When it comes to becoming better people, we often think about our mental state.

This is because we assume that a healthy mind is all we need to succeed. However, this statement is only valid if our brains are working correctly.

Dr. Daniel Amen is a physician, adult and child psychiatrist, and founder of the Amen clinics. His clinics have the world's most extensive brain scan database for psychiatry. He recently published a new book called You, Happier.

Jay Shetty invited him to his podcast to discuss how we can improve our lives by changing our brains. But first, we must understand what physically happens inside our brains to know how it impacts our minds.

Brain vs. Mind

Dr. Amen believes that the brain is a very confusing organ for most people. We can never look directly at it, hold it, or touch it. Because of this, he told Jay Shetty,it is still veiled in mystery for many.

After doing a considerable amount of scans, he concluded that if our brain is not functioning, neither is our mind. For example, he studied brain scans of convicted felons and noticed that their brains were severely damaged.

Yet our world is not ready to accept that they can be rehabilitated while protecting society from them. Dr. Amen quoted Dostoevsky, who once said: "A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals."

Brain Damaging Factors

According to Dr. Amen, brain damage can start as early as before birth in our mothers' wombs. It is well known that substances can be transferred from the mother to the embryo, leading to potentially negative effects on the child’s life down the road.

Symptoms of brain damage include attention and behavior problems, a lack of empathy, issues processing emotions, and more.Another factor that influences brain health is the food we eat. For example, the American diet contains very high amounts of sugar, especially for children. As a result, blood sugar rises, leading to weight gain and brain issues.

Blood flow is also essential to consider when discussing brain health. With access to streaming services and commodities just one click away, many now lead sedentary lifestyles. Dr. Amen told Jay Shetty that lack of movement and exercise is one of the primary causes of brain damage due to the reduced blood flow it leads to.

Physical injury is yet another common reason for brain impairment. Mild traumatic brain injuries caused by physical abuse, car accidents, or concussions are more dangerous than one might think. They lead to depression, addiction, homelessness, ADHD, and even suicide.

"It's a Daily Practice"

Dr. Amen shared with Jay Shetty that keeping our brains in shape requires as much time and attention as keeping the rest of our bodies in shape does.One exercise he practiced with his daughter was identifying which daily occurrences and foods were good for her brain and which were harmful. It was a playful daily mind jog, which taught her healthy habits.

Similarly, Dr. Amen recommends paying attention to our inner monologues. We have a conscious and a subconscious mind, and the latter is easily influenced by the first. For example, if we tell ourselves in the morning that we are about to have a bad day, we will. Therefore, he pointed out to Jay Shetty that starting the day with a positive mindset is advisable.

On a related note, Dr. Amen believes that a good day starts the night before. So, he mentally revises his day before going to bed and recalls things that he is grateful for. So, even if a day is unsuccessful, there are still micro-moments in it for which he can express gratitude.

The Pitfall of Positive Thinking

Though positive thinking in itself is not bad, there can be consequences if overused or not practiced correctly. Jay Shetty and Dr. Amen warn that there is a difference between positive thinking and wishful thinking. Examples of harmful positive thinking are drinking one beer too many and still being confident that you will make it home safely. Or staying up late at night believing it won't affect your brain.

A study from Stanford University followed over fourteen thousand ten-year-olds throughout their lives to determine their quality of life.

1 The researchers assessed their success, health, and longevity. Interestingly, the "don't-worry-be-happy-people" died the earliest from preventable illnesses and accidents."You want to have the right dose of anxiety," the psychiatrist told Jay Shetty. To him, it is paramount to be aware of the consequences of his actions and the truths around him.

Input for the Brain

It is vital to curate what information we expose ourselves to. Therefore, Dr. Amen starts his day reading only good news, which he then shares with his children.

According to Mark Wolynn’s book, It Didn’t Start with You, our thoughts can even be influenced by our ancestors' experiences.

2 Trauma and success are written in our genetic code. "And our thoughts come from the voices of our moms or dads or siblings or friends or foes, the news you listen to," Dr. Amen told Jay Shetty.

Any input we get exposed to will have an impact on our brains. Dr. Amen studied how different types of music can affect our intellect. He looked at rap, heavy metal, country, and classical music and how they affect memory.

The results were precise: classical music is the most beneficial for our minds, while heavy metal is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Healthy Diet

Jay Shetty underwent a personal transformation involving changing his eating and exercise habits. As a result, he concluded that the things that are good for us don't always feel good.

Dr. Amen shared his advice: "Love food that loves you back. You're in a relationship; I want you to love what you eat. But I also want it to love you."It is essential to train our brains to be strong. If we give in to every temptation around us, we might regret it in the long term. Fast food, alcohol, and sedentarism are everyday temptations that keep us from reaching our full potential.

We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. However, in Dr. Amen's eyes, allowing ourselves momentary pleasure that is detrimental in the long run is like a toddler's mentality.

Moreover, he disagrees with hedonism. "Giving in to every craving I have is the enemy of happiness because it ends up wearing out your dopamine or pleasure centers in your brain."

