Dr. Mike Dow speaks on how to keep your brain healthy and continuously improve its functionality.
- Key foods that keep your brain healthy
- The types and benefits of different Omega-3s
- How and why to practice mindfulness every day
Dr. Mike Dow is a psychotherapist, bestselling author, brain health expert and television personality. Inspired by his brother who suffered a massive stroke when he was just 10 years old, Dr. Mike made it his personal mission to help others in their quest for health and happiness. In his new book,
Heal Your Drained Brain: Naturally Relieve Anxiety, Combat Insomnia, and Balance Your Brain in Just 14 Days (Hay House), he shares information, actionable steps and guidance to naturally relieve anxiety, combat insomnia, and balance your brain in just 14 days. Dr. Mike has hosted series on TLC, E!, VH1 and Investigation Discovery. He is a recurring guest co-host on The Doctors, one of The Dr. Oz Show core experts and makes regular appearances on Today, Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, The Talk and more. Dr. Mike holds a Master of Science degree in marriage and family therapy and a doctorate in psychology. Other bestselling books include The Brain Fog Fix and Healing the Broken Brain.
Items Mentioned in this Show:
- Dr. Mike’s website: DrMikeDow.com
- Dr. Mike’s Books: Heal Your Drained Brain, The Brain Fog Fix, and Healing the Broken Brain
- Diets: Ketogenic diet, Mediterranean diet
- Research: Consumption of Fermented Milk Product With Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity
- Research: The efficacy of omega-3 supplementation for major depression: a randomized controlled trial
- Research: Intranasal Oxytocin to Prevent Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Emergency Department Patients
- Research: A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial)
- Prior episode: 124: Dr. Paul Zak
- Book: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Act & Be Happy by Amy Newman and Mike Dow
- Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- App: Audible
- App: ClassPass
Dr. Mike, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.
Thank you so much for having me.
I’d love to get started a little bit – normally we have sort of a fun opener, but your opener is kind of intense. You’ve got a tale of how your brother had a stroke at a young age that really shaped your whole path. Can you share a little bit of that with us?
Yeah, so when my brother was just ten years old, he had a massive stroke. One doctor told us that his stroke was just too massive, the damage in his brain was just too bad, that we should just put him in a nursing home for the rest of his life, that physical and speech therapy probably wouldn’t help enough.
I saw what you can do if you use your brain in the right way, if you challenge yourself. Today, I can tell you that my brother – he still can’t use his right arm – but my brother is living a happy, independent life. He travels, he drives, he walks, he runs, all the things that people told us – one naysaying doctor told us that it would be literally medically impossible.
My brother did some of the things that I recommend in Heal Your Drained Brain and also my other books, like The Brain Fog Fix and that the book that my brother and I – my brother is also, by the way, now a published author because we wrote a book about stroke recovery, Healing the Broken Brain, omega-3 super foods, high doses of omega-3’s, challenging your brain each and every day in your work, in what you do.
You have the power to rewire, to work your brain each and every single day in novel and challenging experiences. That’s why I became a brain health expert because I saw what you can do in the little, the mundane, the challenges, in the spreadsheets, in speech therapy.
But it’s not just these formal therapy modalities; it’s what you do at your Mac, in front of your – in that Excel document, in challenging, in rewiring the brain. It’s kind of cool.
There’s already so much I want to follow up on here. I’m an Excel enthusiast myself. I have fallen off the train of taking my morning fish oil. Let’s maybe just very quickly touch on these before we lose the moment. Omega-3’s are a big deal, huh?
They’re huge. Most Americans aren’t getting enough omega-3’s. There are two types of omega-3’s that are usable for the brain. In Heal Your Drain Brain, which is my latest book, there are two usable forms. People get really confused and most omega-3’s on the market – I was just having this conversation with a tech enthusiast the other day.
He was like, “Well, I’m just taking an omega-3.” I’m like, “Well, what kind of omega-3?” He’s like, “Well, I’m just going to start taking massive doses.” I’m like, “Well, are you taking a high EPA or are you taking high DHA?” He’s like, “Well, does that matter?” I said, “Well, yeah, it matters because there are different benefits for both.”
