Feel Better Fast and Make It Last: Unlock Your Brain's Healing Potential to Overcome Negativity, Anxiety, Anger, Stress, and Trauma

Feel Better Fast and Make It Last: Unlock Your Brain's Healing Potential to Overcome Negativity, Anxiety, Anger, Stress, and Trauma

by Daniel G. Amen


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If you want to feel happier, more optimistic, more joyful, and resilient, Dr. Amen’s groundbreaking new book is for you.
We’ve all felt anxious, sad, traumatized, grief-stricken, stressed, angry, or hopeless at some point in life. It’s perfectly normal to go through emotional crises or have periods when you feel panicked or out of sorts. It is how you respond to these challenges that will make all the difference in how you feel—not just immediately, but also in the long run. Unfortunately, many people turn to self-medicating behaviors, such as overeating, drugs, alcohol, risky sexual behavior, anger, or wasting time on mindless TV, video games, Internet surfing, or shopping. And even though these behaviors may give temporary relief from feeling bad, they usually only prolong and exacerbate the problems—or cause other, more serious ones.

Is it possible to feel better—and make it last?

Renowned physician, psychiatrist, brain-imaging researcher, and founder of Amen Clinics Dr. Daniel Amen understands how critical it is for you to know what will help you feel better fast, now and later. In Feel Better Fast and Make It Last, you’ll discover new, powerful brain-based strategies to quickly gain control over anxiety, worry, sadness, stress and anger, strengthening your resilience and giving you joy and purpose for a lifetime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496425652
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 11/13/2018
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 63,516
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt




It was 6:30 in the morning in the busy emergency room at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. I was just putting on my white lab coat as I walked through the doors to the unit. It was my third day as an intern, and the emergency room would be my home for the next month. Down the hall from me, a woman was screaming. Curious, I went to see what was going on.

Beth, a 40-year-old patient, was lying on a gurney with a swollen right leg. She was in obvious pain and screamed whenever anyone touched her leg. Bruce, a brand-new psychiatry intern like me, and Wendy, the internal medicine chief resident, were trying to start an IV in Beth's foot. She was anxious, scared, uncooperative, and hyperventilating. A blood clot in her calf was causing this tremendous swelling. The IV was necessary so Beth could be sent to the X-ray department for a scan that would show exactly where the clot was, allowing surgeons to operate and remove it. With each stick of the IV needle to her swollen foot, Beth's screams became louder. Wendy was obviously frustrated and irritated, and sweat started to roll down her temples.

"Calm down!" she snapped at the patient.

Beth looked scared and confused. There was a lot of tension in the room.

Wendy paged the surgeon on call. She paced during the several minutes it took for him to get back to her. When the phone rang, Wendy quickly answered it, saying, "I need you to come to the ER right away. I need you to do a 'cut down' on a patient's foot. It looks like she has a blood clot in her leg, and we need to start an IV before sending her to X-ray. Her foot is swollen, and she's being difficult!"

Wendy listened for a few moments and then said, "What do you mean you can't come for an hour? This has got to be done right away. I'll do it myself." She cursed as she slammed down the phone.

Hearing this, Beth looked even more panicked.

Being new, I didn't want to say anything, especially because I had heard of Wendy's reputation for harassing interns, but I hated to see Beth in pain. This is going to be an interesting day, I thought to myself. I took a deep breath.

"Wendy, can I try to start the IV?" I asked softly.

She glared at me, and with a tone that was both sarcastic and condescending, she said, "Your name is Amen, right? I've been starting IVs for five years. What makes you think you're so special? But if you want to try and look stupid, hotshot, go for it." She rudely tossed the IV set at me and left the room. I motioned to Bruce to shut the door.

The first thing I did was walk around the gurney to Beth's head and establish eye contact with her. I gave her a gentle smile. Wendy had been yelling at Beth from the other end of the gurney, at her feet.

"Hi, Beth, I'm Dr. Amen. I need you to slow down your breathing. When you breathe too quickly, all of the blood vessels constrict, making it impossible for us to find a vein. Breathe with me." I slowed my own breathing, thinking that Wendy was going to kill me when I finished.

"Do you mind if I help you relax?" I asked. "I know some tricks."

"Okay," Beth said nervously.

"Look at that spot on the ceiling," I said, pointing to a spot overhead. "I want you to focus on it and ignore everything else in the room ... I'm going to count to 10, and as I do, let your eyes feel very heavy. Only focus on the spot and the sound of my voice. 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... let your eyes feel very heavy ... 4 ... 5 ... let your eyes feel heavier still ... 6 ... 7 ... 8 ... your eyes are feeling very heavy and want to close ... 9 ... 10 ... let your eyes close, and keep them closed.

