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How to Train Your Thoughts & Tame the Hidden Dragons with Dr. Daniel Amen

Dr. Amen is one of America’s leading psychiatrists and brain health experts. He has authored or coauthored 80 professional articles and more than 40 books, including New York Times mega-bestseller Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He has appeared on numerous television shows including Dr. Phil, Larry King, Dr. Oz, The Doctors, and The View.


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Can you train your thoughts for a positive mind?

Your brain is always eavesdropping on your self-talk. And “now more than ever,” according to today’s incredible guest, Dr. Daniel Amen, “we need a manual for our mind.” 

The incidents of depression have increased more than 3 times since the start of the pandemic, while self-harming behaviors among teenagers have quadrupled.

Dr. Amen is here to discuss the mental health crisis and shed some light on the power of your thoughts. He is a 12-time New York Times bestselling author, psychiatrist, neuroscientist, brain imaging expert, and the founder of Amen Clinics. 

In this episode, Daniel teaches us that thoughts come from chemical reactions, the food you eat, memories you focus on, and what happened to your ancestors written in your genetic code. 

Listen as he shares the power of training your thoughts with “positivity bias training” and discusses his phenomenal new book, Your Brain is Always Listening: Tame the Hidden Dragons that Control Your Happiness, Habits, and Hang-Ups.

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"You have to manage your mind like you manage your body."


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KILLING THE ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts)

  • School does not teach you how to manage your mind and take care of your brain — both are critical basic skills If your mind is not right and your brain is not healthy, you will never be your best.
  • All people experience thoughts (weird, violent, sexual, crazy…) that nobody should ever hear, but just because you have a thought does not make it true.
  • Thoughts come from chemicals reactions, the food you eat, memories you focus on, and what happened to your ancestors that is written in your genetic code.
  • Suffering does not come from the thoughts you have, it comes from the thoughts you attach to.
  • Daniel was a psychiatric resident at the age of 28 when he realized he didn’t have to believe every “stupid” thing that he thought.
  • It was a major revelation for his life because his mind used to torture him about being insignificant and less than.
  • He realized that he could choose to challenge the thoughts.
  • You can’t go against the grain if you are not managing your own mind.  When people call you bad names you can decide to keep it or challenge it.
  • Daniel offers an exercise in his book on if you give him 100 of your worst thoughts, he will change your life. Get your copy of Your Brain is Always Listening, here, for real-life story examples.
  • This exercise is the process of identifying the thoughts that don’t serve you well.
  • You take the thought (e.g. I’ll never be able to speak in public) and first ask, “is it true?”
  • Challenge the thought, determine how it makes you feel and how you will feel if you did not have the thought.

Then change the thought to its opposite, a technique borrowed from Byron Katie.

The 100 thoughts exercise is an example of cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches you to question your thoughts.  Just because you have a thought does not mean it’s always true. You do not have to attach to every thought. You can learn to control your mind.

  • This technique works but it requires long-term, consistent, daily practice.
  • You have to manage your mind like you manage your body.
  • If you want to be healthy, you have to eat right, exercise, and use nutritional supplements consistently over time. If you choose not to do these things you would not be at a healthy weight. It works the same way with your mind.
  • These mental exercises or habits need to be a normal part of your everyday life.
  • Pick one thought each day for 100 days.


  • Daniel teaches what he coined positivity bias training.
  • When people go to Amen Clinics, they take a neuropsych assessment that tests how positive or negative they are.  Many patients score very high on negativity bias which means their brain defaults to a negative place.
  • Part of positivity bias training is starting each day by saying out loud that it’s going to be a great day. Then your unconscious mind will find out why that is true.
  • Before bed, you ask what went well and your mind goes on a treasure hunt to find what Daniel calls “micro-moments.” This way you are not just searching for big things, but even the smallest things that made you happy that day.   Put yourself to sleep focusing on what went well.
  • You can train your mind to look for what’s right or you can allow it on its own to look for what’s wrong.
  • Many people are born with an evolutionary bias toward negativity that was once needed for survival. It’s not helpful to you today.
  • To be in control you have to intentionally train your mind.
  • You can retrain your brain to look for the good and find opportunities.


  • There are many dragons that Daniel addresses in the book and teaches you how to address.
  • The bad habit dragon “no, no, no,” is described as being with someone and arguing with them in your head before they actually finish their thought. It’s a bad habit that keeps you from being open-minded and flexible. Instead, you tend to be rigid and upset when things don’t go your way.
  • The bad habit dragon “yes, yes, yes,” is described as saying yes too much, causing you to feel overwhelmed and hating your life.
  • Daniel trains his ADD patients, who tend to impulsively say, “yes.”
  • He teaches them to practice, “I have to think about it.” That way they honor the request of the person who asks and they honor their own time and goals.
  • If it does not fit the goals they have, then they can say no.

The “shouldn’t, shaming” dragon is very rampant, especially in certain cultures.

  • It is common in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Asian cultures.
  • Daniel has his patients change “I should do” something or “I have to do” something to “I want to do it” or “It fits my goals to do it.” Changing the language removes the angst.

Taming these dragons is a great way to take ownership of your life.


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us on social media (@Doc_Amen & @JimKwik), and share your greatest “aha!” moment from this episode with us.
  • Take Dr. Amen’s FREE Dragon Quiz, here. Share your results with us!
  • Get Dr. Amen’s book, Your Brain is Always Listening & Special Bonuses, here.


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