In Heal Your Drained Brain I talk about EPA as your stressless omega-3. In The Brain Fog Fix, I called it your feel better omega-3 because EPA is associated with better mood and less stress. If that’s your target – it also helps you to fall asleep because you have less anxiety.
If that’s what you want and that’s your problem, you want to look for an omega-3 supplement that has very, very high levels of the omega-3 EPA and very low levels of the omega-3 DHA. You want like a seven to one ratio. On the back of the bottle, you’d want something that says like EPA, let’s say like, something around like 700 milligrams and something around let’s say like 100 milligrams – or that’s the ballpark because they’re all a little bit different.
But if you want to think better – so in Brain Fog Fix I think I called DHA your think better omega-3 because that book was more about dementia prevention and brain fog. In Heal Your Drained Brain, I called it your sleep soundly omega-3 because DHA does two things. It’s all about cognition. It’s about dementia prevention and it’s about deep sleep.
If you’re somebody who is not sleeping soundly – so EPA helps you to fall asleep if it’s anxiety, but DHA in research helps to improve deep sleep. DHA if that’s what you want, then maybe you want an omega-3 that has higher levels of DHA or maybe you just want like a –
If you want both, then just get one of the vanilla supplements – not a vanilla flavored, but just an everyday omega-3 supplement because most supplements on the market have like a one-to-one ratio of EPA and DHA or a two-to-three ratio or a three to two.
But if you’re specifically targeting one of those targets in mood or cognition that I just mentioned, you may actually want to go higher on one or the other.
Well, now is the ratio what makes the difference or is it the dosage, that thought from the buddy you mentioned who’s just going to take massive doses, would that give me everything I want? I want better mood. I want better stress. I want to sleep faster and sleep deeper and think better.
… bunch of both, would that do the trick or is the ratio important?
Yes, yes. That’s a great question. It is both because they compete for space in your cells so that’s why the dose and the ratio matters.
We know from research that if you want the mood benefits, you can’t just take a ton and just think, “Oh, well, I’ll just take a ton of both because then I’ll get both benefits,” because the DHA actually sort of in your brain cells pushes the EPA out.
Then you can take a very, very high EPA dose of – let’s say for anxiety the research shows that you need if you want really potent anti-anxiety effects, you need about 2,000 milligrams of EPA, but you also need a seven-to-one ratio of EPA to DHA.
This is all in my book because I know it’s really confusing to people who are just listening to this really, really quickly. It’s all written down. I know you probably have show notes or something or they can get this transcribed.
It’s about both. It’s about the dosage but also the ratio because they compete for space in your cells. These two omega-3’s can sort of push each other out.
I’m also going to give you one more thing that is going to possibly confuse people and that is if you’re vegan, you’re probably not getting enough DHA because the vegetarian sources of omega-3’s like walnuts and flax seed convert to EPA but hardly any of that converts into DHA. You’re probably not getting DHA at all. The way to remedy that is to take a plant-based, algae-based DHA supplement.
I coined a phrase because it’s sort of my dietary philosophy that I preach in my books, it’s what I follow. I follow a Keto-Terranean diet, which is a Ketogenic plus Mediterranean, so Keto-Terranean.
The Mediterranean is the best diet for brain health, but I do a little bit of intermittent fasting and lower carb principle, so it’s Keto-Terranean. If you sort of put those two philosophies together or if you’re vegan, I would do a Kegan, sort of a Mediterranean but also a lower carb, sort of a Kegan diet.
Americans are really all or nothing thinkers. We get really obsessed with one thing and we use a lot of black or white thinking.
We get obsessed with like one thing and we do that, like it’s all Atkins all the time. Then okay, we’re going to throw that out the window. Now it’s all vegan all the time. There’s all of these different strategies make sense, but we kind of have to take a little bit of everything. We have to use a little grey area thinking.
This is very true for work too because I think there’s a lot of people out there who say, “Oh, just quit your job and just follow your dreams,” Well, yeah, but I also have to pay the rent and feed my children and have health insurance.
I think we have to sort of click all the boxes, which is why I was really excited to be on this podcast because I know that’s what you really talk to your listeners about. It’s how to click all the boxes at the same time, right?
