Dr. Gregory Scott Brown, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, mental health writer, and author. He is an affiliate faculty member at the University of Texas Dell Medical School. He believes we can work together to fight mental health stigma by having open and honest conversations about mental health. Dr. Brown is an advocate for evidence-based integrative care that includes incorporating exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and nutrition with standard of care treatments for mental illness.
Dr. Brown is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He completed a fellowship in integrative medicine at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, specialty training in general psychiatry at the University of Texas Dell Medical School, and received an M.D. from the McGovern Medical School in Houston.
Dr. Brown is an alumnus of Rice University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, and Johns Hopkins University, where he completed a post-baccalaureate premedical program. Prior to his transition to medicine, Dr. Brown studied music at The Juilliard School in New York.
Dr. Brown was awarded a SAMHSA Minority Fellowship by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and in this capacity participated on the APA Council on Communications for two years. He remains a proud member of the APA.
Dr. Brown believes in the therapeutic value of yoga, and he often writes and speaks about its benefits for mental health prevention and treatment.
His new book is The Self-Healing Mind: An Essential Five-Step Practice for Overcoming Anxiety and Depression, and Revitalizing Your Life.
Self-care is a powerful, evidence-based medicine for the mind.
Mental health is the driving force behind every decision we make—how we live, work, and love. Many of us suffer from depression and anxiety, which impede our choices and quality of life, and despite the proliferation of prescription drugs, the numbers are growing across the globe. But there is another, proven way to achieve mental wellness, beyond antidepressants and talk therapy. Practicing psychiatrist Gregory Scott Brown believes that mental health begins with actionable self-care.
The Self-Healing Mind is a holistic approach to emotional and psychological healing that focuses on how evidence-based self-care strategies can be used to improve and sustain mental health. Dr. Brown challenges the current state of mental health care and the messaging around it, showing us how to move past outdated notions of “broken” brains and chemical imbalances. While he agrees that prescription drugs and talk therapy in many cases are important for healing, his personal and professional experience has taught him that lifestyle interventions are also key to sustainable mental wellness.
Dr. Brown’s clinical philosophy supports an integrative approach that combines conventional treatments (medication and psychotherapy) with what he calls the Five Pillars of Self-Care: breathing mindfully, sleep, spirituality, nutrition, and movement. These purposeful lifestyle practices, backed by science and proven in his clinical practice, can be adopted by everyone. Dr. Brown’s advice and insight put the power of healing back in your control.
Listen to more great episodes at Next Level Soul Podcast
Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 069
Alex Ferrari 0:34
I'd like to welcome to the show, Dr. Gregory Scott Brown how you doin Dr. Gregory?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 2:10
Doing alright Alex! Thanks for having me on.
Alex Ferrari 2:13
Thank you so much for being on the show. I wanted to have you on man. Because your your new book, The self healing mind, is a very important topic, which is about mental health and mental health is not talked about a whole lot, especially in men for God's sakes. So I wanted to kind of really kind of go into the weeds with you a little bit about that. But before we get started, how did you start this journey into mental health and writing this book and everything that you've discovered?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 2:40
I'll tell you, man, this book has been years in the making. That's because when I was in my early 20s, I actually struggled with depression. I didn't know what I was experiencing at the time, I didn't have a name for it, I just knew that I did not feel well. And that's something over the next several years that I grappled with, you know, I wasn't one that actually was able to establish regular care with a mental health care professional. But I serendipitously happened upon self care. So I was able to tap into yoga, into spirituality. And I fortunately got better. Now I understand that many people aren't as lucky or blessed as I was, in the United States alone, there are over 140 suicides a day, on average. But I'll tell you that today, as a psychiatrist, I'm one that totally recommends medications and therapy when patients are able to establish care with a mental health professional. But I also think that we need to really spend a lot of time talking about evidence based self care, because that can help people get better as well.
Alex Ferrari 3:51
Yeah, and in the long term, hopefully, if we can do it with self care, right, it's a better thing for everybody involved.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 3:59
Right! And so a lot of times people ask me, Okay, should I do self care? should I do next? Should I do therapy? Where should I start? And I often tell them all of the above. I mean, these are things that that work together.
Alex Ferrari 4:10
Absolutely not. Why do you believe that men have such a problem discussing mental health? I mean, it is. I mean, I was raised in a Latino community, you know, culture. So you know, men never, never once in a million years, my grandparents or my father went, but you know, my father's generation ever speak about mental health ever. It was just a tab. It just never came up. It literally is like unicorns. I never heard him talk about unicorns, but it just never came up. If there's something you talk about, so why do men have such a problem doing that talking about it?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 4:46
I'll tell you, you know, I'm speaking as a man of color as well as an African American guy. And I think that men in general struggle with this idea of being vulnerable, right? I mean, there are cultural expectations, I think that suggests that we need to man up that it's a sign of weakness if we talk about anything related to mental health, but I'll tell you, I think it's particularly exacerbated within communities of color. And I think that again, the more people can see and hear conversations, like the one we're having today, the more they can hear people like me saying, Hey, I'm a psychiatrists, I'm a man of color. I'm a young guy, you know, in my late 30s, but hey, I struggled with depression, too. I was able to make it through, I was able to get better, I have no shame when it comes to talking about that will help encourage other people to get the help they need and reduce that stigma.
