EPISODE 365
Daniel Amen
Daniel Amen: Building a Happy, Healthy Brain

Mark speaks with Daniel Amen, a double board-certified psychiatrist and twelve-time New York Times best-selling author. The founder of Amen Clinics, Dr. Amen’s goal is to “end mental illness by creating a revolution in brain health.” Dr. Amen has helped millions of people improve their brain health and their lives.

Daniel Amen
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Show Notes

Today, Commander Divine speaks with Daniel Amen, a double board-certified psychiatrist and twelve-time New York Times best-selling author. The founder of Amen Clinics, Dr. Amen’s goal is to “end mental illness by creating a revolution in brain health.” In this episode, Dr. Amen discusses the link between brain type and personality, the ideal supplementation for brain health, how obesity affects your brain, and more.

Key Takeaways:

  • Obesity is literally dumbing us down. Studies have shown that as your weight increases, the actual physical size and function of your brain goes down. Being overweight decreases blood flow, ages your brain, increases inflammation, stores toxins, and changes your hormones. And with 72% of Americans overweight and 42% of them obese, it’s the biggest source of brain drain we’re currently facing.
  • Brain scans allow us to diagnose more accurately. Most psychiatrists will talk to you, look for symptom clusters, and then diagnose and treat you – but this process could be much more effective with biological data. Dr. Amen believes that psychiatrists don’t have to fly blind, and that new technology like SPECT brain scans can help us diagnose and treat mental conditions more effectively.
  • The 3 pillars of brain health. Dr. Amen says that boosting your brain health comes down to three specific strategies: 1) brain envy – you must passionately care about your brain and pay attention to it, 2) avoid anything that hurts your brain, and 3) regularly engage in habits that boost your brain’s health.
  • The lowest-hanging fruit for brain health. Dr. Amen says that if he could get all his patients to eat better, 30% of them would be better in a month. In terms of brain health interventions, nutrition definitely comes first.
  • The best happiness supplement. Dr. Amen’s favorite happiness supplement is saffron. He makes a product called Happy Saffron, which includes saffron, zinc and curcumin – and 24 randomized controlled trials showed it to be equally effective to antidepressants to boost mood, with virtually no side effects.
  • What NOT to do for brain health. Dr. Amen says to avoid processed foods, artificial dyes, artificial sweeteners, and high-glycemic, low-fiber foods. We should also limit bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and sugar. And don’t skimp on fat. Diets high in healthy fats have been shown to decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, because 60% of the solid weight of your brain is fat, low fat diets and depression go hand-in-hand.
  • The #1 habit for more happiness. When you go to do something, ask yourself, ‘Is this good for my brain or bad for it?’ If you can answer that with information and love, you’re going to be happier.
  • Brain health nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. Different personality profiles are all associated with different brain types. This means that supplements and nutrition are highly individualized, but Dr. Amen recommends that everyone should at least take a high-quality multivitamin, omega three fatty acids, and get your vitamin D to an optimal level.

Quotes:

“America had 4% of the world’s population, and 16% of the world’s COVID deaths. How does that make sense for the wealthiest country on Earth? It’s because we’re the sickest. And did you at all hear from Washington… I mean, we all heard we should stay home and we should get vaccinated, we should wear masks. There was nothing about, you should eat better. And oh, by the way, you should exercise. I mean, the thing that really prevents disaster is the health of your population.”

“You have to ask yourself, why do most psychiatrists make diagnoses like they did in 1840 when Lincoln was depressed? Because still in 2022, most psychiatrists will talk to you, will look at you, look for symptom clusters, and then diagnose and treat you. And we are drugging America with no biological data. And that’s insane. Right? And I’m a psychiatrist, I can diagnose insanity. Who flies blind if they don’t have to?”

“I’ve always thought this is never about me, right? I’ve never made anything proprietary. I want everybody to look at the brain. And you know, all the Navy SEALs, they should be looking on a regular basis at their brain because ultimately, it’s the quality of your decisions that make you a great warfighter or not. And that comes from your brain.”

“I actually don’t like the term mild traumatic brain injury. Because when you look at the scans, there’s nothing mild about it… the person might not even remember it. But most of the time, they’ll tell us about falling out of a car going 30 miles an hour or falling off a cliff, a tree. And those minor things are really not minor. Your brain is soft, about the consistency of soft butter. Your skull is really hard and has sharp bony ridges. So you don’t want to hurt it.”

“If you ask most second graders, if you give them a list of 50 things and go, good for your brain or bad for your brain… separate them… I’ve done this with second graders, they get it 90% right. People know what’s good for your brain or bad for your brain, the only thing they get consistently wrong is orange juice. They put it in the good category when it belongs in the bad category.”

“If I had to put it in a hierarchy, it’s nutrition first. If I could get all my patients to eat better, 30% of them would be better in a month.”