Cool. Yes, thank you. Boy, we just went deep right away in terms of the EPA and DHA and all that.
But maybe could you paint a little bit of a picture in terms of just how much of a difference does this stuff make? Is it like I’ll be able to think 10% clearer or it’s like night and day, my cognition is transformed because of omega-3’s?
You will feel a difference. There are some things – in Heal Your Drained Brain, some of the things you’re going to feel right away, some of the practices, some of the tools and tips and tricks and hacks that I give you, some of them are in the moment, here’s a little hack.
I just talked about identifying when polarized thinking shows up in your life. Let’s say you’re at work and you see some YouTube video and you’re like, “Yeah, I need to follow my dreams and quit my job,” and you realize, “Oh my God, that’s black and white thinking and I need to nip that in the bud.”
I need to realize how maybe I can – a great example is how can I use grey area thinking and have a side hustle and build my side hustle until that is generating enough income so that I can – when I left – I used to work for the Department of Mental Health in LA.
I heard this quote that I loved and it was, “Sometimes you have to jump and build your wings on the way down,” but I didn’t jump until – I was building a private practice while I was working for the Department of Mental Health.
For me, to just jump – I would say I did jump, but I had a soft landing. For me to jump and leave the department of Mental Health and leave my health care plan and all that would have been really sort of, it would have been sort of foolish. But I also believe in people following their dreams.
Then I jumped from private practice into writing books. I help people to follow their dreams all the time. But if you have three kids, I’m not going to tell somebody to quit their job with nothing built. I’m going to help you to sort of create stepping stones. Oh gosh, I digress.
Sure thing. I was just wondering, how substantial is the impact of some of these interventions?
Yes, thank you.
Is omega-3’s the big one to start with?
Or is it the black and white versus grey thinking-?
Yes, thank you.
-that will give you the most bang for your buck?
I’d love to hear some hard-hitting numbers from the research and like, “Holy smokes, if I do this, I can see that.”
Yeah, thank you. Omega-3’s – and I have a chapter in Heal Your Drained Brain about – I call probiotics the new Paxil. Both omega-3 dosing and just simply eating a probiotic and combining that with a prebiotic, like the prebiotic fiber in a banana or onions. By the way, Heal Your Drained Brain also has recipes in the appendix that helps you to do that.
We know from research – there was a really groundbreaking study at UCLA that had people – and this was not placebo effect. What they did to make sure it wasn’t placebo effect, they gave women in one group a dairy product that contained probiotics, so like yogurt that had those good gut bacteria and then they gave another group a dairy product, but they sort of took out the probiotics.
After a month, they scanned their brains and they assessed for their anxiety and they found that the women who consumed one – dairy products, like something as simple as drinking kefir. I say kefir. Some people pronounce it the fancy way, but-
Like Keifer Sutherland?
Drinking Jack Bauer.
Yeah, exactly. But just doing that will help to decrease your anxiety after 30 days in this research and they saw the changes in brain scans.
Similarly, omega-3’s after 30 days there was this research in Canada.
There are some people who need prescription medication. I’m not going to tell somebody who’s diagnosed with bipolar one disorder or schizophrenia to manage their symptoms with nutrition and exercise. I’m not going to do that. But most Americans are getting prescription anti-depressants from their primary care physician.
Here’s a study that came out of Canada. They gave people diagnosed with major depressive disorders, so we’re not talking about, “Oh, I just feel a little blue,” and they gave half of them the high EPA omega-3 that we started on. They gave the other half a prescription SSRI.
A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor?
Okay, we’re on the same page.
So all these really popular medications, Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, all these medications that are so popular with Americans. They found that the high EPA, so it has to be that seven-to-one ratio that we talked about, was as effective in treating major depressive disorder as the prescription SSRI anti-depressant.
That to me is groundbreaking, like what. Why are so many Americans still taking these anti-depressants that cause weight gain, sexual side effects, emotional blunting.
There was also another study I believe that was out of Australia that was just published in the past year that found that the Mediterranean diet, of course I modify it as the Keto-Terranean diet with a little bit of lower carb intermittent fasting thrown in, not just prevented, but treated, was effective in treating major depressive disorder.