"Very good," I said as Beth closed her eyes. "I want you to breathe very slowly, very deeply, and only pay attention to the sound of my voice. Let your whole body relax, from the top of your head all the way down to the bottoms of your feet. Let your whole body feel warm, heavy, and very relaxed. Now I want you to forget about the hospital and imagine yourself in the most beautiful park you can imagine. See the park — the grass, the hillside, a gentle brook, beautiful trees. Hear the sounds in the park — the brook flowing, the birds singing, a light breeze rustling the leaves in the trees. Smell and taste the freshness in the air. Feel the sensations in the park — the light breeze on your skin, the warmth of the sun."

All of the tension in the room had evaporated. Wendy popped her head in the room, but Bruce put his index finger to his lips and motioned for her to leave. She rolled her eyes and quietly shut the door.

"Now I want you to imagine a beautiful pool in the middle of the park," I continued. "It is filled with special, warm healing water. In your mind, sit on the edge of the pool and dangle your feet in it. Feel the warm water surround your feet. You are doing really great."

Beth had gone into a deep trance.

I went on. "Now I know this might sound strange, but many people can actually make their blood vessels pop up if they direct their attention to them. With your feet in the pool, allow the blood vessels in your feet to pop up so that I can put an IV in one and you can get the help you need, still allowing your mind to stay in the park and feel very relaxed."

In medical school, I took a monthlong elective in hypnosis. I had watched a film of an Indian psychiatrist who put a patient in a hypnotic trance and had her dilate a vein in her hand. The doctor stuck a needle through the vein and then removed it, causing blood to flow out of both sides of the vein. Next, at the doctor's suggestion, the patient stopped the bleeding, first on one side of the vein and then the other. It was one of the most amazing feats of self-control I had ever seen. Beth's situation reminded me of the film. In truth, I had no expectation that she would actually be able to dilate the vein in her foot.

To my great surprise, the moment I made the suggestion, a vein clearly appeared on top of Beth's swollen foot. I gently slipped the needle into the vein and attached it to the bag of IV fluid. Bruce's eyes widened. He couldn't believe what he had just seen.

"Beth," I said softly, "you can stay in this deep relaxed state as long as you need. You can go back to the park anytime you want."

Bruce and I wheeled Beth to X-ray.

When I returned to the unit an hour later, Wendy gave me a hostile look, but I smiled inside.

With the right plan, you can feel better fast and make it last, even when you are in the midst of an emotional or physical crisis. That is why I have provided the following emergency rescue plan, which includes the techniques I used to help calm Beth — hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery — among others. Before we get to the plan, it is critical to understand how your brain and body work in a crisis, especially as it relates to your emergency alarm system — the fight-or-flight response.


The fight-or-flight response is hardwired into our bodies to help us survive. It is mobilized into action whenever a stress appears, such as what happened to Beth in the emergency room. Harvard physiology professor Walter Cannon first described the fight-or-flight response in 1915. He said it was the body's reaction to an acute stress, harmful event, or threat to survival, such as experiencing an earthquake or being robbed — or having the chief resident scream at you while she is poking you with a needle. Acute stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares you to either put up a fight or flee a dangerous situation. The fight-or-flight response is triggered by

1. the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure in the temporal lobes that is part of the limbic or emotional brain, which sends a signal to

2. the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which signals

3. the adrenal glands, on the top of the kidneys, to flood the body with cortisol, adrenaline, and other chemicals to rocket you into action.

The graphic on pages 8–9 illustrates what happens in our bodies when this response is set off.

The fight-or-flight response is part of a larger system in the body called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It is called "autonomic" because its processes are largely automatic, unconscious, and out of our control, unless we train it otherwise (more on that coming up). It contains two branches that counterbalance each other: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Both regulate heart rate, digestion, breathing rate, pupil response, muscle tension, urination, and sexual arousal. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is involved in activating the fight-or-flight response, while the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) helps to reset and calm our bodies.

Our very survival depends upon the fight-or-flight response, as it helps move us to action when there is a threat. But when stress becomes chronic, such as if you live in a war zone, grow up in an unpredictable alcoholic home, are sexually molested over time, or wet your bed and wake up every morning in a panic, your sympathetic nervous system becomes overactive. When that happens, you are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, panic attacks, headaches, cold hands and feet, breathing difficulties, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, digestive problems, immune system issues, erectile dysfunction, and problems with attention and focus.

