Freud was wrong. He was about two and a half feet too low. Penis envy is not the cause of anybody's problem. I've been doing this for 40 years and have not seen one case. The kind of envy you need is you need brain envy. So, Freud was wrong. It's brain envy.
Dr Daniel Amen: And 25 years later, my brain was fuller, fatter, healthier. And that's the message. You're not stuck with the brain you have. You can make it better. We can prove it. And with a better brain always comes a better life.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, one of our friends, Doug, came to see us. Brain looked terrible. He was raised in Normal, Illinois. I got to visit Normal, Illinois. It's really fun actually.
Tana Amen: It's the only normal there is.
Dr Daniel Amen: I got to go to the Normal grocery store. I was interviewed on the Normal radio station. I finally got to meet Normal women. Being from California, that was not common. And they had the same problems we did everywhere else. He grew up on a farm around a lot of pesticides. He was also a mixed martial artist, and he was struggling with brain fog and fatigue and poor focus. And he said, when he saw his scan for the first time, it was like seeing one of his children, and he knew once he saw it, he would never again do anything to hurt his brain. Like when you saw Chloe, you knew you had to stay home and you had to protect her. Right? And now that she's 16 and she's starting to separate...
Tana Amen: I'm just traumatized.
Dr Daniel Amen: You still want her home and you still want to protect her.
Tana Amen: She's breaking my heart.
Dr Daniel Amen: This is Doug's scan three months later. Did hyperbaric oxygen, which we're a big fan of, did supplements that we're a fan of, and we're so proud of him. A couple of months ago, I went and spoke... You came with me! To Crossings, to an addiction recovery program. And before the program, they had a sobriety chip ceremony and less than 30 days sober, here's your chip. Although, I'm not sure why they get a chip if they're less than 30 days sober.
Tana Amen: Because it's the hardest to get.
Dr Daniel Amen: [inaudible 00:09:33].
Tana Amen: Yeah, the first 30 days is the hardest to get. So, if they're a day sober, it's just hard to get those first few days.
Dr Daniel Amen: And then 60 days, and then 90 days, and then a year. And I was just thinking to myself, because we've seen-
Tana Amen: I know way more about this than I want to.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thousands of addicts. And when I went up I said, "So, how many of you that just got your less than 30 days sober chip have brain fog?" And they all raised their hand.
Tana Amen: Oh you could see. They looked like deer in the headlights.
Dr Daniel Amen: And I said, "Well, these are the scans. The addiction scans are some of the worst scans we see. But if you do the right thing, four months later can be better."
Tana Amen: So, imagine trying to try to become sober with a brain like that, trying to get sobriety when your brain is functioning the way a brain like that functions. So that's why it's just so hard.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's really hard.
Tana Amen: So it's like a vicious circle.
Dr Daniel Amen: And doing the right thing, it can be better in a year later. For this person, his brain was so much better. You are not stuck with the brain you have. You can make it better. And so here's Tamarind. The girl, she got her one year chip, which we are so excited.
Tana Amen: And it's so interesting. It's the longest she's been sober since she was 13 years old. So, imagine that many years of that many years of doing that to your brain. It takes a while for it to come back.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, big ideas from today. We need to get rid of the term mental illness, call these what they really are, brain health issues that steal your mind. And then the second big idea is, if you want a better mind, you have to fall in love with your brain. And one of your tasks, so part of the challenge, and you're basically going to police yourself, if you will, is you'll do each of these things over the next seven days. And then we're going to have a form for you to fill out each week just to rate your mood, your focus, your anxiety, your memory, pain, and so on. Because we want to track your progress over time.
Dr Daniel Amen: And so all of you should have been emailed this very cool form about the challenges for the week, and we have the links for you to go to on our page. And day one, we want you to share a tiny habit. So, we actually explain what tiny habits are. We learned it from our mentor BJ Fogg and his sister, Linda. It's the smallest thing I can do today that will make the biggest difference. And we worked with them for six months and we created 50 tiny habits for you.
Dr Daniel Amen: And the mother tiny habit, the most important tiny habit, is ask yourself, this takes three seconds, this one question: is this good for my brain or bad for it? And if you can answer that question with information and love, love for yourself, you're going to radically change the health of your brain.
Dr Daniel Amen: And so, the task is to share it with someone. So, just type it out, explain it and just share it with one person. Because when you share something, when you do this program with a partner, it'll double your success. When Tana and I were involved in creating the Daniel plan at Saddleback church, what we found, those people who did that six week challenge, I mean it actually turned into a year, turned into a life for many people, it doubled their success. So, not very hard. This'll take you all of two minutes to do.
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 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 a amenclinics.com, or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.