Are Americans, are they trying diet? Are they trying omega-3’s before they’re trying Paxil and Lexapro. Are they trying probiotics? Because listen, probiotics manufacture – there are different strains that manufacture GABA, serotonin in your gut. Those are the same two neurotransmitters that are manufactured by Xanax and Paxil.
To me it’s just – for lack of a better word, it’s crazy that we’re taking so many medications, which is why the subtitle in my book is – the word natural is in there because my book is chockfull of natural approaches to treating anxiety disorders, which are by the way, twice as common as depression.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. Not shocking because Americans are more stressed out than ever.
Intriguing. Well then that’s the anxiety side of things. Can you give us a perspective for when you’re talking about healing your brain drain, what are sort of the primary culprits of our brains getting drained in the first place and some of the other kind of really high leverage intervention?
It sounds like bad diet is big, but maybe could we get a little bit more precise, like these are some foods that are really troublesome.
Yeah, well sugar shrinks your brain.
There you go.
Here’s the thing.
Shrinks your brain.
This is crazy. It shrinks a part of the brain, the hippocampus that makes you more resilient to deal with stress in the long term. It’s sort of a vicious cycle because the crazy thing is that when you are stressed out, you are more likely to crave sugar and flour and then you eat the sugar –
Okay, so let me – you’re sitting at your desk and you have an awful co-worker who gets on your nerves.
She’s the worst.
And you have a boss. She is the worst. Then your boss calls you in for this meeting. You have this deadline and your kid is texting you or mom is texting you. You have stuff going on. It’s called life. Then what do you want to do? You want to reach for that bag of chips or you want to reach for that candy bar, whatever – that blood sugar spiking junk food.
Repeatedly – and listen, we all have our little cheats. My cheat food is macaroni and cheese. But what repeatedly when we spike our blood sugar with sugar, flour, soda, you name it, these junk food coffee beverages, so we put skim milk, high-sugar skim milk in our coffee or these sugar coffee beverages that have like 400 calories.
We shrink that part of our brain that in the long term helps us to remain resilient, so now we’re less likely to deal with stress and now we need more sugar and flour and pasta to deal with the stress and the cycle goes on and on and on.
I think the thing that really helps is cognitive behavioral therapy. I think in 2018 people are less likely to go therapy once a week just because we’re busier than ever and we have so many balls up in the air.
Listen, I have a private practice and I think people need it more than ever, but if you can’t go this week to your therapist, I think we need to realize that the way we interpret the events in our life, affects the way our brains are going to release what I call our three brain draining stress hormones, which are adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol.
I showed this on The Rachael Ray Show. I showed my graph. You want your cortisol levels – cortisol levels in general, we want them to be low, but we also want them to rise 50% when we wake up. That’s called the cortisol awakening response.
In a healthy brain, that stress hormone cortisol should rise 50%. That helps to wake you up. Then cortisol levels should slowly go down throughout the day.
For example, we can use high levels of vitamin C to bring down very generally high levels of cortisol and just one of the – I have hundreds of interventions in my book, but if the cortisol is not rising and falling at the appropriate time of day, we can use – there’s a chapter in my book, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or CBTI, we adjust your circadian rhythms because there is an inverse relationship.
Cortisol rises when melatonin falls and vice versa. At night, when cortisol is falling, melatonin is supposed to be rising. Let me give you an example. It’s 10 PM and – so what are you doing at – let me ask you a question. What are you doing at 10 PM? Have you ever been doing something that you’re not supposed to be doing at night? Watching TV or checking your iPhone for emails?
I’m usually asleep, but it does happen sometimes Netflix, etcetera, 10 PM.
Yup, I’m guilty.
With … of course, but still Netflix.
I’m guilty of that as well. Netflix is bad, but checking your phone is even worse. If we’re checking our phone and a work email pops in. Americans are guilty of this.
We’re going to wear our work polo’s everywhere we go. We’re going to email – they’re going to email you at 11 PM and they’re going to expect you to work on a clock. That’s a cultural thing.
What happens when you get that email from your boss at 11 PM, your cortisol levels rise when they should be falling. Number two, the blue light from electronics sends a signal to the pineal gland in your brain to suppress melatonin production, so melatonin goes down when it should be going up.
