Optimal Performance

The Truth About Addictions, Habits and How To Make Change with Dr. Amy Johnson

Big doors swing on little hinges.

That’s how the saying goes, and that’s the essence of biohacking.

We’re thrilled to talk with Dr. Amy Johnson, author of The Little Book of Big Change on Episode 38 of the Optimal Performance Podcast as she explains the truth about our addictions, habits and how to make change.



Dr. Amy Johnson is a talented writer, psychologist and life coach. Author of the books “Being Human” and “The Little Book Of Big Change“, Amy specializes in helping people overcome disordered eating, and finding balance in their lives for long-term, sustainable health.

In this episode, Amy shares her experience with binge eating and talks about the philosophy that helped her overcome her own struggles, inspired her books and became the foundation of her practice that helps many others overcome their own struggles.

[Tweet “”Habits are our brain’s best attempt to feel better.” – Dr. Amy Johnson”]

For those looking to break a habit or otherwise make a change, this is a powerful revelation that explains why we are so drawn to that activity – especially when “triggered” by our mood, emotions, or certain events.

Understanding this connection allows us to “see” what we are doing from an outside perspective and we can allow those thoughts to pass, return to homeostasis and remained balanced for lifelong health and happiness.

That’s what I took away from talking to Amy in this unique and insightful podcast.

See what you think & let us know in the comments below.


What You’ll Learn From Dr. Amy Johnson in This Episode of The OPP:

  • As humans, we are all naturally WELL, CALM, and AT PEACE – then “stuff happens” that disrupts our naturally occurring health and wellness
  • How “The Little Book of Big Change” helps us get back to our fundamental health
  • The insights that helped Dr. Amy overcome her binge eating patterns (HINT: traditional diets and methods didn’t “FREE” her of the issue)
  • “Habits are our mind’s best attempt to feel better” 
  • Knowing what you want in life – not getting caught up in your head and in your thoughts
  • “Thoughtmares” – what are they and why do we do that to ourselves?
  • Which lens of the kaleidoscope are you looking through?
  • “When you understand how something works, you can leverage it to your advantage.” 
  • Unblock yourself, lose the garbage and ditch the interference to tap into your innate wellness
  • Where you can find more of Dr. Amy Johnson
  • Amy’s Top 3 Tips to #LiveOptimal

Links & Resources:

Amy’s Website

Amy’s Books:

[Tweet “The worst place to be is afraid of our own experience” – Dr. Amy Johnson”]

Our Favorites Tools To Optimize Your Brain 

  • Improve mood, motivation and productivity with Dopamine Brain Food
  • Get laser-like focus and enhanced memory potentiation with CILTEP
  • Reduce stress and make everyday feel like a vacation with Serotonin Brain Food
  • Smart Caffeine improves cognition and boosts energy naturally without the jitters or sleep disruption



The Truth About Addiction, Habits, and How to Make Change with Dr. Amy Johnson

Ryan: You are listening to the Optimal Performance Podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. If you’re into biohacking, performance or getting more out of life, this is the show for you! For more on building optimal performance into your life, check out optimalperformance.com

Alright, happy Thursday all you optimal performers! Welcome to another episode of the Optimal Performance Podcast. I’m your host Ryan Munsey and I want to welcome in today’s guest, Dr. Amy Johnson. Amy, thanks for hanging out with us!

Amy: Yeah, thank you for having me!

Ryan: So, for our listeners, Dr. Amy Johnson is a psychologist, life coach specializing in eating disorders, behavioral changes. She’s the author of a couple books, ‘Being Human’ and then the newest one is ‘The Little Book of Big Changes’. And that’s a really cool title and we’re gonna talk a lot about addiction, behaviors, changes as we get going. So for you guys listening, sit back, enjoy this one. Before we do that, you guys know the drill. Go to optimalperformance.com so you can see the video version of this, links, show notes, any of the resources that Amy shares with us today. We’ll have links to her website and any of the resources that she talks about for you guys. Also, if you have not done so, please, while you’re on the site, sign up for our VIP club so that you can stay up to date with everything that we’re bringing you to help you optimize your life. And head over to iTunes, leave us a 5* review, let us know how much you like the show. Alright, Amy let’s do this!

Amy: Alright, I’m ready!

Ryan: So, on your website you have something really cool. We absolutely love this and agree with it. You know, your philosophy is that – that as a human that you are well, your default setting is health, peace and calm. Tell us a little bit more about that philosophy and your practice.

