The Importance of Brain Health
We often don’t think about the brain—after all, we can’t see it—but throughout the last couple of decades as it’s becoming more thoroughly studied, researchers (not to mention the general population) realize that caring for the brain is a critical part of survival.
Brain health directly relates to attention deficit disorder (ADD), anxiety, depression, addiction, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and plenty of other diseases. However, as soon as we begin to care for the brain—exercise it as we would a muscle—it becomes stronger. That’s what I want to help people with. It’s a very specific plan, and that’s the exciting thing. It’s not hard, it’s not complicated, and it’s not a plan that involves blindly throwing medicine at people.
What it is about is assessing your brain: knowing where you’re at. You can’t change what you don’t measure! Whether it’s looking at it through a SPECT scan or doing some neuropsychological test that a doctor recommends, you’ve got to have a baseline—”Where is my brain at today?”—and then know what the risk factors are that may affect your baseline down the road.
The short course on preventing Alzheimer’s is to prevent all the risks associated with Alzheimer’s: head injuries, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea. This whole list is preventable. That’s the good thing—yes, you can prevent it if you’re a warrior, if you’re serious. You also need to eat right. There are foods that make you anxious and spacy, and there are other foods that give you health and energy. Choose wisely.
Food companies actually hire “flavorists”—food scientists—to mix fat, sugar, and salt to create a bliss point in your brain that makes you fall in love with your favorite candy in the junk food aisle. You have to protect yourself; if you don’t, you lose the war.
Exercise is absolutely critical for the body, but so is mental exercise! People who suffer with anxiety disorders have what I call “monkey minds.” They have a completely undisciplined mental life. If you’re going to do anything great, it requires some discipline. Think of Olympic athletes, those who grow a great business, men and women who thrive as parents and spouses—there’s some practice and discipline to that.
But nowhere in school do people teach you specifically how to discipline your mind. I often talk about what I call ANTs—Automatic Negative Thoughts—the thoughts that enter your mind automatically and ruin your day. You don’t have to believe everything you think, but if you don’t apply a level of discipline to your internal life, your evolutionarily derived thoughts will include fear. You’re still going to be running from the tiger even though there are no tigers in your neighborhood.
Bringing discipline to your mind is absolutely essential to being a warrior. In my mind, it’s one of the first skills they should actually teach you in second grade! It’s never too early to start questioning the crazy, twisted thoughts that go through your head. Begin to write down some of this “craziness” that goes through your head. Looking back on it later, it might make you chuckle—you’ll realize it’s just your monkey mind, this undisciplined internal life—and once you get control of it, it will never have control of you.
This article is an excerpt from the interview that Trudy Scott did with Dr. Daniel Amen during Nutritional Solutions for Anxiety- season 3. Visit the summit to listen to the entire interview and listen to over twenty additional presentations.