In his groundbreaking book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Stanford University biologist Robert Sapolsky pointed out that for animals such as zebras, stress is generally episodic (e.g., running away from a lion) and their nervous systems evolved to rapidly reset. By contrast, for humans, stress is often chronic (e.g., daily traffic, a difficult marriage, job or money worries). Sapolsky argued that many wild animals are less susceptible than humans to chronic stress-related illnesses such as ulcers, hypertension, depression, and memory problems. He did write, however, that chronic stress occurs in some primates (Dr. Sapolsky studies baboons), specifically individuals on the lower end of the social dominance hierarchy.

In humans, one big stress (such as being robbed, raped, or in a fire) or multiple smaller stressors (such as fighting with your spouse or children on a regular basis) can turn on a chronic fight-or-flight state in the body, leading to mental stress and physical illness. But you can learn to quiet your SNS and activate the PNS, which will lead you to feel calmer, happier, and less stressed. Improving the PNS is associated with lower blood pressure, more stable blood sugar, and better energy, immunity, and sleep.


After I finished my psychiatric training in 1987, I was stationed at Fort Irwin in California's Mojave Desert. Halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Fort Irwin was also known as the National Training Center — the place where our soldiers were taught to fight the Russians (and later others) in the desert. At the time, I was the only psychiatrist for 4,000 soldiers and a similar number of their family members. It was considered an isolated assignment. There were problems with domestic violence, drug abuse (especially amphetamine abuse), depression, and stress-related ailments from living in the middle of nowhere. I dealt with many people who suffered from headaches, anxiety attacks, insomnia, and excessive muscle tension.

Shortly after arriving at Fort Irwin, I went through the cabinets in the community mental health clinic, which was housed in a World War II Quonset hut, to see what helpful tools had been left behind by my predecessors. To my delight, I found an old biofeedback temperature trainer. Biofeedback is based on the idea that if you get immediate feedback on the physiological processes in your body, such as hand temperature, breathing, or heart rate, you can learn to change them through mental exercise. I had attended one biofeedback lecture during my psychiatric training, so I dusted off the old machine and started using it with patients who had migraine headaches. My staff and I taught them how to warm their hands using only their imaginations. Hand warming triggered an immediate parasympathetic relaxation response, which significantly decreased their migraine pain. It was fascinating to see how patients could raise their hand temperature with their minds, sometimes by as much as 15 to 20 degrees. Temperature training taught patients how to participate in their own healing process.

A few months after arriving at Fort Irwin, I wrote a request to our hospital commander, asking him to buy $30,000 worth of the latest computerized biofeedback equipment for our soldiers, including 10 days of training for me in San Francisco. While he laughed at me at first, eventually I got approval simply because he needed to spend his whole budget by the end of the year.

The biofeedback training was the most stimulating and intense learning experience I'd had as a physician. I learned how to help people relax their muscles, warm their hands (much faster than with the old equipment), calm sweat-gland activity, lower blood pressure, slow their own heart rates, breathe in ways that promoted relaxation, and even change their own brain wave patterns.

When I returned to Fort Irwin, my patients loved biofeedback because it helped them feel better fast. I loved it for the same reason and spent time each day doing it myself. I became masterful at breathing with my diaphragm, and I could slow my heart rate and even warm my own hands more than 15 degrees whenever I felt stressed. I had struggled with anxiety for most of my early life, which came in part from having an older brother who beat me up regularly when I was young, and in part from wetting my bed at night until about age nine. Waking up every morning in a panic, not knowing if the sheets would be wet or dry, changed my nervous system to be on alert and expect bad things to happen. Using these tools to calm myself was a wonderful relief.

Based on my work with hypnosis, biofeedback, and quickly enhancing brain function, here are six simple techniques that use your brain to control your mind and body, helping you to feel better fast.

Technique #1: Use hypnosis, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation to enter a deep, relaxed state.

Many people associate hypnosis with loss of control or stage tricks. But doctors know it to be a serious science, revealing the brain's ability to heal medical and psychiatric conditions. "Hypnosis is the oldest Western form of psychotherapy, but it's been tarred with the brush of dangling watches and purple capes," said psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD, the son of a famous hypnotist and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. "In fact, it's a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies. ... The power of hypnosis to immediately change your brain is real."