“You want to think of colorful fruits and vegetables, organic as much as you can afford, healthy protein. And don’t skimp on the fat. Because 60% of the solid weight of your brain is fat, low-fat diets go with depression.”

“If I was an evil ruler, and I wanted to create mental illness, what would I do? I’d create American society… I’d create the fast food industry, I’d create a pill for every ill you have. It’s just insane. 85% of psychiatric drugs are prescribed by non psychiatric physicians and 10-minute office visits.”

“You need to know someone’s brain before you help them know what will make them happy.”

“I think that’s what we love most about our work… it’s neuroplasticity. Because you’re not stuck with the brain you have. You can make it better.”

“The big mother habit of happiness is when you go to do something, ask yourself, ‘Is this good for my brain or bad for it?’ And if you can answer that with information and love, you’re going to be happier.”

Mark Divine 0:05
Coming up on the Mark Divine Show.

Daniel Amen 0:08
We are drugging America with no biological data. And that’s insane. Right, and I’m a psychiatrist, I can diagnose insanity. Who flies blind if they don’t have to?

Mark Divine 0:25
Welcome to the Mark Divine show. This is your host Mark Divine. On this podcast we explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational, compassionate and resilient leaders. My guests include notable people from all walks of life, meditation monks, Blockchain security, wizards, survivors of extreme adversity, even experts at scanning your brain and finding out what makes you happy from the perspective of the brain.

Each episode, I tried to distill remarkable experiences of my guests into actionable insights to help you create your most compassionate, courageous life. Today, we are going to be talking about happiness. We’re going to approach the steps to a happier life from a scientific perspective, diving into different brain types and different ways you can improve your overall brain health and learning about how the brain plays a role in your happiness. We’ll discuss simple tools and nutritional hacks that you can use to utilize in your everyday life to increase your happiness.

My guest today is Dr. Daniel Amen, who I’ve had as a guest several years ago. Dr. Amen is a physician, double board certified psychiatrist, 12-time New York Times bestselling author and founder and CEO of the Amen clinics with 10 locations in the US. The book that got me interested in Dr. Amen, which he wrote in 1999, was a mega bestseller called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He also wrote The End of Mental Illness, Memory Rescue, Healing ADD, and Your Brain is Always Listening. And we’re going to talk today a little bit more about his new book called You, Happier, which is already on the New York Times bestseller list. Dr. Amen’s mission is to end mental illness by creating a revolution in brain health and he’s dedicated to providing education products and services to accomplish that goal. So let’s get into it. Welcome, Dr. Daniel Amen.

Mark Divine 2:18
Dr. Amen, so good to see you again. Thanks so much for coming back on the Mark Divine show.

Daniel Amen 2:29
Hey, Mark.

Mark Divine
How are you, sir?

Daniel Amen
I am happy, how are you?

Mark Divine
I’m happy, too. You know, we’re going to talk about your book, this title You, Happier. And that’s a great goal to make people happier. But let’s first kind of back up, we spoke a few years ago, you had a book out and one of the things we talked about was Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, which is kind of one of your foundational works, right? You kind of opened up my mind to the fact that the brain… that you can approach mental health and happiness from the perspective of brain health. So I’d like to start with a question… like, what’s changed since you wrote Change Your Brain, Change Your Life?

Daniel Amen
You know, I think so many things have changed. I wrote that initially in 1999. And then I revised it again in 2015. And I have gone deeper into how to keep your brain healthy. So I always think of people in four big circles – what’s the biology, the physical functioning of your brain? So think of that really as the hardware of your soul, or the hardware of success, the hardware of your relationships. There’s the psychological circle, as you mentioned, there’s also the social circle. We’re just coming out of a pandemic, political divide, societal unrest, war in Ukraine, that chronic stress, and there’s this spiritual circle.

So why the heck do you care about all of this? What is your deepest sense of meaning, and purpose, and you have to get all four of those circles working together all of the time. But the foundational one is brain health. What I’ve come to really integrate is integrative medicine and to our 10 clinics around the country. It’s like, if you have bad blood flow, you’re gonna really have trouble being happy. If your brain is prematurely aging, that’s a problem. If you are living with inflammation, so for example, post COVID is an inflammatory disease. Genetics, head trauma, toxins. And you know what I didn’t know in 1999, but certainly would learn, is as your weight goes up, the actual physical size and function of your brain goes down. Now we can just scare the fat off anyone.