Which means that you can’t fall asleep, which means that your circadian rhythms are off, which means that you have insomnia, which means that the next day when you go to work and you’re groggy, you’re much more likely to experience high levels of stress and anxiety and then the cycle, and then you’re more likely to drink a lot of caffeine, and then you’re less likely to fall asleep the next day.
You just feel cranky. Then the cycle gets worse and worse and worse.
When we can test for this with a simple saliva test, it gives us a little snapshot. I recommend that people test – because it is a one-day test, test it on a normal day. Like if you sleep terribly the night before and you have a kid and your kid didn’t sleep the night before, don’t test on that day. Test your saliva on a normal day, so we get a good snapshot of your cortisol levels.
But I think it’s really interesting that so many of these strategies are so natural so that people don’t have to rely so much on Xanax and Ambien and anti-depressants and we can rely more on probiotics and vitamin C and vitamin B rich foods. I’m obsessed with B vitamins and foliate and vitamin B 12 because they’re just so incredible for the brain.
Very cool. So given all of these potential levers, I’d love to get your take. If you’re a professional and if your brain is drained, and tired, and stressed, and stressed and not creative as a result of all these things, what would be sort of your top three, okay, this is easy and if you do it, you’ll feel a huge difference recommendations?
Yeah, I think changing your diets is number one.
Less sugar. Well, can I give you my top three diet and then two others?
Okay, let’s do it.
My top three diet recommendations because diet is – it’s just the most important thing we do. Less sugar, more omega-3’s and more B vitamins.
Of the B vitamins foliate – so get those – not folic acid. Folic acid is just terrible for you. If you’re supplementing, you want to look for methyl-foliate. Foliate converts to methyl-foliate. You want to get the more expensive form of foliate, so methyl-foliate.
The same thing goes for vitamin B 12. You want to get – you want to look at the back of the label. You want methyl-B 12 or what you can just do is get the natural forms of both by eating lots and lots and what I recommend in my book is seven servings of vegetables and whole fruits a day, lots of dark, leafy greens and remember, drinking fruit juice is like drinking a soda in terms of your blood sugar.
Don’t forget to eat your fruit, so whole fruits. If you want, you can just remember the little phrase, “Eat your fruits, drink your vegetables.” You can also eat your vegetables, but it’s okay, so I love drinking vegetable juice. Of course lemon and lime make a great low calorie – those are the fruits that it’s okay to squeeze lots of great lemon juice to cut that bitter vegetable flavor.
In terms of the three top practices to heal your brain, I love, and this is a chapter in my book, it has a sort of a funny – I actually got to – I don’t know if any of your listeners got to see it. This episode aired recently and hopefully it will replay and people can Google this, but I got to hypnotize Dr. Oz on his show.
Now hypnosis is really fascinating because it moves the brain into fast – from fast beta waves – and if you’re working on that spreadsheet at work, your brain on an EEG would read very fast – it would show very fast beta waves, which are associated with anxiety. Hypnosis moves it into very slow theta brainwaves, which are the brainwaves that you’re in when you’re dreaming.
No surprise, your dreams are usually very creative. Well, guess what? When you’re in hypnosis you tend to be very, very creative.
If you’re trying to solve a problem doing a little self-hypnosis and I have a script in the book that can help you to be really creative. If you are a tech executive or you’re an ad executive or you want to write a chapter in your book and you’re a little stuck, do a little self-hypnosis.
A little anecdote is when Thomas Edison was inventing the light bulb, when he tried to solve a problem, he would hold these ball bearings and he would take a nap. When we fall asleep we pass from beta down into alpha, which is in between, then into theta, then into delta, which is dreamless sleep.
But in order to get from awake to sleep, we pass through theta on our way down into dreamless sleep. At that point our bodies sort of go limp and he would drop the ball bearings and that would wake him up.
He knew that he would be in that creative state and he would then wake up and he would be more creative. We could say that that theta brainwave that you’re in during hypnosis helped Thomas Edison to invent the light bulb. Isn’t that cool?