Alex Ferrari 5:47
Yeah, and I think in current years, a lot of very high profile, people have started to come out publicly about their mental health struggles, which has helped a lot. Someone like The Rock, who is the epitome of, you know, testosterone. You know, one of the I love the man but you know, he is when you think of a guy's guy, there's not much more guy, you get them the rock. Right? He and he's very openly talked about his mental health struggles, his mental health history in his family, what is his mother went through, and it's hopefully shining a little bit of a light because I agree with you, guys. We aren't you know, what, as we grow up, what do we say? Don't cry, right? You know, don't cry man up, you know, what are you a little girl, like these kinds of comments that you would be you would hear all your life, so you're afraid of being vulnerable? Luckily, for me, I've been surrounded by women my entire life. Yeah, single mom, I have nothing but women in my house right now daughters everything. So I've always been a very open guy and very in touch with that kind of, you know, vulnerability, because it's just I was I was surrounded by I wasn't surrounded by his obscene amount of testosterone growing up, but even with that, it was still difficult to approach mental health and approach. Even admitting to yourself that you're like, I might be depressed. Or I might be going through something, what are some keys that you can, you know, share with the audience about? See that seeing it within themselves, you know, because you might not know that you're depressed, you might be sad, but there's a big difference between being sad, and being depressed, what are those kinds of things you should be looking out for?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 7:37
You are spot on, man, you should have been a psychiatrist. Appreciate that. This is this is great. I just want to rewind a little bit here, you know, from my clinical experience, I'll tell you, oftentimes, you know, the men when they come to see me, it's usually a woman in their life, where there's their wife, or their girlfriend or their mom daughter, nagging them in a kicking and screaming, right, because we just struggled, you know, admitting to ourselves that we have these same issues that you know, women have, and everyone has, right, if we're just being honest here. And so I just want to say, you know, anytime someone is, you know, noticing that they're not as productive as they once were, or they find themselves even like being more irritable with their partner, being, you know, more impatient, struggling in the bedroom, having issues with sex, I mean, having issues with sleep, any of these things that can seemingly cause functional impairment, that can get in the way of us living optimally. You know, he got to start thinking, okay, is my mental health, is that one of the underlying causes? That's going on here. And usually, I'll tell you, you know, when someone comes to me in clinic, oftentimes they're saying, okay, you know, I'm, I'm not depressed, you know, I'm just drinking too much at night, or, you know, I'm not anxious, maybe I have, you know, ADHD or whatever. I mean, anxiety and depression. In particular, I've noticed this hold this heavy stigma among men. And I think, again, you know, the more that we're open about it, the more people like The Rock who come out and say, Hey, man, you know, I'm a guy's guy, but I deal with these things, too. And here's what I do. That can help me I think that, you know, that really encourages other men to have those conversations that they need to have.
Alex Ferrari 9:37
And then what are those kinds of things that you should look for in yourself to see if you are depressed or are you are just sad? What's the difference?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 9:47
So the main difference is that sadness is an emotion that comes and goes, right. It's, it's fleeting. And usually, I mean, many people don't think about this but you respond. on with this when someone is depressed, oftentimes, they're not even feeling sad. They just don't feel anything. They feel numb. They feel numb, they feel empty, they feel apathetic, and they're wanting to feel something, right. And so the other thing you want to think about is if you know, whatever that lack of feeling that apathy, that depressed mood, if it's lasting for at least two weeks, most days, right. So if you're experiencing, you know, a depressed mood, you're having trouble sleeping, you're noticing that your appetite, you're either over eating or not eating at all, if you're feeling guilty or worthless. And God forbid, if you're having thoughts about ending your life, I mean, those are all indicators that you might be depressed.
Alex Ferrari 10:48
Now, I remember growing up, I had probably I can remember two, three times, three times I had an anxiety attack, I didn't know what it was, at the time. When I was in my 20s, and 20s and early 30s, and they were both I come from the film industry. So I was directing my first big project literally had an anxiety attack in the bathroom, I was like, Guys, I need a minute. You walked in, hadn't had a full blown anxiety attack, sat in there. And I started doing deep breathing, I didn't know what meditation really was. But I just closed my eyes and just started to try to meditate, to be able to gather myself to go back on because it was all in my head that was like me, constantly creating things that weren't really there. Second time that happened, same thing was a project, the whole thing was going to fall apart. It was it was like the next day and my producer dropped the ball, and it was all falling on me. And I'd spending 10s of 1000s of dollars at the moment. And then another time was a family situation where I had, you know, a relative pass away unresolved issues and things like that. So those, those are the only times I remember having full blown, but I remember what it felt like it is a it is a horrible, horrible feeling you feel like you're dying? And is there any, any advice you can give to people about how to deal with an anxiety attack when it happens? And in your opinion, do you believe that anxiety because from my perspective, anxiety attacks are completely created within yourself. I mean, look, if there's a tiger right there, get as anxious as you want, because that's called nature. But when you're but when there's no danger around you physical danger, or any of that, things like that, your mind is creating it all and you just go down a deep rabbit hole. And it's hard to pull the brakes when you start going all the way down. That's when you know, you're doing it. So what's your opinion?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 12:46
Yeah, I mean, I think the first thing we need to recognize a couple of things here. So we're all anxious. We're supposed to be anxious, Alex, and a lot of times I tell folks that even on podcasts like this, I'm like you have anxiety, I have anxiety in the host like What do you mean, I have anxiety? I don't have anxiety, right? Yes, please pay for yourself, man. I mean, we all have anxiety, we're supposed to have anxiety. That's how we, you know, we get up in the morning, right? And there's that fear in our head about losing our job, if we don't show up for work. That's anxiety. And that's that's how anxiety can be used an adaptive way to get us up and about and moving throughout our lives, right? When we feel hungry, right, and we start heart starts to be a little bit faster, because we haven't had food to eat. It's anxiety that gets us to go into our kitchen, make ourselves a sandwich, right? When we're in situations where there's a very real threat. I mean, if we're out camping and a bear comes up in the woods, right? It's anxiety that causes us to get away from that threat, right?