About two years ago, on 33,000 scans, one of the largest imaging studies ever done, there’s just a linear correlation. As your weight goes up, the function of your brain, virtually everywhere in the brain, goes down. I often talk about the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind, I have a mnemonic called Bright Minds, and the D in bright minds. So the second to the last letter, is diabesity. If you have high blood sugar, or you’re overweight, it’s a major risk factor. Well, that one risk factor automatically means you have six of the 11, wow. Because being overweight, decreases blood flow. It ages your brain, it increases inflammation, it stores toxins, it changes your hormones. And with 72% of Americans overweight, 42% obese, it’s the biggest brain drain. And in fact, even in the military… So I don’t know if you know, I was an infantry medic, and then I was an Army psychiatrist. It became a national security crisis, because they couldn’t get enough people in the military who were healthy. So they relaxed their standards, which just makes no sense. I mean, in Iraq, they had unlimited Baskin Robbins. It’s like, how does that make sense? You’re a fighting force. And you’re gonna make them stupid. It’s like, oh, but they’re stressed. Alright, so teach them to meditate, or not believe every stupid thing they think, or diaphragmatic breathing. I mean, there are 1000 ways to decrease your stress. But ice cream shouldn’t be one.

Mark Divine
Right. No, I agree with that. Wow, that’s interesting. So why is it that increasing weight leads to decreasing brain size and capacity?

Daniel Amen
Because the fat on your body is not innocuous. It stores toxins, it decreases blood flow. And probably the most wicked of all things is fat cells produce something called inflammatory cytokines that damage virtually every organ in your body.

Mark Divine 7:24
That’s fascinating, because I’ve read about a cytokine storm, which can be triggered by a virus like say, like COVID or something like that. And then we, you know, it creates a lot of havoc. So you’re saying that just fat itself, or obesity itself, creates a cytokine overload, which then, you know, has the effect of diminishing capacity. Wow, that’s really interesting.

Daniel Amen
It’s motivation to get to a healthy weight. Being underweight’s not good for you. But being overweight is associated with every bad thing, including cancer.

Mark Divine
It’s brain boggling, mind boggling to me that there’s no more national discourse about this. And even the FDA did not change their sugar recommended standards this year in the face of just overwhelming evidence, including many people in the FDA itself, recommending that we do so. What’s going on there? Why is our government so backwards?

Daniel Amen
Yeah, I don’t think you know, we can trust the FDA, or the CDC. Because too many people from industry have high level jobs, from the food industry or from the pharmaceutical industry, I think people really need to be thinking for themselves. And you just have to look at the outcomes. You know, what’s the outcome? America had 4% of the world’s population, and 16% of the world’s COVID deaths. How does that make sense for the wealthiest country on Earth? It’s because we’re the sickest. And did you at all hear from Washington… I mean, we all heard we should stay home and we should get vaccinated, we should wear masks. There was nothing about, you should eat better. And oh, by the way, you should exercise. I mean, the thing that really prevents disaster is the health of your population.

Mark Divine
Wow, that’s kind of a sad state of affairs. But we won’t dig into that in this podcast. How did you know… you said you were an Army doctor and psychologist. What led you to studying and like looking inside the cranial housing group with functional resonance or fMRI and EEG?

Daniel Amen
So when I was young, Vietnam was going on. And when I was 18, I had a low draft number and I became an infantry medic. And that’s where I fell in love with medicine. But about a year into being an infantry medic, I realized I didn’t like being shot at. Right. I mean, some people like being shot at.

Mark Divine 10:00
Yeah, my Navy SEAL friends and I like that because, yeah, strange.

Daniel Amen
Some people run toward fires, for me I’m like, no, it’s fine. I think I’m not going to do that. And I got myself retrained as an x ray technician and developed a passion for medical imaging, as our professors used to say, how do you know unless you look? And then in 1979, I’m a second year medical student. So I get out of the army and go to college, and then medical school. And someone I loved tried to kill herself. And I took her to see a wonderful psychiatrist. And I came to realize if he helped her, it wouldn’t just help her… that ultimately would help her children and her grandchildren. So I fell in love with psychiatry, because I realize it has the potential to change generations of people. But I fell in love with the only medical specialty that never looks at the organ it treats. Think about that. And I knew it was wrong. And I knew it would change. I just had no idea I’d be part of the change.

And about 10 years later, I went to my first lecture, you said you’ve gotten a QEEG. Well, I took a fellowship at Harvard, on QEEG, and I started to use them and I liked them a lot. We still do at Amen Clinics. But in 1991, I went to a lecture on brain SPECT imaging. And I just fell in love with these 3d pictures of the brain. Because if I have your history and your scan, I become a way better doctor. And oh, by the way, I get you to fall in love with your brain. And then your whole life gets better if your brain is better. And now we have 200,000 scans, patients from 150 countries. And the scans have just taught me so much, like mild traumatic brain injuries are a major cause of psychiatric disorders. And nobody knows about it. How many times as a SEAL did you do a breaching exercise?