Yeah, that is cool. I’m curious then, so there’s different brain states. The beta, I suppose, is useful if you were doing sort of the high-alertness, less creativity stuff.
That’s right. That’s right.
Is there a way to get to there quickly if that’s what the situation calls for?
Yeah, there is. You can put your – if you’re in a shared work space environment, if you’re working at a WeWork or a space like that, if you’re in one of these tech offices with no doors and no one has offices, you can put your Bose noise-cancelling headphones and you can put on hard rock music or any sort of like really fast music.
If you want to slow the brain down, you can put on really slow classical music. Because really slow heavy metal will help the brain go into a beta wave state. Or you can just think about something really stressful, but I don’t recommend that because sometimes those brainwaves are hard to get out of and you’re probably also going to release a lot of adrenaline and cortisol, which is not only cardio toxic, but also depresses your immune system.
But listen, beta brainwaves are great in small bursts and for shorts amount of time. They can be really helpful while you are trying to stay really focused.
What’s also interesting is that patients diagnosed with ADHD have too many theta brainwaves and not enough beta and patients with anxiety disorders have too much beta and not enough theta, which makes sense, right? If you’re brain is too fast, you’re anxious. If your brain is too slow, you have inattentive ADHD.
Can you give us the one-minute version of how does one do a self-hypnosis?
Yeah, so the one-minute version is take yourself to a relaxed state. Imagine in your mind’s eye you’re going down an elevator from the tenth floor down to the first floor. See yourself in a really happy, peaceful place. Then see yourself solving whatever creative problem you need to solve.
Then once you have that answer, take yourself back up that elevator and then crack that computer code or that ad sale that you need to solve or that new chapter in your book.
Okay, good. So we’ve got the diet. We’ve got the self-hypnosis. What else?
Mindfulness. I’m going to give your listeners a mindfulness hack. Some people think they have to go to some really fancy yoga meditation studio and pay 26 dollars. But the way, I love these new meditation studios and I love meditation apps.
But if you want to do something and you’re really busy just the next shower that you take, make that your meditation because all you have to do to be mindful and I have a little section on mindfulness in the book, is mindfulness is simply paying attention on purpose to the present moment.
We all, hopefully all your listeners shower, so all you have to do is pay attention to the smell of your soap or your shampoo and you have to pay attention to the temperature of the water on your skin and all of the skin receptors telling you that the skin is feeling the water running down the back of your neck. That’s sort of a shower meditation.
If you don’t have any extra time to take the L train into the city and to the yoga studio, then you can just take a five-minute shower, which hopefully you’re going to do anyway and you can make that into a meditation.
Then you can take a walk. You probably have to walk from your car or from the train into your office building and you can make that your meditation. You can put down your phone and turn your ringer off and on your lunch hour today. You can take a mindful walk. That will allow your brain to unplug.
A little hack, remember that – listen, I’m not somebody who – I’m a little bit of a hippy. I believe that we should choose natural strategies whenever we can, but I also love my iPhone and I love apps. But the electric signals are not great for our brain.
Instead of just turning your ringer off, what I recommend is give yourself a 20-minute practice over work and put your plane on airplane mode, turn of the Wi-Fi, turn off the towers because then your body is not getting all that radiation, the electrical signals and you’ll get a little break.
Take a 20-minute walk that will help you to actually be even more mindful. You can actually stop checking Instagram and you can just take a walk around the park and be mindful for those 20 minutes. It will just really change your brain and actually thicken the most human part of your brain, which is your prefrontal cortex, which is kind of cool.
When you say mindful, part of it is not looking at technology. What else makes a walk mindful?
It’s simply using your five senses. Pay attention to three things that you see, two things that you can hear, one thing that you can taste, maybe another thing that you can smell. Maybe there’s even a taste landing on your tongue. Just pay attention to those five senses.
Those five senses that you are perceiving in the only moment when your life is unfolding, which is right here and right now as you’re walking will suck you into that present moment.
Lovely, thank you. Tell me, anything else you want to make sure to cover before we shift gears and hear a few of your favorite things?
Yeah, I think just the power of relationships and connections. Whether or not you’re in a relationship, just remember – I’m actually doing this interview with you and Rocco is on my lap and I’m actually – he’s very high maintenance, so I actually prevent him from barking when I’m doing podcast interviews from home by petting him.
