The COVID-19 pandemic has been the reason for skyrocketing mental health crises among many. For the last two years, adult depression tripled while depression and anxiety among children more than doubled.
"With the right strategies, you can learn to be happier in a short period of time," he claimed.
In his study of more than 200,000 brain scans, Dr. Amen discovered neuroscience techniques that can help in increasing happiness. He tested these techniques on his patients and found an average of 32% improvement after a month.
"I was pretty excited about it," he said. "What most people don't know is happiness is a moral obligation. God put us on the earth to be happier. If you ask someone who was raised by an unhappy parent or married to an unhappy spouse whether or not happiness was a moral obligation. I can assure you they would say, 'yes'."
Dr. Amen prescribed different happiness strategies based on a person's personality type. He said there are 16 different types which are combinations of five main ones. "There are balanced people, almost anything will make them happy, spontaneous people who need novelty, persistent people who need routine and hate surprises. There are sensitive people, they got hurt the worst in the pandemic because they need other people and need connection. Then there are cautious people who need to feel safe," he continued.
While he recommended a targeted approach to happiness based on a person's brain type, boosting overall brain health is the first step in raising people's degree of happiness regardless of personality. He shared that it's important to strengthen people's brains by eating a healthy diet. The types of foods and drinks consumed by people have a great contribution to the way people think and feel. He suggested minimizing eating junk foods like sugary foods, and processed foods and drinks.
According to him, "comforting foods" don't work positively in a long run. "We reach for things that help us feel better now, but not later," he said. For example, people reach out for alcohol to feel better at the moment, yet it has health implications in the long run. He claimed, "People who drink every day have smaller brains." He also added taking food supplements such as multivitamins, probiotics, vitamin D and fish oil can help in boosting one's brain.
"My favorite for happiness is saffron," he said. It was shown to be equally as effective as antidepressants in his 24 randomized controlled trials.
Controlling one's thoughts is another way of boosting the level of happiness. "Whenever you feel sad, mad, nervous, or out of control, write down what you're thinking then challenge it. You don't have to believe everything you think."
Lastly, just like how we consumed foods and drink, he suggested people go on a "Media diet." Research suggests that social media increases the risk of suicide risk in teenage girls. According to him, this data is just the tip of the iceberg, pointing out that parents should always supervise their children's social media consumption.
In a nutshell, people's choices and habits play bigger roles in their overall happiness despite genetics and circumstances.