Mark Divine
Tons right? Tons of explosions, even just firing an automatic weapon

Daniel Amen
Right, so little micro trauma. And that all adds up to sub concussive blow. Yeah. Which is why in the SEALs, there’s a high incidence of divorce and mental health stuff, even though they’re some of the most talented people on the planet. But you can’t damage the brain repeatedly, and expect people to be okay. And these are our heroes. I did the big NFL study, at a time when the NFL was sort of lying, they had a problem. But you know, in retrospect, studying SEALs and studying veterans and studying firefighters is really more important because we need them so badly.

Mark Divine
Right? They’re not playing a game. What is the difference? Or what do you learn from an fMRI that you don’t learn from a QEEG? Or how do they support each other to tell the story?

Daniel Amen
Well, we don’t do fMRI we do SPECT, that looks at blood flow and activity, it looks at how the brain works. So a quantitative EEG looks at the electrical activity in the brain. But it’s sort of hard to get the signal, right, I mean, they put a cap on your head, and you got to generate the signal, and it’s fairly weak. And so you don’t get a great look at the deep structures in the brain. So it’s an outside in look where SPECT is an inside output. We put medicine in your arm, it goes and locks into cells in your brain. And then it sends out a signal, photons, which we can measure.

So the images are more sophisticated, we got a better look at like your cerebellum, which is hugely important. And the underside of the brain, which is actually where most psychiatric stuff hangs out. So at some point, you should come and we should look at your brain.

Mark Divine
I would enjoy that, actually. I don’t think I distinguish between SPECT imagery and fMRI, but they’re the same thing. So thanks for clarifying that for me. Can you fMRI a brain and what does that look like?

Daniel Amen
Well, of course you can. fMRI is not very helpful. There is a new MRI procedure called ASL arterial spin labeling, and that looks specifically at blood flow in the brain. There’s also DTI, there’s a number of MRI based procedures. DTI looks at the white matter. So the white matter, think of it like the highways in your brain. And if you have multiple sub concussive blows, some of the highways get blown up, which are not great. There’s a lot of sort of cool ways to look at the brain. But still, you have to ask yourself, why do most psychiatrists make diagnoses like they did in 1840 when Lincoln was depressed? Because still in 2022, most psychiatrists will talk to you, will look at you, look for symptom clusters, and then diagnose and treat you. And we are drugging America with no biological data. And that’s insane. Right? And I’m a psychiatrist, I can diagnose insanity. Who flies blind if they don’t have to?

Mark Divine
Yeah, how long has it taken you to convince the medical profession that you can see dysfunctional patterns in the brain that then correlate to dysfunctional psychological behavior? Because it seems so obvious. It seems obvious now, right?

Daniel Amen 15:39
Yeah, it seemed obvious to me 30 years ago, but people change slowly. In my new book You, Happier, you know, one of the exercises is to write down the 20 happiest moments of your life, and then plant them around your house so everywhere you look, you see happiness. May of last year, one of those happened for me. You know, I’ve been at war with my colleagues for the last 30 years. I’m like, if you don’t look, you don’t know, stop lying about it. So in May, the Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine, a prestigious scientific body wrote new procedure guidelines for SPECT as if I wrote them. In fact, of 10 of the authors, five of them had been my students, and I was so happy, because it’s like the tide is finally turning, people are going to start looking. And we should, you know, I’ve always thought this is never about me, right? I’ve never made anything proprietary. I want everybody to look at the brain. And you know, all the Navy SEALs, they should be looking on a regular basis at their brain because ultimately, it’s the quality of your decisions that make you a great warfighter or not. And that comes from your brain.

Mark Divine 17:07
Okay, we’re gonna take a short break here from the Mark Divine show, to hear a short message from one of our partners.

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Mark Divine 21:28
There’s nuance to this, right. So like if I’m a SEAL, and I’m exposed to TBI, and you put me under a spectral analysis, you’re looking for one thing, you’re not looking for happiness factors you’re looking for, like is this brain damaged? And let’s get you know, it’s kind of like triage, let’s get back to health. And then the next layer of nuances, what you described in your book is like, you know, there’s different types of brains that create different types of personalities, whether they’re DISC personality disorders, or functional personalities. Let’s talk about the first like, what does a dysfunctional damaged brain look like? And how do we get a damaged brain? Let’s say like some of my SEAL, or special ops teammates, how do we get that healthy right away as quick as possible?

Daniel Amen
So damage is not hard to see, a healthy scan shows full, even symmetrical activity with a lot of really healthy activity in the cerebellum. The back bottom part of the brain, think of it like the brain’s processor. When you damage it, you know, you get decreased blood flow, wherever the damage was, could be left front or right back or both sides. And you see the decreased blood flow. Now, sometimes you’ll see dead tissue, but mostly not, mostly you’re just seeing significant decrease.

Mark Divine
You can see that from TBI as well?

Daniel Amen
Absolutely.
Mark Divine
Oh, wow, interesting. Micro TBI is what I meant to say. So the small little traumas that build up.