Oxytocin is an incredible – in Heal Your Drained Brain, I have those three brain draining stress hormones, which I already mentioned, but I also have the brain balancers. Those are the feel-good neurotransmitters, which include GABA, serotonin, and also oxytocin and some others that I mentioned in the book.
Remember that connection is potent. Whether or not you’re in a relationship, there are many ways you can release feel-good neurotransmitters. I’m releasing oxytocin just by petting Rocco right now, my little rescue – my tough guy who I rescued from South Central LA. It’s just – it’s amazing there are natural strategies we can use each and every moment.
Oh absolutely, it’s so exciting the stuff with oxytocin. We had Paul Zak, a big researcher in the field back in episode 124 and it’s so huge.
I’m curious when it comes to say petting the dog, is there a certain dosage. Like if I were to take a break and hang out with my precious baby Jonathan, just how much touch kind of releases a dose?
Well, I would say the more the better. I don’t have a dose specific. I should measure that.
Because when it comes to the brain and also anxiety disorders, one of the pieces of research that I was most excited that I had to put in my book was the fact that intranasal oxytocin given to people who went through a trauma actually prevented them from developing post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s just really incredible that these so-called hippy airy fairy quote natural strategies are maybe really potent medicine. I can’t – I’m just so excited about them. I have to – it’s why I was so called to write this book because I think people just need to know how incredibly potent and powerful they really are.
That’s great. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
Yeah, I think it really was that quote, “Sometimes you have to jump and build your wings on the way down,” but the other quote that I really love that helped me was that, “It’s that intersection where preparation meets opportunity.”
I think that’s so true for all of us. I think the success that I’ve had in my career – this is really interesting. My first book was published by Penguin. It was a huge failure.
Then I’m now about to publish my – I just published Heal Your Drained Brain, which was my fourth book. This fall I’m releasing – I’m writing the next Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s called Think, Act & Be Happy, which is my fifth book.
What’s so crazy, after my first book was – I got a very sizeable advance and it was a very huge bomb. Then my second book was – I had to take – it was very hard for any – my lit agent said, “Mike, it’s going to be really hard for me to get any publisher to take a chance on you after the huge disaster that was your first book, but I’ll try.”
We went directly – the first book we did like bidding war and all that nonsense. I – she said, “Who-“ even that first time around there was one publisher that I really loved. The second time around I said, “I really want to be a Hay House author,” so we went directly to Hay House.
We didn’t do the bidding war thing. I just took a small advance relatively speaking. It wasn’t like 10 dollars or anything like that and I was very, very grateful for the advance that they gave me and that book became a New York Times bestseller.
It’s crazy when preparation meets opportunity. I feel like everything in my life now looking back sort of makes sense. You just have to be ready and you have to look at the failures, the so-called failures, I guess, to me I have reframed as learning opportunities.
I’ve learned – I think I’ve – I’ve definitely learned as much or I guess probably more from my failures as I’ve learned from my success. That’s kind of cool. Yeah.
All right. How about a favorite book?
The Alchemist. I think as a – looking at my own neurochemistry, I’m an explorer. I’m an ENFJ. I like the way dopamine feels in my brain.
I have a chapter in my book in Heal Your Drained Brain that helps people to really understand their neurochemistry and their personality type. Just giving you an example, people who are like me, if you are a sensation seeker, you’re more likely to be diagnosed with addiction, but less likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
The opposite, the converse is true if you’re an introvert or a sensation avoider. That sort of makes sense. I think it helps people to understand the intersection between sort of your genetics and epigenetics and sort of this whole nature and nurture question.
For me, The Alchemist really helps to keep me – for me The Alchemist is sort of – it’s this story of this seeker who like has to like seek, go around the world, but then he sort of realizes that everything was sort of here all along. That’s for me as an explorer and a sensation-seeker, that’s a message that really grounds me because as somebody who really my brain chemicals are really the way dopamine feels.
My only problem with that is sometimes I can just never be happy with what I – not that I’m not happy with what I have, but I can – I sometimes have to realize I can just want more and more and more.
