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Hi, pod fam! 

This week’s topic is SO timely. With daylight savings here and shorter days ahead, seasonal depression is probably already starting to affect some of us. (Side note: I’ve previously shared some tips on my IG story. Check them out here!) But aside from seasonal mood changes, depression, grief, and other mental health concerns are relevant all year round. Depression, in particular, has been affecting exponentially more people since 2020.

We are alllllll for talking about mental health here at Team OO, and like this week’s guest, we fully want to destigmatize mental health. And we really shouldn’t have to do that because—as this week’s guest will tell us—mental health IS physical health. Your brain is a physical organ, just like your heart or kidneys, after all!

This week, we’re joined by Dr. Daniel Amen—psychiatrist, brain health expert, and bestselling author. We’re talking about brain scan technology that can literally show us what mental health looks like; the effects of mental health drugs, marijuana, and alcohol on the brain; grief & depression; essential oils; and so much more. 

Let’s get juicy and make brain health cool!

How Essential Oils Can Support Mood/Mental Wellness

We don’t dig too deep into this in the ep, but I am obsessed with the fact that Dr. Amen—a medical doctor—supports the use of essential oils, which are often categorized on the “woo-woo” side of wellness. He notes that there’s definitely a science behind them and how they work, notably when it comes to aromatherapy. “Scents can make you feel awful or wonderful,” he says. “It’s one of the simple strategies to bring happiness to people.” Of course, that’s not to say essential oils are any kind of magical cure, but smelling a scent that you love can absolutely bring a little extra joy to your day. Some of my seasonal favorites include:

  • Clove
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Frankincense and Lavender (all year long)

On the term “mental illness”… 

Dr. Amen, who has deeply loved the field of psychiatry in which he works for more than 40 years—hates the term mental illness. He says it shames people—attaching a stigma to something that shouldn’t be shameful at all. Because when you look at it, mental health is a MEDICAL problem—not a MORAL one. “The brain is an organ,” Dr. Amen says, “like your heart is an organ. So we really should work to get your whole body healthy.” 

A LITERAL View of Mental Health

Recognizing that mental health is a physical concern, Dr. Amen became very interested in the use of scans to literally see how mental health (and various treatments/stressors/causes) appear in the brain. You know those “this is your brain on drugs” commercials? Well, what if you could see what your brain looked like “on” depression or anxiety? TURNS OUT, YOU CAN.

Dr. Amen notes that your brain is about 2% of your body’s weight, but it uses 20% of its blood flow and 20% of its oxygen. Through brain SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) imaging, we can actually get a 3D view of how blood flows through the brain. 

SPECT imaging came onto the scene in 1991 through a nuclear medicine study that looks at blood flow and activity. This allows for doctors like Dr. Amen to see the effects of various mental health concerns compared to a “normal” brain to see how and where the brain isn’t functioning at its optimal capacity. SPECT imaging can also show how psychiatric drugs affect the brain—for better or for worse. Learn more about how Dr. Amen uses it here!

Lifestyle Habits to Improve Mental Wellness

There are many types of psychiatric illnesses (anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc.), and there are many causes of each one (both identifiable and not). Dr. Amen offers a few tips in this episode to help support brain health and mental wellness:

“We should only love food or substances that love us back,” he says. Alcohol, marijuana (especially in teenagers), excess sugar, and low-quality carbs can all affect our brains in negative ways by increasing inflammation, decreasing oxygen or blood flow, or—in the case of marijuana—decreasing myelinisation (how our brains develop)

Exercise more. Exercise can increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, supporting mental wellness.

Limit your news consumption. Mental wellness is physical, but it’s not just physical. Dr. Amen recommends finding a new site you trust and limiting your consumption to a healthy amount each day (maybe as short as 10 minutes). Excessive news consumption—especially these days—is “just not going to serve you,” he says. “It’s going to make you angry and sad and afraid.” 

Inspired by this convo with Dr. Amen, next week’s episode will be a solo ep on how I’ve been changing my outlook on life and working on my own mental wellness lately. I can’t wait to share it with you all! As always, tune into the episode for allll the juicy goodness in this ep! Be sure to share your thoughts with me on our NEW IG, @shoporganicolivia



Connect with Dr. Amen:

Visit Dr. Amen’s website

Visit the Amen Clinics website

Follow @doc_amen on IG

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