Alex Ferrari 13:52
So it's the stress, the stress is a stress release, is that the stress hormone or something like that
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 13:57
The fight and flight response, right? That caused our heart to beat faster and our pupils to dilate, we have a wider range of vision, blood to flow to our skeletal muscles, so we can run away or protect ourselves, we need to so we need that. Now. If we're in a situation where as you mentioned, the anxiety is just creeping up on us. There's not really a visible threat there, even though there's a perceived threat. You know, and anxiety is getting in the way of us living our lives rather than helping us live our lives and that that's when it can become problematic, okay. And you know, you've had a panic attack one time, I'll tell you several years ago, and I was totally embarrassed about this, but I was sitting in a doctor's office for my annual physical exam, and I graduated from medical school at the time. So it's like when I'm in the doctor's office. I know what they're looking for. I know what they're listening for when they put on the stethoscope. And that just kind of was freaked me out in that moment, and I had a panic attack sitting right there on the table. It's like, I couldn't talk, you know, my heart was beating like 120 beats per minute, I would just totally freaked out. And my doc was like, but you're a psychiatrist. And I was like, stammering over my words. And, you know, well, I mean, these stories can they can seem embarrassing, but, you know, I just say it, to encourage the the audience listeners here that these are things out there normal, we experienced them, right. And as you as you mentioned, things like deep breathing, can help meditation can help over time. But again, sometimes they're things you just have to ride out and understand that an anxiety attack is not going to kill you. And you know, it's totally normal.
Alex Ferrari 15:54
You know, it's funny, because you, you were cursed with too much information.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 16:06
I was cursed with too much. And sometimes ignorance is bliss, my friend, I'm telling you,.
Alex Ferrari 16:12
You know what I've told people that's so much like, you know, you get into things and sometimes you're like, Man, if I would have known what I was, I would have never gotten out of my bed, if I would have known what was going on. But because you're so that's my youth is it's so wonderful, and it's so moronic. Yeah, so So you wrote in your book about the five pillars of self care? What are the five pillars of self care? In your opinion?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 16:40
I focus on the book, sleep, spirituality, nutrition, breathwork, and movement. And so some people asked me, why don't you put going into therapy in there, I mean, that that can definitely be useful. I am a staunch advocate of therapy, you know, I support psychiatric medications. But again, when we're talking about self care, these five pillars that I mentioned in the book, are things that don't cost any money. We all have access to them, right. And there are things that can work alongside therapy and medications if you need them, to really help folks improve their mental health.
Alex Ferrari 17:17
Let me ask you is, because I'm a I'm a mind nerd, a neuroscience nerd. So I love reading about the mind and how the mind works. A lot of times, in your opinion, when you start going down this depression Road, is that hard wiring in the mind that you that that creates these kinds of pathways, that over years can be extremely difficult. That's why it's so difficult to break out of them. If you've had long term depression, even if you're able to pull yourself out of it, you could fall back into because that groove that that connection hasn't been severed, or read or reprogrammed or rewired in some way. Is that a true statement?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 17:59
So that is one of the ideas that got me interested in psychiatry, I don't think there's an answer to it. At this point. You know, there's still surprisingly very little we know about the mind. Some will suggest that depression is a result of chemical imbalances of serotonin and norepinephrine and dopamine. But I think it's more than that. I don't think that, you know, our minds and our brains are just and the way they behave, or just because of the chemicals in our brain and the way that our brain is wired, even though some psychiatrists with huge followings, and written many books, might disagree with that. But go ahead.
Alex Ferrari 18:44
Do you believe that, because from my understanding, my rudimentary understanding of the mind, is extremely rudimentary, we as a as a species, we like comfort, comfort boxes are safe or safe spots, you know, like, our comfort zones, if you will. And because the comfort zones are what made us survive over the course of you know, 1000s and 1000s of years, because if we know everything that's around us, we're safe. But the tiger around the corner that we can't see is what we're afraid of. But that comfort zone could easily be negative. It could be abusive, because that's all you know, it could be, it could be depression, because that's all us like, if I'm not depressed, I'm not comfortable in a weird way. Your mind is like, am I wrong? What do you think?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 19:37
You're not incorrect in saying that. Okay. And I'll say that, you know, one of my favorite articles that encourage folks to read an article called The depressed person, right. So anyway, this idea that some people are just so used to being in this depressed state, right, that they've been in this state for 20 years. 30 years. They have a melancholic personality, we all those people, if you will, right, and so the idea of getting better, whatever that means can seem foreign, it can seem scary. And they'd rather even if it's not necessarily a conscious decision to revert back into that depressed state, because that's what they're familiar with. And Alex, just one more thing you have to think about, you know, you see this all the time in trauma, right? So people who maybe had an abusive parent, when they were a kid physical abuse, sexual abuse, and in that kid's mind, it's like, okay, Mom and Dad are supposed to love me, right. And this is how they're showing love, even if it's in a perverse or a sick way. And so then that person, when they're an adult, they establish a relationship with a spouse or a partner who is also abusive, because again, in their mind, this is what love is, this is how people show love. And sometimes it takes time in session with a psychiatrist or a therapist, to break that negative cycle to re wire that thought process to show patients that hey, you know, this is not what love has to be, there's something else there.