Amy: Yeah. I think for me personally that was huge when I kind of saw that, heard it, however that came about several years ago because like a lot of people, I’m sure people that are listening can – can kind of relate to this, I sort of grew up thinking: ‘Okay.’ I mean obviously I was in the psychology, like even from a young age I studied as a psychologist. So I knew that people could change and become better and – and be happy and kind of learn to cope with things. And that’s – that’s sort of the framework I always thought, like that’s how I thought it worked. I sort of thought: ‘Alright, I came out healthy. We all seem to come out okay, but then – ‘ like mentally healthy and calm and resilient and all that. But then, you know, stuff happened. Like my parents got divorced and then I got insecure about this and then this happened and – and it felt like it was chipping away at my health. And so I thought: ‘Well let me go become a psychologist so I can learn how to do a bunch of stuff and try to get some health back, ’cause it’s slipping away from me, I can feel it as I grow up,’ you know. Let me try to go do a bunch of stuff or learn some practices, learn some behaviors so that I can kinda cope with all this crap a little bit better. And – and so it always felt like alright, there’s something being eroded here and we can grasp and try to fix it. And to kinda turn that on its head, which is that statement that you just said, that we are fundamentally healthy by nature, no exceptions. That blew my mind when I first heard that. So it’s like wait a minute, okay, so I’m – there’s nothing being chipped away? Like yeah, we experience stuff for sure, absolutely. I have insecurities now that I didn’t have when I was born. We all do. But what if, you know, what if we actually – there’s a part of us that is always well? And that’s always there. Like that peaceful, clear, knowing how to do what we wanna do. Just knowing what we want in life. Like that never goes anywhere. It’s just that as we get older we think more and more and we get more caught up in our own head, you know? We get caught more up and, like, I should do this or I should do that. And we get a little confused. But I think it’s so huge for people to see that – that just peace and being able to just hang out and be in life we all had as little kids, we still have that. The only issue is we get a little more caught up in our heads now as adults.

Ryan: Yeah. And, so our audience is one that likes to think a lot. We like to think faster and we like to be better. So how – what would your advice be to – to try to, I guess, avoid the pitfalls of thinking too much and to try to use that in a positive way?

Amy: Yeah, that’s a great question. ‘Cause, I mean, thinking is – thinking is fun and thinking is good. [laughs]

Ryan: [laughs] Right.

Amy: Like, it’s not a bad thing, obviously, right?

Ryan: Right.

Amy: So we have – we have this intellect and logic and reasoning and motivation, all that stuff for a reason. I guess the way I sort of look at it now is, like, kinda seeing what we have working for us a little bit more. So rather than coming at life from this place that’s, like: I need to make it all work. I’m gonna set a goal and, damn it, I’m gonna do it. Like I’m putting the blinders on and I’m gonna push through no matter what. I’m gonna make this happen. It’s – it’s more like – it’s more like saying: ‘Okay, something in me is pulled in this direction. Like, this looks awesome,’ whatever this goal or this thing is, you know, I wanna do. Whatever I’m passionate about. That’s great. But seeing that we – it’s not all on us. Like, we all – we haven’t kept ourselves alive our whole lives. You know, I mean, in some ways we have but there’s something running through us that’s, like, beating our hearts and breathing our lungs, we’re not doing that right now. And it’s the same with other things, we just kind of lose sight of that, I think. So, you know, again you grow up and you start thinking: ‘Oh no, I’m not safe in the world. I need to do a bunch of stuff to make myself safe.’ So it’s kind of like taking a step back and relaxing and saying: ‘Wait a minute. I – where – I don’t know where these ideas come from. I don’t put ’em there.’ There’s obviously something bigger than us that’s working through us and we get to have fun with that. And we get to shape it. And we can play our role, for sure. But not, you know, not losing sight of, like, the bigger wisdom that’s always there. It’s almost like, the s- the winds, like, behind the sails. And really appreciating that when see that we just kind of tap into it and I think things get even bigger and easier, you know, from there.

Ryan: So tell us about the book. ‘The Little Book of Big Change’.

Amy: Yeah. So the book is um, you know, is really inspired – and a lot of the work I do is kind of inspired by my own struggles. So, the one I write about in the book most is my own – I had a binge eating disorder for 8 years, off and on. But it was definitely something that I thought really stuck in for the better part of 8 years. And I had kind of tried everything that people try when you have a habit or addiction or whatever you wanna call it, disorder. You know, I went to various types of therapy. They were helpful in some ways but none of it really did what I was looking for. I tried every kind, you know, I tried every diet, every nutritional plan, I tried like energy healing, I tried like everything you could think of, you know. And what happened is the more of these things I was, like, chasing, like how do I fix this problem I have, it kinda just left me feeling more and more hopeless. Because they would be helpful in some ways but none of them gave me, like, a true freedom from my habit, you know.