Daniel Amen
Well, I actually don’t like the term mild traumatic brain injury. Because when you look at the scans, there’s nothing mild about it.

Mark Divine
Really interesting.

Daniel Amen
Now there’s obviously varying degrees. And you have to ask people 10 times whether or not they’ve had a brain injury. So a lot of times people go no, and we see it on the scan. So we go, are you sure? And they go, I don’t think so. Have you ever fallen out of a tree, off a fence, dove into a shallow pool… And sometimes it actually happens before they have memory. One of my patients, her mother was in the room, and I was like, did you ever have a brain injury, because it was really clear on her scan. She goes no, I don’t think so. And then her mother started to cry. And she said you don’t know this. But when you were nine months old, your father put you on a backpack on his motorcycle and drove out into the forest. And he thought he could get under a tree that had fallen over. Forgot you were on his back. And as he bent over, you hit your head, hit the tree and knocked you out, we thought you were dead.

And so sometimes we see it, and the person might not even remember it. But most of the time, they’ll tell us about falling out of a car going 30 miles an hour or falling off a cliff, a tree. And those minor things are really not minor. Your brain is soft, about the consistency of soft butter. Your skull is really hard and has sharp bony ridges. So you don’t want to hurt it.

Mark Divine
It’s fascinating. You’d think the human would have evolved a little bit. I mean, as protective as the brain is itself internally, you think it would have some sort of shock absorber system?

Daniel Amen
We’re not like woodpeckers. So woodpeckers have an amazing shock absorber system and so they can bang their head over and over again, they don’t have cognitive impairment. Humans aren’t like that.

Mark Divine
Which is why we wear helmets now when we ski and we ride motorcycles and etc, etc.

Daniel Amen
Which wasn’t true when I was growing up.

Mark Divine
Yeah, me neither, it’s fascinating. So when you see someone who’s got that blunt trauma kind of injury, and it shows up, what’s the intervention? Like, what do we do to get someone healthy?

Daniel Amen
So I always say brain health is three things: brain envy, you got to care about it. Avoid anything that hurts your brain. So if you have brain trauma, you probably should stop drinking. You should probably stop smoking pot, because those things damage your brain. Eat better – supplements, what I did with my NFL group, I taught him about brain health right, three things brain envy, got to care about it, avoid things that hurt, do things that help, right? So that’s the overview.

And, you know, if you ask most second graders, if you give them a list of 50 things and go, good for your brain or bad for your brain… separate them… I’ve done this with second graders, they get it 90% right. People know what’s good for your brain or bad for your brain, the only thing they get consistently wrong is orange juice. They put it in the good category when it belongs in the bad category. It’s too much sugar, right?

Mark Divine
Too much fructose.

Daniel Amen
And then what I did with my NFL group, high potency, high quality, multiple vitamin high dose fish oil, and a specific blend of EPA and DHA, and a brain boost that works in six different ways. That combination, 80% of my players got better. I also use hyperbaric oxygen, I’m a huge fan of hyperbaric oxygen, and sometimes we’ll do IV therapy. Sometimes we’ll do neurofeedback, you know, whatever I can do to get your brain healthy.

But the mainstay of my protocol, get the right supplements to nourish your brain, hyperbaric oxygen.

Mark Divine
I want to double click on that I’ve got my own hyperbaric chamber. It’s pretty extraordinary. Not everyone has the benefit of having a chamber in their house. But I think in the future, you’re gonna find more and more of these pop up. You know, like our friend, Dave Asprey, is creating these longevity clinics, that’s probably the right word. I don’t know if you’ve talked to him recently, but they have a chamber in there.

Daniel Amen
I do. I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, I adore him.

Mark Divine
I know, he’s great because he’s just such a pioneer. But uh, you know, to be able to go around the street corner, you know, just a quick jaunt to a civilian place that you can get that hyperbaric chamber and infrared sauna, hot, cold, you know, you do all these really cool things that we now know are extremely good for you, for your brain, as well as longevity and immune system. The hyperbaric chamber, so correct me if I’m wrong, what we’re talking about there is you go down to 1.3 to 1.5, ata, like we’re diving, and then you’re pressing action through the plasma into your brain structures, which helps it heal, is that right? Or reduces inflammation and accelerates healing?

Daniel Amen 27:54
All of that can actually increase the production of stem cells. And they’re actually finding even home chambers that go to 1.3. atmospheres are effective at healing. Now, if you’re going into a chamber, you’re probably drinking less. If you’re going into a chamber, you’re probably eating better.

Mark Divine
You’re already a peak performance nut like me.

Daniel Amen
I mean, the act of doing something good spills over so that you do other things that are good for your brain.

Mark Divine
That’s the integrative approach. It’s not one thing… would nutrition be that like if you said, Okay, there’s only one thing you can do. Would it be nutrition that you recommend? Like, what’s the most important thing?