Alex Ferrari 21:25
You know, it's funny, because I remember growing up, I was a lovesick kid growing up, I was always in love, and having my heart broken constantly. It was just like a constant thing for me. To the point what to the point where I basically would actually go after girls who would never I mean, the years date me when I was younger, because I was almost like a like a high of being depressed. And what did I do when the moment of the heartbreak came? You'd go home and listen to sad music to wallow in this, this this space? Why do we do things like that? Why don't we like when we're sad, listen to sad music. You know, like, why would we do that?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 22:06
I think there's, I think that we find something again, in that moment, comforting about it's like, you know, you're feeling like if you're at a party, and you're really not in the party, and everyone around you is having fun. It's like that stuff that about that does bother you, right? You're like, why don't they feel the way I feel right. And I also think, I mean, when it comes to, you know, listening to sad music, I think there's something cathartic to and being able to, in that moment experience, a good cry, you know, we're talking about crying earlier. You know, I cry every once in a while, I'm sure. Force, it's something that we need. And I think that, you know, things like that can can be therapeutic,
Alex Ferrari 22:50
As long as you you're gonna live there. That's the thing. It's like, if it comes and goes, it's fine, right? But seven months of listening to sad music, there's a problem.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 22:57
Right, right. And the other thing again, we just really want to keep in mind and keep bringing back is this idea of a functional impairment, right? Every single day, you know, or most days, you're just not able to do what you need to do. But sadness is a normal emotion that all of us experienced from time to time.
Alex Ferrari 23:17
Now, coming from a medical background, like yourself, you talk about meditation. I've talked about meditation heavily on the show, because I've had experts on it. Can you just discuss quickly about the health benefits that happened? The in the mind when you meditate, in the sense of releasing those chemicals that help you bring down your blood pressure? You know, help? I mean, I did blood work and the doctors like you meditate, don't you? Like, go? Yeah, why is she like, she's like, because a man of your age shouldn't have these numbers. So there's, you're doing something different than my other patients are? I'm like, Yeah, I meditate a lot. So that's one of the reasons but I'd love to hear your point of view on it.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 24:01
So meditation is all about conscious awareness, right? Being in that moment. Oftentimes focusing on your breath, drawing your attention to the way that you're breathing. In the book, I outlined a number of different breathwork strategies. So if someone's listening to this, like, I don't even know where to start. Whenever I start reading about meditation, I think I need to, you know, convert to Buddhism and join a, you know, fancy meditation center. No, you don't have to do that. Right. And so the thing about meditation, what's going on in the brain again, when you really draw your attention to your breath, you are activating something called the parasympathetic nervous system. Okay. And that's the opposite of the fight or flight response we were talking about earlier when you are exposed to a threat. So when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, you notice a drop in blood pressure, you're flooding your brain with inhibits Horry neurotransmitters like GABA. And so GABA can help reduce anxiety. Also, you are increasing alpha wave activity in the brain, which is also a physiological marker of rest and relaxation. So I think of meditation if there any other football fans out there on Thanksgiving Day, if your family is like mine, we're watching the Detroit Lions and stuff. You're faithful with Turkey. And then after you're full, you're just kind of like in this zen mode, right? And so that's kind of the state that meditation can help reproduce,
Alex Ferrari 25:36
Without the cholesterol without cholesterol. Now, what parts Speaking of food, what part does food play in your mental health because I can tell you when I used to eat, in and out, it felt good going in. Yeah. Definitely didn't feel good coming out, but didn't feel good. 2030 minutes later, I was just like, just not a great feeling. And I've noticed that as you get older, you know, we as we both get older, we understand that you can do things that you did in the 20s. But food does have an effect, especially the kind of food you're eating, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 26:15
The first thing about and I'll tell you this, I've learned from 1000s of clinical conversations at this point, that food is a really sensitive topic, even with a lot of guys, right. I'm not here to shame anyone and say, You got to totally revamp your diet, you can't ever enjoy an In and Out Burger or beer or glass of wine. I mean, the thing that we want to keep in mind is that, you know, nutrition definitely plays a role in both physical and mental health. Okay. And what we're learning is that, you know, just like these physical health conditions, like obesity and hypertension, and high cholesterol are related to inflammation, sowore conditions like anxiety, and depression and ADHD. And so there are certain anti inflammatory foods that we can put in our body that can help. And so there's actually a big study that came out several years ago called The smiles trial, Alex, which showed that people who are depressed and incorporated more of a Mediterranean diet had better outcomes. And one of the reasons is related to the fact that Mediterranean foods can help reduce inflammation. So we're talking about omega three fatty acids that are found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna. You want to make sure you're getting enough leafy green vegetables, which actually act as precursors for some of these neurotransmitters that are important for mood, like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. And that you're getting enough prebiotics, right? Because we know that when we're stressed, that can actually cause something called dysbiosis of the microbiome, and it can deplete some of those prebiotics. So nutrition is definitely important. And we're learning more about it every day.