Ryan: Right.

Amy: It still felt like okay, like I was saying earlier like, okay I can kind of cope with my habit in this way. Maybe I’ll do this instead of binge eating on this day and that makes it a little better. But I never felt free of it. It still felt like I had this monster chasing me, you know, who’s gonna catch up with me at some point. So um, eventually I kind of stumbled upon some understanding, kind of a combination of sort of this spiritual understanding that we are healthy and well by nature and we think, and our thinking is what gets us caught up in our habits. And understanding a little more about how habits kinda are in your brain. And for whatever reason, I had an insight, a series of insights, kind of, in seeing all this and I just walked away from my binge eating habit. And that sounds dramatic, but that truly is just the way it was. You know, I mean, it’s like, it was very, very quick. It wasn’t exactly overnight but it was – it was pretty quick. And the thing is it just felt different. It was a deep shift. Like I knew that okay, but one point I saw life in this way and now I had the see change, like I literally just see things differently. And the habit had no appeal anymore at all, like it just sort of fell away. And so, so the book is – is what my best guess, looking back, at kind of things that I see differently now that I think helped me. And I say I think because I think insight is just this thing that we don’t fully have a grasp on, you know what I mean?

Ryan: Right.

Amy: You just have this ‘a-ha moment’, it’s really hard to describe in words sometimes. But um, kind of the insights or the things that I think allowed me to walk away and that I’ve been talking with clients about in the last few years that I’ve seen being really helpful for them in walking away from habits and addictions.

Ryan: So, if you had to give us, like, 1 or 2 of those big insights, what do you think those would be?

Amy: Yeah. One of the big ones was, for me, was kinda coming to see that, again, if we’re – if we have a natural resting place, I call it home base, that is just good. It’s not caught up in habits, it’s not addicted, it’s just kinda peaceful. It’s not top of the world, you know, like you’re doing a bunch of stuff and you’re all enthusiastic either. It’s just, it’s almost that place where, I think, a lot of us feel when, like, when we first wake up in the morning before we start thinking about what’s gonna happen in our day. Or that place that you feel right before you fall asleep at night, you know. It’s like before thoughts. That – if that’s our home base and that is a place where we just, you know, we’re not riddled with these habits and we can always go back there, we go back there when our mind quiets down. So, so seeing that, habit is thought. It is, literally, it’s our mind getting kinda jacked up. It’s kinda like, keyed up and it starts moving and it su- and it suggests that we do all these things in order to get back to home base. But, coming to see habits and addictions is something that is really a sign of our mental health in a sense. It’s our best attempt to feel better. So, you know, I think most of us – I certainly looked at my habit as this big problem, again. Like, you know, I have an issue. Like I’m mentally unhealthy in this way, it’s a problem. But – but what if it’s not? You know. What if our mind gets really busy? And we start thinking about – for me it was binge eating, whatever it is, drinking, getting on Facebook for the thousandth time that day, you know, whatever it is. That’s like, in that moment, it’s our minds best attempt to just get us to calm down because they do kinda work in that way. When you take a drink or you go numb out online again, you feel a little bit better. Now it causes all kinds of problems down the road and you don’t feel better for long. So it’s a really kinda crappy strategy. But it does work for a minute and your brain notices that. Your brain’s like: ‘Oh, you know, she just ate a bunch of food and all these happy chemicals are there. Let’s keep doing this, this makes her happy.’ It’s that simple. So, kind of – kinda coming to see oh, this is innocent. This isn’t me having – this isn’t me having all these flaws or me, you know, not loving myself enough or all this stuff that, you know, you’re kinda told in a lot of traditional therapy. It’s – it’s my brain doing the best it can to help me feel better. And it’s just my brain, it’s not me. So it’s not that, you know, we are these addicts or we are flawed in all these ways. It’s like, no we’re all healthy and we just wanna get back to home base and from a certain state of mind, taking a drink is the fastest way you can see to get there. But once you understand that, you get to kinda move up a level, you know. You kinda snab that see change and you see oh okay, I can naturally get back to home base. I don’t need to go to the drink or the food or the habit, whatever, you know, to get there.