Daniel Amen
If I had to put it in a hierarchy, it’s nutrition first. If I could get all my patients to eat better, 30% of them would be better in a month.

Mark Divine 28:50
That’s amazing. That happens that quickly.

Daniel Amen
It happens that quickly. On Instagram, I do this series called “scan my brain” where we take influencers and we do an evaluation, then we film my part of it with them, and then we publish 15 minutes of it with of course their permission. I recently did Troy Gloss, who was the third baseman for the California Angels, and he was the World Series MVP in 2002. 320 home runs, and he’s just an awesome person, but he was drinking way too much and he was sad, and you could see the damage on his scan. He also had four concussions. His family was a mess, and he did what I asked him to do. He stopped drinking. He ate better, he took the supplements, ended up in two months losing 15 pounds. I rescanned him before we started hyperbaric oxygen, and his brain was dramatically better. And he was like a little kid, so excited. And you know, it’s why I love my high performing veterans and athletes because they tend to do what you ask them.

Mark Divine
They got the discipline to, yeah.

Daniel Amen
Yeah, they like being coached. It’s like, Hey, Coach, tell me what to do. Eating right, supplementing your brain, in fact in the book, it’s based on the seven neuroscience secrets. The first one is know your type, because everybody’s different. The second one is get your brain right. The third one is supplement your brain. And my favorite happiness supplement is saffron. I make something called Happy Saffron – it’s saffron, Zinc and curcumin. 24 randomized controlled trials show it to be equally effective to antidepressants to boost your mood. You know, virtually no side effects.

Mark Divine
What is saffron, is that a plant?

Daniel Amen
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. So it comes from the saffron plant, the crocus sativa. You take the threads from it, crush them up, turn them into a powder, and it’s been shown to increase happiness, memory, sexual functioning, has actually been good for your eyes, and can help decrease snacking, of all things. It’s one of our most popular supplements, mostly because I love it and talk about it all the time. You know, who’s not stressed, who’s not sad, who’s not anxious, given what we just came out of? So supplementing the brain, I think is really important.

Mark Divine 31:43
When it comes to nutrition and supplementation, or fueling the brain or feeding it, I mean, it probably is helpful from the nutrition side, just to look at the don’ts instead of you know, the long list of do’s but you know, obviously sugar is out, we talked about sugar, alcohol, you know, stuff like that, caffeine probably at least severely limit it. What else should we not do? What food isn’t good for our brain?

Daniel Amen
So processed foods, artificial dyes, artificial sweeteners, high glycemic, low fiber foods. We should really limit bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, sugar. There’s a study from the Mayo Clinic where they looked at people who had a fat-based diet. You know, avocados, nuts and seeds, healthy fish, healthy oils, 42% less risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. And they compared it to people who had a simple carbohydrate based diet – bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, sugar… 400% increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, because it ultimately wears out your insulin’s effectiveness, you end up with this diabesity thing that I was talking about. You want to think of colorful fruits and vegetables, organic as much as you can afford, healthy protein. And don’t skimp on the fat. Because 60% of the solid weight of your brain is fat, low-fat diets go with depression.

Mark Divine 33:17
That’s fascinating. Because once again, back to the FDA, they’ve been recommending the opposite for so long. It’s almost like they want to keep us sick.

Daniel Amen 33:25
Well, because if they’re working for industry, industry makes more money. Big food and Big Pharma. I just posted a video on TikTok. It’s got 2 million views. I talked about if I was an evil ruler, and I wanted to create mental illness, what would I do? I’d create American society. I’d create the fast food industry, I’d create a pill for every ill you have. It’s just insane. 85% of psychiatric drugs are prescribed by non psychiatric physicians and 10-minute office visits. So you could go to your family doctor and say I’m not sleeping. I’m sad and I’m anxious, and leave with a prescription for Xanax, Lexapro and Ambien. And I’m not opposed to medicine. I’m just opposed to the indiscriminate use, which is what’s happening in the US. Once you start this stuff, it’s hard to stop. I don’t want to create a problem. If you’re anxious, let me teach you all the sort of natural things to do for anxiety first.

Mark Divine 34:40
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Mark Divine 38:30
So you talked about a supplement that had saffron, zinc, and curcumin. What other supplements can people look at that are available either by you or on Amazon that are good for your brain?

Daniel Amen 38:42
So I think basics, what I tell everybody, a really good multi, omega three fatty acids. So for most people, that’s a high quality fish oil supplement. Know your vitamin D level and optimize it. So you don’t want to be normal. Right? You or I have never wanted to be normal. We always want it to be optimal. And so an optimal level is like 70 or 80, normal is between 30 to 100, just coming out of a pandemic hopefully. And I want my level to be around 80 or 90. And then it depends on your brain type. For people who are balanced, tulsi is a good place to start, maybe add a probiotic. For people who are spontaneous, they need something to boost energy in their brain. So I like green tea, Rhodiola, ashwagandha, ginseng. For the persistent people, they worry, they hold grudges, things don’t go their way, they get upset… five HTP can help for the sensitive. People tend to get sad, that’s where saffron and Sami can be so good for the cautious people, GABA, magnesium ashwagandha, theanine can be just so helpful.