Alex Ferrari 28:09
Yeah. And I've had multiple experts on the show talking about the microbiome and how and how all like, it seems like just recently, everyone just figured out that the microbiome is the key to so much mental health, physical health, even more so than anybody ever thought of before. Having that good bacteria in your body really is a massive, has massive effect on your on everything on every functioning part of your body.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 28:36
Right, right. I mean, again, I think it's just such a fascinating area. And the thing about nutrition is that again, when I'm talking about Mediterranean diet, we don't necessarily have to, again, eat Mediterranean every day. But think of think of making more your diet more Mediterranean ish, right? So eat what you eat, but make small changes where you can
Alex Ferrari 28:56
Have a cheat day,have a couple cheat days.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 28:59
I won't tell anyone, it's okay.
Alex Ferrari 29:02
Exactly. Now, another part of one of your other pillars of spirituality. Yes. What part does spirituality play in mental health? I'm really curious about your thoughts on this.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 29:14
This is one of my favorite conversations, because I'll tell you, most people, when they hear the word spirituality, the first thing that comes to mind is what? Religion of course, religion, right. And so, what's important to keep in mind is that religion is just one of many aspects of spirituality. So you don't have to be religious to benefit from a spiritual practice for improving your mental health. So spirituality is all about connection. That might mean connecting with your inner self through something like meditation, as we were speaking about earlier, it might mean connecting with your external environment through altruism or selfless service, volunteering your time just doing so. something kind for someone else, right? Maybe it means connecting with a higher power through prayer if you are religious, okay. Now, the science behind this studies have shown that people who are able to tap into that inner spirituality are able to reduce activity in an area of the brain called the default mode network. Now, some people refer to the default mode network as the minds mind. So when we're just sitting down, watching Netflix, you know, daydreaming not really thinking about anything, that's when your default mode network is most active. Studies have shown that people who struggle with anxiety or burnout or people who are overworked, the default mode, network is overly active all the time, it's like the minds mind is just on, on, on on on. And a spiritual practice can actually help quiet that to help reduce that activity. And the long term effect is that it can help reduce perceptions of physical pain, as well as emotional pain.
Alex Ferrari 31:12
So you talked a little bit about burnout. You know, I think we all are so stressed out and are constantly, you know, especially here in the West, go and go and go and go and going nonstop, nonstop, non stop, I've done I'm trying to do better, myself personally. But what can you do to avoid the burnout? And how do you even know if you are burning out? Or you are you're burning out?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 31:38
So the important thing to keep in mind is that burnout is not a clinical diagnosis. Yeah, right. No World Health Organization has recognized it as a thing that we should be paying attention to. And what's important to realize is that, you know, if you find yourself, you know, not really excited about getting up and getting going with your day, if you find yourself avoiding some of the things that you used to love, just feeling kind of wired and tired and stressed out all the time. I mean, those could be signs of burnout. And many of those symptoms, Alex overlap with symptoms of depression, right. So the way I think of burnout is, it's like an indicator that maybe you might be sliding in something into something a little bit more serious as far as a mental illness is concerned. So it's definitely worth paying attention to self care can help with burnout, right. So the pillars that we speak about sleep, spirituality, nutrition, breathwork movement, really tapping in to those strategies sometimes is enough to stave off burnout for turning into something worse. But sometimes, again, it makes sense if you feel like you're burned out, picking up the phone, making connection with a therapist or a psychiatrist, because they can help distinguish burnout from depression.
Alex Ferrari 33:02
Now, everything we've been talking about, as far as mental health is concerned, there is one element that is constant, which is the inner voice, the monkey brain, that little voice that is constantly talking to you inside your mind. And and most of the time, it is a negative voice, you generally don't have a voice going, man, you're great today, you're looking fantastic. Look at you, that happens once in a blue moon generally, it's a very as and it's something I'm sure you as well, you know, is negative bias, which is part of our evolution is having, you have being negative, it will keep you alive. If everything is you know, rainbows and unicorns, the tiger will eat you. So, so now that we don't generally have tigers are about to eat us. How can we calm that mind, calm the mind, quiet the monkey brain. And that negative, specifically that negative voice, and how not to pay attention as much to it and so on.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 34:04
This might be a bit of reverse psychology here. But I think it really stems from this idea of radical acceptance, which, again, we don't have time to go into here. But I encourage all of the listeners to read about radical acceptance about Marsha Linehan. It's a great work that she's done there. But I think that we really have to, rather than trying to ignore that negative voice, we have to accept that it's, it's going to be there. It's something that all of us have. Right. And I've just noticed. So I'll tell you about one of my first experiences with yoga nidra, which is a meditative form of yoga, right? I had just gotten off of work, actually had my pager from the hospital on me in the yoga class, right? is terrible. And, you know, I'm thinking about all of the notes that I have to do when I go home and just laying there on my back and silence. And it's like just that chatter was just so loud. And I was trying really hard just to tune it out. And I noticed that the harder I tried, the louder that voice got, right. And so I remember at the time talking to one of my mentors, who was a seasoned psychiatrists about that, and he made a really good recommendation to me, he said, visualize that voice as clouds in the sky, right. So use a guided imagery, exercise, acknowledge them, acknowledge that they're gonna be there and watch them float by. And in time, you notice that, you know, that voice isn't going to kill you, the voice isn't going to destroy you. And you have more power over that voice than you think. And eventually, you can learn to live with it. And it'll get quieter.
