Brain Fact Friday: PART 2 on ”Chronic Pain and the Brain: It IS All in Your Head”


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Welcome back to The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, where we cover the science-based evidence behind social and emotional learning (for schools) and emotional intelligence training (in the workplace) with tools, ideas and strategies that we can all use for increased results.

I’m Andrea Samadi, an author, and educator with a passion for learning specifically on the topics of health, wellbeing and productivity, and launched this podcast to share how important an understanding of our brain is for our everyday life and results--whether we are a teacher in the classroom, or in the modern workplace.

For today’s EPISODE #232 and Brain Fact Friday, I wanted to stay on the theme of chronic pain and disease as we prepare to speak with Dr. Ashok Gupta[i] next week, a well-known Neuroplasticity "brain retraining" expert who has spent the last 25 years researching the effects of the brain and the mind on chronic pain and illness. I have so many questions for him, and hope you will tune into this next episode where I know he will answer everything, and give us all a solid plan for how to move forward to live healthier, more productive lives with our brain in mind.

After posting last week’s Brain Fact Friday, where we looked at chronic pain and the brain, asking “is it all in our head” I received many messages, including one from cognitive neuroscience researcher John Harmon, from EPISODE #170[ii] who added to our post on LinkedIn, saying that “most neuroscientists who study pain say it IS in the brain. And beliefs about bodily pain -- such as "I think this treatment will reduce my pain" -- are (obviously) in the brain also. There is a very real physical connection between pain perception and one's beliefs, emotion, attitudes and the rest of the mind.” He sums this all up saying, “If the mind (including pain and thoughts and beliefs about it) = a set of functional neural networks, it’s easy to see how the mind can either amplify, or dampen, pain -- via the two sets of FNNs (functional neural networks) either amplifying, or working to dampen, one another.”

This shows me something I’ve thought about for years—that it does matter what we think about.

Which brings me to this week’s Brain Fact Friday.

DID YOU KNOW THAT “Negative thoughts cause your brain to immediately release chemicals that affect every cell in your body, making you feel bad; while the opposite is also true—positive, happy, hopeful thoughts release chemicals that make you feel good. Your thought patterns can also have long-term effects. Repetitive negative thinking may promote the buildup of the harmful deposits seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and may increase the risk of dementia, according to a 2020 brain imaging study in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.”[iii] (Dr. Amen, Your Brain is Always Listening.

In the world famous physician Dr. Daniel Amen’s recent book that he published in the middle of the Global Pandemic, Your Brain is Always Listening, he affirms that it’s not just the thoughts we are thinking about our health and wellness that are damaging for us, but how we think about everything that we do. If Your Brain is Always Listening,[iv] it makes sense to me that it’s fed positive thoughts about our mental AND physical health just like what John Harmon said about “the real connection between pain perception and one’s beliefs, emotion, attitudes and the rest of the mind.”

This is one reason why I don’t like sarcasm. I don’t think it’s funny at all to poke fun of yourself or another person for anything. I’m pretty serious about this, as it just hits a chord with me. If I ever hear someone putting themselves down in any way, I’ll mention it and say something like “well that’s not true” hoping it will switch that person’s mind from this practice that I didn’t realize until writing this episode could contribute to the risk of this person developing dementia later in life.

It’s important what we think about whether it’s in relation to that nagging pain we feel in our body, or those automatic negative thoughts that Dr. Amen writes about in his book, Your Brain is Always Listening.

Julia Gover’s TED Talk on Pain and the Brain that we mentioned in last week’s Brain Fact Friday explains the science behind this concept when she said that “pain is an output of our brain, not an input from our body” and that our brain “takes cues from our mood (and the level of stress hormones in your blood) from your environment (sight, sounds and smells), from your memory (to see if you’ve been in this situation before) and it will also take into account your own personal beliefs about your health and your body. Then it takes all of this into consideration and asks—do I need to protect myself. If the brain thinks there’s a threat, it will produce the experience of pain to protect you.”[v]


To review this week’s Brain Fact Friday, DID YOU KNOW that “negative thoughts cause your brain to immediately release chemicals that affect every cell in your body, making you feel bad; while the opposite is also true—positive, happy, hopeful thoughts release chemicals that make you feel good.

It’s important more than ever that we find strategies to keep our thoughts positive, and eliminate negative thought cycles. If you find yourself waking up and not feeling happy, for your physical and mental health, I think it’s of high importance to look for ways that you can switch this.


TIP 1: I covered one way that I’ve kept a positive mindset, while at the same time boosted mental clarity and focus, with EPISODE #231[vi] on my “Update on the Fisher Wallace Brain Stimulator” that increases serotonin and melatonin, while decreasing that stress hormone cortisol. Check out this episode that covers my results with using this wearable medical device designed to combat insomnia, anxiety and depression.

TIP 2: You could also read Dr. Amen’s book Your Brain is Always Listening where he talks about our “hidden dragons” that we can uncover for solutions to controlling our happiness and changing hard-wired habits in the brain.

IMAGE CREDIT: Dr. Daniel Amen's Presentation on "Your Brain is Always Listening" Published on Youtube

TIP 3: Work it out with exercise that Dr. Amen says solves most mental and physical problems.

Whatever you decide to do to keep your thoughts positive, remember:

I’ll see you next week as we dive into Dr. Gupta’s discoveries about chronic pain and illness and how the thoughts we think about really do matter.

Have a wonderful weekend.



[ii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #170 with Cognitive Neuroscience Researcher, John Harmon

[iii] Your Brain is Always Listening by Dr. Daniel Amen published March 2, 2021 Page 98

[iv] Your Brain is Always Listening by Dr. Daniel Amen published March 2, 2021

[v] Julia Gover Pain and the Brain TEDx Northwich Published on YouTube August 21, 2019

[vi]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #231

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