Excerpted from "Feel Better Fast and Make it Last"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Daniel G. Amen, MD.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: You Can Feel Better Fast and Make It Last: The BRAIN-XL Approach xiii

Part 1 B is For Brain

1 Use Your Brain to Rescue Your Mind and Body: Quick Techniques When Life Feels Out of Control 3

2 The Missing Strategy: Boosting Brain Health Can Make You Feel Great Now and for a Lifetime 27

3 Control Yourself: Boost the Brain's Executive Center to Make Great Decisions and Avoid Ones That Ruin Your Life 47

4 Change Is Easy-If You Know How to Do It: Turn Your Ruts into Superhighways of Success 69

Part 2 R is For Rational Mind

5 Master Your Rational Mind: How to Feel Happy and Present, While Conquering Worry and Negativity 93

Part 3 A is For Attachments

6 Healing Connections: How to Improve Any Relationship 121

7 Overcoming Trauma and Grief: Eliminate the Hurts That Haunt You 147

Part 4 I is For Inspiration

8 Create Immediate and Lasting Joy: Protect Your Brain's Pleasure Centers to Live with Passion and Purpose and Avoid Addictions and Depression 177

Part 5 N is For Nourishment

9 The Feel Better Fast Diet: Foods That Help You Feel Great Now and Later 203

10 Advanced and Brain-Type Nutraceuticals: A Personalized, Targeted Approach to Getting the Nutrients You Need 229

Part 6 X is For the X Factor

11 Think Different: 10 Practical Lessons from 150,000 Brain Scans 249

Part 7 L is For Love

12 Love Is Your Secret Weapon: Doing the Right Thing Is the Ultimate Act of Love for Self and Others 277

Appendix A Answers to Common Questions on Finding More Help 289

Appendix B Where Do You Need Help to Feel Better Fast? A Quick Mental Health Checkup 301

Appendix C Know Your Important Health Numbers 309

About Daniel G. Amen, MD 315

Gratitude and Appreciation 317

Resources 319

Notes 323

What People are Saying About This

Sharon May

Dr. Daniel Amen keeps writing cutting-edge, easy-to-understand books on what is most important to a healthy and happy brain. This is his best book yet. Dr. Amen shows us how we can all have good brains, overcome life’s main stressors, and foster healthy lives. Feel Better Fast and Make It Last has motivated me to change my lifestyle, keeping the health of my brain in mind. This book will be on my “must read” list for all my clients—and my family members.

Dr. Amen’s Feel Better Fast and Make It Last is a get-you-thinking and start-changing book that doesn’t make you feel guilty but educates you into wanting to live with your brain as your first priority.

I could not put down Feel Better Fast and Make It Last, as it was readable, easy to understand, and related to my life. It shook me up and gave me new habits of asking myself each day, “Is this good or bad for my brain?” and making daily decisions based on “Will this make me feel good now but not later?” Dr. Amen’s contribution to brain health is helping us all improve our lives.

Dr. Earl Henslin

Feel Better Fast and Make It Last is the one book about the brain that you’ll want to read this year. I have been working with Dr. Amen for the past 25 years, and this book is his most exciting work yet. Do you want to discover the secrets of quantum change? If you want to transform your life, take the practical steps outlined in this book, which will help you feel better fast and make it last. This book will give you what you need to bring lasting change to your brain. Feel Better Fast and Make It Last is your manual for transformed life!

Andrew Campbell

This book is delightful to read, a guide full of useful information for all of us that will help our brains and help our lives and our habits. All of us who have read it have been helped by it.

David Perlmutter

Life is full of challenges for everyone. But contrary to what you may believe, these events need not preclude your ability to be happy and joyful. In Feel Better Fast and Make It Last, Dr. Daniel Amen gives us a powerful array of tools to redirect our brains away from despair and grief to a place of happiness, gratitude, and love. This book is truly a precious gift.

Todd Davis

Daniel has taught me (and countless others) the critical role our brain health plays in our careers, families, and overall quality of life. If you truly value the relationships in your life, stop what you’re doing and read this book.

Jen Elmquist

This book is your map to an abundant life! Imagine sitting down with one of the smartest, most passionate doctors on the planet and getting a personalized plan for the healthiest version of you. That is the experience of reading Feel Better Fast and Make It Last.

To know Dr. Amen is to believe that your life can be all it was meant to be. This book feels like sitting with him in his office and getting his personal plan for your healthiest life.

Healthy people build healthy families. Healthy families create a healthy world. If you want to positively change your life and the lives of generations that will follow you, you must read this book!

Andrew Newberg

Feel Better Fast and Make It Last gives you the latest fascinating and important neuroscience information on how to boost your mood, quiet anxiety, and increase your overall brain health. I highly recommend it.

Sally Hogshead

Our choices determine our results, and our results determine our success. It all begins with choices. But the question is, which choices are right? How can we choose to live with joy, creativity, and prosperity, and free ourselves from depression and panic? With his astonishing new research, Daniel Amen has unlocked the answers. In this book, you’ll discover new aspects of who you are and who you can become. Once you understand your own emotions and behaviors, you can replace the negative with a positive future. This book outlines the game plan to your most fascinating and fulfilling life.

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