Alex Ferrari 35:55
It's kind of like A Beautiful Mind. In many ways, like the movie, the beautiful mind. They're there. Those those those people are always there talking to you, because it's essentially a visual representation of the monkey brain in that movie that with the Russell Crowe,
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 36:10
I think it's funny you said that, because I just brought that up yesterday with someone they're like, I've never seen that movie. I'm like, how's it beautiful, right? Yeah!
Alex Ferrari 36:18
So good. So, so good. But it's so true, though, like, you know, at the end of the spoiler alert for anyone who's listened seen it, but you know, he's those those, those people are still there. Right. And he was aware of them. But he just doesn't let them control the he doesn't let them run the car, he doesn't drive the car, because you are, you might think you don't have any control. But you truly have all the control. It's up to you how you deal with it.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 36:45
Right! Right! And again, you know, you know, the mind belongs to you. It's your mind. It's a powerful tool. You know, own it, and love it. Right? I mean, you have more control over your mind than you think.
Alex Ferrari 36:58
Yeah, and it's meditation one on one is like, you know, when you when you talk to a guru talking about how can you quiet the monkey minds like you can't, what you can't do is let those thoughts come in and go out, go in and come out and don't hold on to a thought. Don't you know, and then as that, and then as I started doing that, in my meditative practice, I started it starts to quiet, the chatter starts to quiet, because because it has nowhere to hold on to. So it just gets Quiet quiet, to the point where there is no more chatter, and you're in a deep meditative state, which is where your was as blissful.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 37:31
It's wonderful. That it is spot on. That's absolutely right.
Alex Ferrari 37:35
So I'm also talking about physical activity. And I'd love to hear I've heard so much over the years, like, Oh, you're depressed, go for a walk, if you're depressed, go work out, you know, you really got to burn that energy off. You know, how much of that is real? And how much of that is just like folk folklore, if you will.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 37:53
So yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. Because I think because of that type of mentality, self care has kind of gotten a bad rap in recent days. Right? Some people even calling it tyrannical, and people are, you know, writing books saying you don't need self care, you need, you know, medication, right. But you know, and I'll tell you this, to me, when people bash self care, it's like saying, you don't need food. You don't need water, right? Don't need love. You don't need love. Right? What you need is, you know, a supplement, or what you need is running by this for me. Yeah. Right. So when it comes to physical activity, I'll tell you this, you know, I am an evidence guy. So, you know, I'm not going to come here and share my opinion about things if evidence doesn't support it. And what the evidence says is that people who move their bodies more, have a lower risk for developing depression. Period, right. And so what we want to focus on now, if you're severely depressed, going for a walk is not going to cure your depression. And eating a kale salad is not going to cure your depression. So we're talking about a comprehensive approach here. So we move our body what we're doing is we're enhancing expression of a protein in the brain called BDNF brain derived neurotrophic factor that kind of acts like fertilizer in the brain, it gets our neurons firing our brain cells firing so that we can reach optimal levels of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine. So there's something there. The European Psychiatric Association actually has made recommendations for exercise for mental health, which are very similar to the American Heart Association's recommendations for heart health here in the United States. That's 150 minutes of moderate activity, exercise a week, but start where you can.
Alex Ferrari 39:52
Now, isn't it I mean, it we talked a lot about different self care techniques that are releasing certain chemicals in your brain. It seems to me and I'm not the first to say this, but it seems like the brain and we have the ability to treat ourselves with the correct chemicals, ourselves, in our mind, it's just creating the activities to release these chemicals. That's why meditation, eating the proper diet movement, just working out releases, certain certain chemicals and hormones in the body that make you feel better makes you feel happier. And this is something that is, I think, probably within the last 50 years, people because if you would have said this, in the 80s, people were like, you are a new age quack. And now there's actual evidence stating that No, meditation releases this amount of this certain kind of chemical working out, does this food does this connecting to a spiritual, spiritual, you know, higher purpose, higher, higher power releases this in your mind? So I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 40:53
I think I mean, that's one of the things that I think is so cool about psychiatry, I'm totally nerding out here, but it's just all of these chemicals. They're already there. Right? We I mean, it's not like even when you take a pill, right, you're not putting something new into your brain, right, you're manipulating the brains way of absorbing the chemicals that are already there. So our brains are full of serotonin full of melatonin, you know, full of norepinephrine, dopamine, you know, if you enjoy, you know, a juicy steak, when you sit down, eat, take that first bite of the steak and you feel that sense of just reward like, oh, man, this is so good. Your nucleus accumbens, and your brain is being activated. That's the pleasure center, right? Dopamine is being released. When you fall in love, right? You embrace your partner and that feeling of warmth that you get, I mean, it's because chemicals are being released in the brain that contribute to that. So you know, when you go on a run, endorphins are released in the brain, right? So in many ways, self care strategies, again, use the right way can act like medications, right can act like therapy, and especially if you're combining them with meds and therapy, I mean, you're giving your yourself the best chances of getting better. And that's what I always advocate. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 42:19
I mean, with something like meditation, I was talking to a meditation guru the other day about this, and I was telling him, like, I feel almost addicted to the feeling, the blissful feeling that you get when you meditate now to the point where like, I don't have to, if I don't meditate, I don't feel I feel bad. I feel not bad. Like, mentally I feel physically just like, I need. I need that. I need that hour, I need that two hours to really connect to that, because it's a high, because you I mean, you walk out as a high, people get that from yoga, people get that from, from food, depending on the kind of flow I mean, look, I mean, the entire fast food industry is based around you connecting that those tastes salt, sugar, fat, those things make you feel good.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 43:05
Yeah, I first get addicted to the healthy stuff, exactly. The stuff that's going to, you know, sustain your physical and mental health correct long term. I mean, that's what, especially for guys that need to hear this message. You know, the guy is like, I don't want to try meditation, you know, I don't want to try yoga. I mean, try it out and give yourself permission to acknowledge the way you feel afterwards, because you might get addicted to that feeling. And it might ultimately improve your life.