Mark Divine
That’s fascinating. And so I think that was one of the most interesting things from your book is that one size really doesn’t fit all. I mean, there’s kind of a foundational nutritional plan and supplementation plan. But then it gets more nuanced because your work identified that different personality profiles are really associated with different brain types, at least as they show up in your SPECT imaging. Tell us about the aha moment where you figured that out, and what are the implications?

Daniel Amen 40:35
Well, when I first started doing scans, I was looking for the one type of depression or one type of you know, the one pattern for ADD. And quickly, I realized there wasn’t one type for any of them. And this is why imaging got rejected initially. Because they’re like, oh, imaging doesn’t correlate with a diagnostic Bible called the DSM. And I went, well, that’s why you do it. Because the Bible doesn’t tell you what type of depression or ADHD it is right? Giving someone a diagnosis of depression is exactly like giving them the diagnosis of chest pain. And nobody gets a diagnosis of chest pain, because it doesn’t tell you what’s causing it. And it doesn’t tell you what to do for it. And I realized depression was the same thing. And as I was looking at different types of depression… I’m like, oh, there’s also different types of personality types. Some people are balanced, and most anything will make them happy. Some people have low frontal lobes, and they need novelty, they need excitement. They are thrill seekers, they love surprises. And another group, their frontal lobes actually work too hard, you need to calm them down. And they hate surprises. And they need routine, anything outside of the routine would upset them. And so as I was looking, especially the spontaneous and persistent type, I’m like, you need to know someone’s brain before you help them know what will make them happy.

Mark Divine 42:09
I definitely got caught up in the chicken or the egg kind of discussion. Is it the brain type that’s the cause of the personality? Or is it the personality that causes the brain to look a certain way? Or is it… or obviously, doesn’t matter?

Daniel Amen
No, I think it’s the brain. You can take a healthy brain, traumatize it, and turn it into a persistent brain. Or you can take a healthy brain and let that brain hit soccer balls, and turn it into a spontaneous brain, because you’re damaging it. Or you can isolate children, for example, and they’re going to become more sensitive, because we’re a connected species. And when you disconnect people from others, they get depressed.

Mark Divine
I would just think like childhood conditioning could shape your brain a certain way. And then, you know, over years, you can begin to reshape it because that conditioning has less and less hold on you or you’re doing meditation or therapy and suddenly you’re doing… you’re thinking a different way, you’re training your brain a different way and then the shape, or how it shows up in the SPECT imaging is going to change.

Daniel Amen
I think that’s what we love most about our work… it’s neuroplasticity. Because you’re not stuck with the brain you have. You can make it better.

Mark Divine
And but you’re working mostly with people who have never really investigated, or aren’t asking those questions. They just don’t know why their life is not happy.

Daniel Amen
Well you know, we have a really wide range of people who come to see us. About 20% don’t have anything wrong, they just want to be better. And when you really look, there’s things wrong, but they can be better. But so I think 80% of people go, I hurt, helped me.

Mark Divine
You know what I love about you also, Dr. Amen, is that you kind of, you’re like me in the sense that you eat your own dog food, you walk your talk, right? You’re your own client, so to speak. So tell us about your daily routine. And then we’ll kind of wrap up. Like what do you do every day? What’s your routine, morning, evening, so that you ensure you have an optimal brain and you’re gonna live 120 years or 158 like Dave Asprey says?

Daniel Amen
So, being authentic is my first core value. I always say if you don’t live the message, you are ineffective at giving it. As much as I can, I try to live the message. You know, it always starts the night before. When I go to bed at night, I say a prayer and then I go, what went well today? So I’m setting my sleep up to be better by noticing what I like right before bed than what I don’t like. And that’s a habit that has served me so well in my life, and I even think of it now like a treasure hunt. And then my relationship with my wife is so important to my happiness. So I make her a decaf cappuccino first thing in the morning. I love that, we spend time together. And then I tend to do intermittent fasting. So I don’t eat first thing in the morning, when I have a huddle with my team, I’m usually either walking or on the bike. I like to do meetings while I’m exercising. And then three times a week I lift weights. I do aerobic exercise every day. My favorite sport is table tennis.

Mark Divine
I read that, that’s cool

Daniel Amen
Because you got to get your eyes, hands and feet all working together.

Mark Divine
While you think about the spin on the ball. That’s great brain training right there.