The psychiatrist shared with Jay Shetty: "You want to drip dopamine, don't dump it. Because when you dump it with the fries and the alcohol, [and] the porn, you don't have much left. And so then you have to go back and do it again. And all of a sudden, chemicals are controlling you rather than you controlling you."

To drip dopamine instead of dumping it, he suggests enjoying micro-moments of happiness such as a sunset, watching a hummingbird, or holding your loved one's hand. Then, certain foods, such as pumpkin seeds, omega threes, or even sunlight, support it.

Hardware and Software

We must think about our brains as hardware and our minds as software. To have a healthy sense, you need a healthy brain to run it.

Dr. Amen believes that the conversation about mental health is the wrong discussion. Instead, the focus should be on getting the brain in shape to form a solid foundation for the mind."

We're the unhappiest we've been since the Great Depression.

3 Depression tripled from February 2020 to August 2020. Children's suicide skyrocketed, depression, anxiety, and drug abuse skyrocketed in children," the psychiatrist explained to Jay Shetty.

Adverse Childhood Experience

The Adverse Childhood Experience test, short ACE, measures the levels of trauma that children were exposed to. It is a simple test that you can take online. It consists of ten questions, and the higher your score, the more likely you will die of one of the top seven leading causes of death.

The psychiatrist explained to Jay Shetty that those who scored between four and ten points have a higher risk of addiction, depression, and suicide. So, the goal is to heal the trauma and not pass it on to the next generation.

Dr. Amen recommends you seek out therapeutic treatment if you score four or more on the ACE test. He uses EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a specific psychological treatment for trauma consisting of eight steps.

This practice is based on the ten questions of the ACE test. First, the patient would go through their top ten traumas with the help of a therapist. Then, they rate each and identify negative and positive beliefs around them.

EMDR involves moving your eyes back and forth, which helps relive the trauma and process it from an adult's perspective. At the end of the therapy, one should be able to eliminate all the points accumulated in the test and live a trauma-free life.

Healthy Habits for The Brain

EMDR is a substance-free therapy with no side effects. It frees the patient from trauma-related anxiety and improves their quality of life.

However, as with any achievement, it needs to be maintained. Hence, Dr. Amen shared with Jay Shetty that people must eliminate harmful habits to sustain a healthy brain.

For example, a new study shows that racquet sport players live up to 16% longer than anybody else.


Dr. Amen told Jay Shetty that we needed to find those habits and activities that "love us back," that are both enjoyable and healthy.

Targeted Nutrients

Green tea contains some nutrients that are great for the brain. One of them is theanine, which helps calm down the effects of caffeine. Green tea also contains catechins, which are great antioxidants.Omega threes are healthy fats common in many foods.

Another surprisingly nutritious food is saffron. Studies have shown that it was equally effective as Prozac in boosting mood.

5 It also increases sexual function, pleasure, and even sperm motility, unlike medication.

Different Brains

Jay Shetty learned from Dr. Amen that there are multiple types of brains. Therefore, we must know ours to feed it the correct nutrients.The psychiatrist shared the five brain types he identified in his book You, Happier, The 7 Neuroscience Secrets of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type. They are: balanced, spontaneous, persistent, sensitive, and cautious.

The book helps the readers identify their own brain type and those of their family, friends, partners, and children. It is a great tool to understand how to nurture them, depending on what they need most or lack.

Different brain types also need other foods to function. Dr. Amen gave Jay Shetty an example of a TV host who went on a low-carb diet with her spouse thinking it would lead to better health. However, her behavior changed for the worse during that time.This was because she fed her brain a high amount of protein, which helped her focus. But because she was the persistent type, this led her to focus more on the things that made her unhappy. So this diet made her even more miserable.

Awareness Is Key

"The wrong diet can cause divorce," Dr. Amen warns.Therefore, it is essential to understand that not everyone's brain functions identically and that we need different stimulants and foods.

Jay Shetty urges the listeners to read Dr. Daniel Amen's You, Happier because it contains information that will transform your life.

More From Jay Shetty

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “How To Change Your Life By Changing Your Brain & the Lies About Happiness That Are Increasing Depression” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.

1Shurkin, J. N. (1992). Terman's kids: The groundbreaking study of how the gifted grow up. Little, Brown and Co.
2 Wolynn, M. (2017). It didn't start with you: how inherited family trauma shapes who we are and how to end the cycle. New York, New York, Penguin Books.
3Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2019). World Happiness Report 2019, New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
4Eleanor L. Watts, MPH, DPhil1; Charles E. Matthews, PhD1; Joshua R. Freeman, PhD1; et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(8):e2228510. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.28510
5Khaksarian M, Behzadifar M, Behzadifar M, Alipour M, Jahanpanah F, Re TS, Firenzuoli F, Zerbetto R, Bragazzi NL. The efficacy of Crocus sativus (Saffron) versus placebo and Fluoxetine in treating depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2019 Apr 23;12:297-305. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S199343. PMID: 31118846; PMCID: PMC6503633.
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