Alex Ferrari 43:32
I mean, you don't have to wear Lululemon to do yoga as a guy.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 43:35
Oh, you absolutely don't? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 43:39
You know, it's, it's fascinating. And I think it's a lot more in the West, specifically that this whole kind of, I can't say that because there's many cultures around the world, but I know in the West is very, you know, guys, man, man, you know, and all this kind of stuff. And men don't cry. And men don't do yoga. Men don't meditate. But I think at a certain point, people have just as especially these new generations coming up, they're just like, I'm tired. This is BS, I want to this is not right. I need help. And being going out to do these things and finding joy in yoga, and find it's much more acceptable now than it was 10 years ago, 10 years ago, you know, if you, I was doing yoga, 10 years ago, and I was one of three guys in in, in the entire yoga class. And it's just like, Now, use like a yoga classes. It's a mix. It's all you know, young, old, every culture. It's becoming more acceptable. And I think that's a really great thing for all of us. But specifically guys, because we have women are much more open to all of this because that's just their nature. We as guys have a struggle with all of the things we're talking about right now.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 44:51
Right and here's why it's important to so many people outside the field don't don't realize this so women are actually diagnosed with depression twice as often. As men, right, but men die by suicide three to four times as often as women do. And one of the reasons is because men are not getting treatment, right, they're not talking about these things as much they're suffering in silence are stuffing it all in. And then you know, the stuff hits the fan and things fall apart. And so again, I think we see people like LeBron James doing yoga, right? Where we see him on the calm app, you know, leading meditations, right people like Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, yeah, common like all the rock, like all of these public men who are well respected, you know, and other guys admire when they're talking about these things. So hey, you know, I can I can do it too, then it can encourage them to as well.
Alex Ferrari 46:01
Yeah, it's just like, we don't have the support system that women do, because women girlfriends talk, guys don't like dude, you know, man, I was feeling a little depressed today, man. And I don't know how I'm gonna work this out. You know, like, that's not a conversation guys generally, generally have with other guys guys will have that with a woman. Right? Not as much, they'll talk to their mom about it, they'll talk to their wife about it to talk to their maybe their sister about or even a girlfriend. But guy like I don't think I think as I've gotten older, I've had those conversations with, with men, friends of mine, because we're all just older and a little bit wiser and a little bit more open about these things. But like, you know, I'm struggling with this man. And you know, I know what you're feeling like, but you when I was younger, my generation, and I'm not sure how much younger older you are, for me, but you know, Gen X, generally did not have deep conversations about guys have about about their mental health at all. So but women do have that. So that makes sense, what you said that those statistics because women at minimum have that support group have their girlfriends and their mothers and that they are it's called, it's like part of their, quote unquote, culture to be able to speak to that to speak like that. But men aren't generally.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 47:18
Yeah. And I think a lot of times men, they don't they don't know how to have those conversations.
Alex Ferrari 47:25
As always, as I was saying to you, you were cracking up, you're like, that's insane. Why would dude, you know, man, after the game after the game, I was really depressed and LeBron lost man, like, how do I deal with this? Like, that's not?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 47:37
Right. Right. And so I mean, I'll tell you this. I mean, one of the, you know, a couple of things. So one of the most beautiful, several conversations, I mean, Anderson Cooper and Colbert have a conversation about grief, that I encourage everyone to watch. You know, in the aftermath of Kobe, Bryant's death, kill O'Neill, shed tears when he was talking about his friend, Jordan. So again, you do have men I think, who are coming out now and showing that, hey, you know, I have a motion. This is how I can talk to another guy about something that is eliciting a feeling positive or negative. Right. And then one more thing I'll just mention here briefly is that, you know, I do a lot of work with Men's Health magazine. Every Friday, we're on Instagram. You know, my friend, Drew Ramsey, and I drew is a nutritional psychiatrist. And we co host a series called Friday sessions, where we actually have conversations about male mental health. So we can show people not just talk about like, go talk to another guy, we can show people what those conversations look like. And I think that's very important.
Alex Ferrari 48:53
Now, you've talked about mindfulness in your book as well, how can you introduce mindfulness into a daily routine.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 49:02
So for someone listening, they don't know where to start. Again, remember two words with mindfulness, conscious awareness. That's, that's it, that's a good place to start. So that means again, so often, we navigate our life without even paying attention to what's going on around us. We're not plugged in, right? We might be sitting there at dinner, and I'm guilty of this all the time to sitting there and my wife sitting across from me, we're enjoying a meal together. And I'm just like thinking about the next thing that I have to do, right? I'm not tasting the food, I'm not enjoying her company. I'm not paying attention. And so I have to intentionally bring myself into those moments. And when I do, Alex are so much. They're much more rewarding. For me, you know, when I feel better the rest of the night the next day, we go for a walk, right we'll go went outside. I mean, so often we're not even appreciating the weather appreciating the sounds of the birds and the sky, those little things that make life so enjoyable and pleasurable. That's what mindfulness is all about.