I have to also realize that – I’m the kind of person who gets really excited about things, so I could literally try to write like 18 books a year. I have to realize that the book that I’m writing now is the book that I’m meant to keep my focus on and I can’t get distracted and write 18 books because I have to focus on this book because this book is important too. Yeah.
How about a favorite tool?
Yeah, I think for me I’m just generally obsessed with apps in general. I love workout apps and I love all apps these days. I think Uber was the first app that sort of like landed on the general public’s sort of – on the public stage and was sort of like first app that your grandmother has heard of.
But for me now, I love Audible. Audible has allowed me to read, or listen to I guess you would say, a new book a week. It has allowed me – every time we challenge our brain, we’re forming new neurons.
Before it was – a car ride was just music. I love music. Music is great. Music is good for your brain in a different way, but for me to hear a book without advertising and I’m challenging my brain and learning something new, I can increase my productivity with the time that I already have and I don’t have to carve out any new time. My time is so limited. That app has allowed me to take the time that I have.
Also workout apps have allowed me – I love – I have ClassPass, so I can take – instead of belonging – I used to belong to all these different classes, but it’s like okay, well they have classes at 12 and 4 and 6, but if I have a call and that conference call goes over and then I have to be in my private practice and I need to treat these people at this time or I’m doing a talk show and it goes over.
Well, I can either look at ClassPass and find a class that starts an hour later or I now can go on my phone and do a workout at a gym and still have a trainer talking to me and music playing in my ear so I can still get a great workout anytime I want. I think apps have really sort of helped me to grow my own brain in really cool ways.
Beautiful. Is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted frequently?
Yeah, use it or lose it. It’s sort of for stroke survivors and for people that’s a brain health little nugget but I think it’s not just for people who are recovering from a stroke. I think all of us need to realize that all of us have a brain.
Listen, we all have brains that are actually, and listen, of course we talked about this, if we are eating sugar, we’re actually doing this more rapidly, but if you are an adult, your brain is actually shrinking a little bit just with age every year, but if you are exercising, if you are consuming a lot of omega-3’s and B vitamins, you can prevent your brain – and learning new things.
There’s something really cool, we’re talking about – there’s all this new research on stem cells, but guess what? Stem cells are already here and you don’t have to go to a university hospital. There’s this really cool stuff, BDNF, Brain Drive Neurotropic Factor.
We can boost this through the power of exercise, omega-3’s, all of these cool things that we know help to increase neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells. We do it with our everyday tasks.
I always go back to this nugget of use it or lose it when it comes to the brain, but I’m going to – I take it one step further which is use it and improve it. We always have to look at the brain, which is our most important organ and always be looking for opportunities to use it and improve it because yes, –
When my brother had a stroke 20 years ago, my brother is now in his 30’s, they thought that neurogenesis was something that didn’t happen after you were 18 or in your early 20’s. But we now know that you have the power to make new brain cells throughout your adult life.
Yeah, everything that I recommend in my book is always geared towards use it and improve it, create new brain cells, use exercise, use omega-3’s, use – consume turmeric every day. These – and combine them with – I call them probiotic boosters, these anti-oxidants, make sure you have lots of curry in your diet because they work synergistically.
Coffee, turmeric, they work synergistically with the probiotics and the prebiotics to make sure that your brain is improving every day. It’s just incredible that if we really get on board with these sort of actually new strategies, that we can quote use it and improve it, it being our brain.
Lovely. If folks want to learn more or get in touch with you, where would you point them?
I love Facebook. I do a lot of Facebook lives because I love long form. I do a lot of 20-minute videos, like backstage from the doctors and Dr. Oz. I do a lot of stuff on Facebook, so I’ll go to my Facebook page or DrMikeDow.com.
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?
Yeah, I would say that to be awesome at your job, use your brain to – just figure out a way that today you can use that adage of use it and improve it and by doing so you’re probably going to be a little bit more awesome at your job and you’ll probably also be a little happier too.
Beautiful. Well, Dr. Mike this has been really fun. I wish you so much luck as you continue to spread the good word and heal drained brains and appear on all the cool shows and keep it up.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me.
All right, that’s the recording.