Daniel Amen
I have a shake around 11 o’clock. Really healthy shake. I generally have a big salad with protein for lunch. My wife has a cookbook called The Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook, usually will have something out of that for dinner. And I’m conscious. I make a brain healthy hot chocolate almost every night. Unsweetened almond milk, raw cacao, little chocolate stevia. It’s amazing.

Mark Divine
That sounds delicious. Do you sell that? By the way?

Daniel Amen
I don’t sell that. But I talk about that recipe a lot. That’s because there’s a new study with chocolate, raw cacao better than the crap in the stores, increases stem cell production in just two weeks. So I’m hoping to live to 120.

Mark Divine
Yeah, no, I’m with you on that. That’s awesome. Well, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and you keep doing what you’re doing in the hyperbaric chamber, do you have one of those? Or?

Daniel Amen
I do. And at work, we have heart chambers. And I’m just a huge fan of putting your brain in a healing environment. But you know, the big mother habit of happiness is when you go to do something, ask yourself, Is this good for my brain or bad for it? And if you can answer that with information and love, you’re going to be happier.

Mark Divine
100%. I really appreciate your work. And I appreciate you for taking the time today Dr. Amen. Your book, You, Happier is out. I imagine it’s out in the marketplace.

Daniel Amen
It is, it made three bestseller lists last week.

Mark Divine
Congratulations, it deserves to be. So check it out, You, Happier subtitle The Seven Neuroscience Secrets of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type. You’ve got your Amen clinics, you’ve got 10 of them now, 10 major cities here in the United States. So if you’re listening and you’re intrigued and give them a call, where else can people find you? Or what’s your preferred way that people can connect with you personally?

Daniel Amen
So amenclinics.com, or they can follow me on Instagram or Tiktok or Facebook. Tik Tok’s the one that surprised me.

Mark Divine
So you have a Tik Tok account at 60 years old?

Daniel Amen
1.3 million viewers.

Mark Divine
Get out of here. Oh, man, I gotta start looking into that.

Daniel Amen
I discovered the secret. So you say the same thing over and over again, right? I mean, you have these basic principles, right?

Mark Divine
Pretty much, yeah.

Daniel Amen
So just cut them up into 30 to 60 minute segments. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear from you on a regular basis to be inspired?

Mark Divine
All right, we’re gonna do that.

Daniel Amen
I would just think for you, your 100 greatest hits, and start with that.

Mark Divine
How often do you post on Tik Tok, every day?

Daniel Amen
Oh, every day, but I work with my social media director. And you know, once or twice a week, we’ll get together and record a bunch. You know, you sort of see what hits and what doesn’t hit. The comments are great. And it’s not just for little kids, you know, started that way. It’s not just for little kids. There’s, you know, there’s trash on it. But there’s also great stuff.

Mark Divine
That’s awesome. All right Dr. Amen, thank you so much. Appreciate you and keep charging. Doing great work.

Daniel Amen
Thanks, Mark. So great to see you.

Mark Divine
All right hoo-yah, ikewise.

Mark Divine 48:56
Well, that was a fascinating, fascinating podcast, Dr. Amen went through a ton of stuff. Talked about SPECT imaging and how it has led him to understand different types of brains or different brain types which led to different personality attributes, the balanced, the spontaneous, the persistent, the sensitive and the cautious. Fascinating fact: the more you increase your weight, the more your brain decreases in size and competency. And what an epidemic we have in this country. You know, if more and more people are getting obese, over 44% now expected to be over 50% of this country by 2030. That’s insane. Guess what? Your brain is getting dumber and dumber. So we got to do something about that. Obviously, nutrition and supplementation are some of the biggest things to help out your brain. We talked about that, we also talked about hyperbaric chambers, and other intervention therapies. This isn’t just for people who have TBI or damaged brains from concussions. This is for everybody to learn about brain health and to use that information to become happier

You’ll find the show notes and transcript at our website at Mark Divine.com. Video will be up at YouTube, Mark Divine.comslash YouTube. You can find me on social media at Mark Divine at Twitter and at real Mark Divine, Instagram and Facebook. You can always hit me up on LinkedIn and ask any questions you want or promote or recommend guests, those types of things.

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Special shout out to my team: Jason Sanderson, Geoff Haskell, Jeff Torres, Melinda Hershey, this amazing team helps me produce this show every week, with incredible guests and inspiration and bring it to you. It’s a lot of work. And I’m really grateful for that team.

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As you know, the world is chaotic and changing fast. We’re in a very, very interesting and challenging time for humanity. We can either be bowled over and consumed by the chaos and run away from it. Or we can face it head on with eyes wide open, developing clarity and charity through our training, which is what my mission is – to train and inspire 100 million people to develop integrated, compassionate, inclusive leadership and life principles so that we can be the change we want to see in the world. Do that at scale. So thanks for being part of the journey. Thanks for doing the work. And thanks for supporting the Mark Divine Show. Till next week.

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