Everyone wants to be happy, healthy, and smart. Many believe that a healthy body will get you there. Dr. Daniel G. Amen says a healthy body is not enough. He advocates maintaining a healthy brain as the best way to a productive and happy life.
Dr. Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, a double-board certified psychiatrist, and brain-imaging expert who heads the world-renowned Amen Clinics. He is also a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the highest award given to members by the APA, and is the lead researcher on the world's largest brain imaging and rehabilitation study on professional football players.
Dr. Amen has written, produced, and hosted 10 popular shows about the brain and has also appeared in such movies as After the Last Round and The Crash Reel. He is a 10-time New York Times bestselling author as well. In his latest book, Change Your Brain Change Your Life, he analyzes the importance of understanding your brain to keep it in a state that will serve you for the rest of your life. As the book reveals, maintaining a healthy brain comes down to a number of life changes, but there are many daily habits people can get into that keep their brains healthy.
Here are some of Dr. Amen's suggestions.
1. Change your diet.
Dieting is a major trend in modern society, but most people diet to drop a few pounds. But those diets affect the brains in often negative ways. Dr. Amen's book emphasizes major food rules that will keep your brain healthy. Changing the intake of certain carbohydrates and drinking more water can result in better brain health. He recommends a diet filled with brain-healthy nutrients including low glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrates, together with healthy fats and proteins.
When schedules get busy, one of the first things that gets ignored is exercise. Dr. Amen stresses the importance of exercise in reducing stress on the brain, increasing the flow of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the brain and ultimately protecting it against harmful spikes in sugar levels. He also recommends a wide range of exercises that keep different parts of the brain active, such as coordination exercises and strength training.
The world can get very hectic and finding time for peace and quiet can be hard to come by. Dr. Amen describes the importance of finding time for daily meditation to help calm an anxious brain.
4. Kill ANTs.
Dr. Amen notes that one of the most dangerous things to the brain are automatic negative thoughts, or ANTs. Negative thoughts happen to everyone, but letting them fester in the mind is a surefire way to harm your brain. Dr. Amen offers a number of strategies for taking down these ANTs, most notably questioning the thought intensely to identify how it makes you feel and how you can overturn that feeling by changing the perspective on that thought.
5. Listen to classical music to focus.
Focusing is a challenge that most people have thanks to busy schedules and numerous daily tasks. In his book, Amen notes that in one study, people who listened to Mozart were better able to focus and even improved social skill when engaged in an activity.
6. Spend time with positive people.
Dr. Amen stresses that being around negative people will undeniably rub off on every individual. Removing negativity triggers chemical alterations to the brain that lead to more positive and energized thought. Taking stock of whom you spend time with and spending more time with positive people will keep your brain healthy and make you more productive and happy.
7. Learn something new every day.
Einstein once said that if people spent 15 minutes a day learning something new, in a year they would be an expert and in five they'd be a national expert. Dr. Amen agrees and notes that learning new things breaks up routine and keeps the brain revitalized and stimulated.