Understand Your 5 Structures: How One Brain Book Changed My Life

Our lives are dictated by the decisions we make every day. Decisions about what to eat, where to live, what college to go to… decisions, decisions. They affect what goes into our bodies, our marriages, our relationships, the very shape of our planet. People make decisions, and brains are the operating systems behind those decisions. 

Why This Book?

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Dr. Daniel G. Amen

I picked up Dr. Daniel Amen’s book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness after hearing him on the Kwik Brain podcast. He said that for nearly every organ in the body (kidneys, lungs, heart), we use scans to see if they are performing optimally, but for the brain, literally the most important organ in our body, we tell doctors what our symptoms are, are prescribed medicine, and expect to get better. This level of psychiatry has barely moved an inch over the decades, while other medical fields evolve at exponential rates.

Five Structures of the Brain

The book describes the five structures of the brain and how they operate. Using scientific evidence and thousands of case studies, Amen lays out how the five structures: the basal ganglia, deep limbic system, temporal lobes, prefrontal cortex, and cingulate system relate to: anxiety, depression, anger, obsessiveness, or impulsiveness, respectively, and how effective “brain prescriptions” can help heal our brain and change our lives. I believe my life has been changed after reading it. 

You are not your limitations

I wanted to understand people in my family better. In life sometimes we feel hopeless because we are a certain way and we just accept our limitations, and say, “It’s just the way I am.” But what if it wasn’t? What if there were parts of your brain that were healthy, overactive and underactive, and we just needed to understand how the five structures were operating? Dr. Amen’s brain SPECT scan is able to understand our brains better than ever before. 

It all starts in the brain

Marriage counselors sit with couples and ask them about their problems and yet they do not look at the most important decision-making, behavior-inducing machine—the brain! They don’t suspect the marriage isn’t working because Sally’s overactive cingulate system is igniting her worry, obsessiveness, and OCD tendencies and doesn’t want to be physical or touched. Her husband is confused and hurt by this but the answer is simply physiological. It’s structural. There is so much misconception about mental health conditions that no one wants to be pegged as OCD, or depressed, or unstable, so we keep things inside, or don’t seek help, or accept it as a reality that cannot and will not change. 

Understanding your Brain

This book showed me that these things are simply structural in nature. We can manage them with the right help and techniques, and change how we live. I myself have taken steps to change my life and the shift has been incredible. It’s such a relief to understand our tendencies and where they come from. 

Brain trauma or injury to the head can further complicate things. If you sometimes question how and why your brain functions the way it does, I highly recommend this book. An answer you have been searching for over the course of your life could be right in front of you. Understand your brain, what it does, and what parts are overactive and under active so you can be most equipped to live a long and healthy life. 

Which brain do you want?