Brain Dos and Brain Don’ts from Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

by | Feb 15, 2012 | Julie Genser | 5 comments

Brain dos and don'tsDaniel G. Amen, M.D. is a clinical neuroscientist and medical director of the Amen Clinic for Behavioral Medicine in California. He popularized using SPECT scans to diagnose brain damage and treat with lifestyle and dietary modifications, as well as medications. He’s a nationally recognized expert on the relationship between the brain and behavior as well as attention deficit disorder (ADD). Dr. Amen wrote the fascinating book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness that details five areas of the brain (deep limbic system, cingulate gyrus, prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, temporal lobes) and shares what functions each area controls, what the potential problems are, and how to treat them. At the end of his book, he lists fifty “Brain Dos” and fifty “Brain Don’ts.” Here is an excerpt from that list:

Brain Dos and Brain Don’ts: A Summary of Ways to Optimize Brain Function and Break Bad Brain Habits

Brain Dos:
• Wear a helmet in high-risk situations.
• Drink lots of water (six to eight 8-ounce glasses daily) to stay well hydrated.
• Eat healthfully, adjusting the proportion of protein and carbohydrate to your brain
• Take gingko biloba as necessary under your doctor’s supervision.
• Think positive, healthy thoughts.
• Every day, take time to focus on the things you are grateful for in your life.
• Spend time with positive, uplifting people.
• Spend time with people you want to be like (you are more likely to become like
• Work on your “people skills” to become more connected and to enhance limbic
• Talk to others in loving, helpful ways.
• Surround yourself with great smells.
• Build a library of wonderful experiences.
• Make a difference in the life of someone else.
• Exercise.
• Learn and use self-hypnosis and meditation on a daily basis.
• Effectively confront and deal with situations involving conflict.
• Have meaning, purpose, excitement, and stimulation in your life.
• Establish eye contact with and smile frequently at others.
• Consider brainwave biofeedback or audiovisual stimulation to optimize brain
• Notice when you’re stuck, distract yourself, and come back to the problem later.
• Learn something new every day.
• Sing and hum whenever you can.
• Make beautiful music a part of your life.
• Make beautiful smells a part of your life.
• Touch others often (appropriately).
• Make love with your partner.
• Use an EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapist to deal
with trauma.
• Take head injuries seriously, even minor ones.

Brain Don’ts
• Lie around the house and never exercise.
• Ignore concussions.
• Smoke.
• Drink much caffeine.
• Drink much alcohol.
• Eat without forethought about what foods are best for your brain.
• Ride a motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard, in-line skates, snowboard, and so forth
without a helmet.
• Hit a soccer ball with your head.
• Bungee jump.
• Think in words like always, never, every time, everyone.
• Predict the worst.
• Try to read other people’s minds.
• Personalize situations that have little to do with you.
• Talk to others in a hateful way.
• Push people away.
• Be around toxic smells.
• Be around toxic people.
• Allow your life to just happen without you directing and planning it.
• Allow thoughts to go over and over in your head.
• Isolate yourself when you feel worried, depressed, or panicky.

To read the full list of Dr. Amen’s brain dos and don’ts, click here.
photo © Tombaky |


  1. Jeny

    Definitely worthy of posting on the wall… every wall. :)

  2. Jeny

    These on the full list are just so relevant in my life that I want to say them again:
    29. Think through answers before automatically saying no.
    30. Write out options and solutions when you feel stuck.
    18. Think in black-or-white terms.

    They’re all so good!

  3. earthwalker

    Thanks Jeny. Yes, They are all so good, it was hard for me to choose which ones to excerpt! Thanks for sharing your favorites.

  4. Susi

    great addition to this website. never can have enough reminders and encouragement!

  5. Rebekah

    I agree with most of this, very sensible except perhaps the NO drug business. I don’t do or advocate recreational drug use, but there is compelling evidence that LSD, mushrooms, etc can produce profound POSITIVE brain changes when done in a proper setting. Ketamine is proving capable of reversing most treatment resistant depression in a matter of hours by creating near instantaneous growth of neurons and improving plasticity. I personally experienced profound healing and a complete reversal of my habituation of using harmful substances after drinking ayahuasca, a vision inducing plant concoction that is considered a medicine and national treasure in Peru. After experiencing it I think it should be required before anyone takes oath of a political office. I just find it annoying and not well researched for someone to lump all drug use into the danger zone. I have personally met two people who have NO history of bipolar in their family who went on prozac and were thrown into extreme manic states requiring hospitalization and are now on a lifetime of yo yo medication adjustments and a severe mood disorder. Not all drugs we think of as good are good for all and not all drugs we think of as bad are bad for all.

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