Alex Ferrari 50:14
Yeah, I mean, it was, it's funny that you say that, because you're right. Most of the times we are on autopilot in life, that we're just constantly thinking about the next thing, the next thing, and rarely do we sit and just literally enjoy the moment, which is all we really have. We have tomorrow, we don't have the next five minutes we have now because this is the only thing that we have. And as I've said before, like, you know, most of us live in our imagination, which is the future in in our memories, which is the past, but we never live here in this moment. And you know, every once in a while I'll catch myself living in the moment.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 50:53
And it's also when we're able to do it. Right?
Alex Ferrari 50:55
Right, because I was like, sitting there I was, you know, one of these days, a few days ago, I had, you know, my family was in the kitchen, and we were all getting ready for morning and getting kids off to school and stuff. And I just sat there, I was like, Hey, this is awesome. This is nice. This is nice. I love these guys, you know, but it was just that moment of it was a moment of clarity of going, hmm. Or when you're walking in, you know, beautiful nature somewhere and you're like, man, look at that tree. Like, you'd never think about trees. But when you were like in a national park or something like, wow, where am I? Or if you're in Greece in the path or not? Then you're sitting there you're like Aquarian Socrates Socrates walked around walking right now. Like, that's pretty cool.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 51:41
And I'll tell you even eating this stuff is totally evidence based. So some people listening this would be like, Oh, that's woowoo. You know, that's, that's not gonna work, right? But I'll tell you I have patients all the time, even patients who are depressed and they'll tell me you know, Doc, when I started a mindfulness practice, the the trees in my neighborhood, they look brighter. And you know, the the world just started to look more beautiful. And I started finding pleasure in these things that I just took for granted. So the stuff works.
Alex Ferrari 52:09
It is it's something that the the, the Tibetan monks and Buddhist monks and Yogi's have been talking about for 1000s of years of enjoying every moment of your life as it happens. And I know it's so hard for for us here in the West, think about that, because we're always constantly to connect. But when you slow yourself down to a moment that blue truly enjoy, what you are, what you're experiencing, life becomes more full, right becomes more, you become more at ease. Because you're not anxious about what's going to happen in the next 15 minutes. You're right, right, just like you know what, I just got to worry about what's in front of me right now. It was I was I was speaking to someone the other day, and they said, The only thing you can control is to the ends of your fingertips. That that's all the control you have, you have no control about anybody else or anything else. Other than what you have to the end is your fingertips. And I thought that was so beautifully stated. I was like, you know, he's because you're right. It's only literally from the edges of your fingertips, anything beyond the fingertips, can control another person, you can't control how they feel, how they act, how they react, but you can't control how you act, how you react to certain things,
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 53:21
And realize and accepting that we can't control all of this stuff out there can be extremely comforting. We're not trying to you know, write the story, right? I mean,
Alex Ferrari 53:33
You're right. It's like you're trying to like when you realize that you can't control everything, which we all want to control everything, because then goes back to the whole thing that we want to control our comfort zone. But you can't, it's not possible. You can't control the world, you can't control other people, you know, to a certain extent, you can't control anything else other than yourself. And once you understand and accept radical acceptance of, yeah, I have no control, other than the things that are within my fingers, like, up into the point of my fingertips. That is so free. Because our monkey brain is like, well, you know, you gotta control this, you gotta control this and like, and sometimes, you know, I'll talk to a friend of mine, they're like, oh, man, I have this problem, this problem. Can you control that? Well, no, it's, you know, I think I have to wait for this to happen. Like, why are you worrying about it? Like you worrying about it is not going to get the tax bill here any faster.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 54:27
Alex Ferrari 54:28
Like, if if your passport is lost in the mail, guess what? It's lost in the mail, and you're gonna have to deal with it when it comes. But why worry about something that hasn't happened yet? Because most of the things that we worry about? Never most of the times don't happen, because we have much better imagination. So what happens?
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 54:44
That's absolutely right. That's absolutely right. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 54:48
So doc, where can people find this amazing book, the self healing, self healing mind.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 54:54
So you can check out my website, it's gregoryscottbrown.com. You can order the book there. Er, and you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter at Gregory S. Brown MD.
Alex Ferrari 55:08
Dr. Gregory man, it's been a pleasure talking to you, my friend, I appreciate you writing this book. I appreciate you becoming on the show and bringing awareness to this. This crisis I think that we all are having about mental health and talking more clearly, especially for guys, but for everybody listening, being able to talk about mental health freely and get help that you need. And I love your approach of the self care is one of the main elements that you can do, to put the power back in your in your own hands, to heal yourself, in addition to other therapies and medicines as well, but you have the pharmacy in your mind if you know how to access it. So I appreciate you my friend.
Dr. Gregory Scott Brown 55:47
I enjoyed being on. Thanks so much, Alex.
Links and Resources
- Official Site – Dr. Gregory Scott Brown
- The Self-Healing Mind: An Essential Five-Step Practice for Overcoming Anxiety and Depression, and Revitalizing Your Life
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