Ryan: So, do you recommend to your coaching clients, I guess, like a bridge habit. You know, when we’re – when we’re addicted to something it’s very hard to just cold turkey say: ‘Alright, I’m not gonna check Facebook again,’ or ‘I’m not gonna drink, I’m not gonna binge eat.’ So if we think about something else or if we distract our self with some positive habit or positive action, is that how you’re helping people kinda take that first step? Or is there something else?

Amy: No, it’s – it’s um, it’s something else. See it’s just kinda continuing to look at what’s happening. Because when people keep seeing accurately, you know, that what happens is you’re at home base and then your mind gets really full of a bunch of thought. And that thought will calm down on its own. It always does. Like no one ever gets caught up in stuff for life. We, you know, our experience is constantly moving. So, that thought’s gonna calm down on its own. But what happens is that thought gets all keyed up, we start feeling bad and we reach for our habit. And we don’t give our thoughts a chance, we don’t give our minds a chance to calm down on its own. So it’s just kinda seeing that this – there’s far – I hate to say, like I don’t want anyone to misunderstand this but there’s far less of a problem than it looks like there is. All that’s happening for any of us is we start to feel bad and then we freak out about our feelings. You know, we have an urge or whatever and we freak out about our feelings. That’s the problem. But even that’s not a huge problem because we always come back to home base. It’s like there’s a magnet taking us back. Literally, all human beings, like, our thinking, if we just relax in it and know what’s happening, our thinking will settle down. And it will take us back to home base. So it’s coming to see that. So, um, I, you know, I think sometimes to give, like, a bridge habit or something, it’s not a – it’s not a horrible thing. Sometimes people stumble upon that on their own. And I think their wisdom shows them okay, do this instead. Like when I – I smoked years ago. When I stopped smoking I – I kind of just cut down in that gradual way. Everyone said: ‘Oh, you have to just throw ’em all away and start fresh. ‘And I’m like, my wisdom knew uh-uh, that’s not gonna work for me. I need to be able to maybe just light one and then put it out, you know, and just kinda work it that way and that worked. So, sometimes that, you know, people’s wisdom will just show them something like that but – but I don’t tell them to do that. I think what’s better is just kinda seeing things, you know, just seeing what’s really happening. And honestly, when people kinda just start to see that, the habits really do fall away.

Ryan: Okay. So, you mentioned, you know, that – that the thoughts, you know, are our brains attempt to, you know, find the best solution or to feel better in that moment.

Amy: Yeah.

Ryan: If – if we’re going to focus on that thought and – and try to realize that it is just a thought and that it’s just – that it will pass, are there practices that can help us quiet our brain? I mean, do you – do you like meditation, yoga, things like that that can help us, you know be better at quieting our thoughts?

Amy: Yeah, definitely. I think um, I love meditation and yoga. I think ultimately – and I – and really, you know, some of these conversations that we have, that people have, like, when I’m coaching with them, for example, and we’re spending an hour at a time just really, like, getting into a peaceful place. Like, it’s not a meditative thing, not like oh, let’s do this practice. But, you know, just in a casual conversation where they’re just calming down about their problems a little bit, which is just their mind calming down. And they’re starting to see: ‘Oh, okay so every time my mind throws this out or throws that out, like, I know what that is.’ The just come to get a deeper understanding about what all thought is. That tends to, kind of, lead people to live in a more meditative place. And no one lives there all the time, obviously, but – but it’s almost like, you know, this is what I see with people is the more they kind of come to get this, what we’re talking about, these spiritual principles and the truth about how they really operate, they might be living up here at like a 5 or 6 mentally, and they might just – just by their understanding, come down and start living at maybe like a 3 or 4, you know. So, it’s almost a similar effect as someone who meditates for 20 minutes every day might gradually – their set point kinda gradually comes down. I think misunderstanding does that, too. So, you know, for me, like when I’m coaching with people it’s mostly about the conversation. But I definitely think, especially if someone likes to meditate, practice yoga, do other things like that, that’s really, really helpful. I do – I don’t meditate formally but I’m very into yoga and I can see in the past year or so of daily yoga practice, my set point has continued to come down, you know. So all of those things are really helpful.

Ryan: Okay. Now, with these, I guess, negative thoughts, the ones that can – can lead to insecurities or setbacks, you call these thoughtmares, right?

Amy: Yeah, I have, yeah.

Ryan: Okay, so – so tell us a little bit about that. What are they? Why do we do that to ourselves?

Amy: Yeah um, I mean, so I think why we do that to ourselves is just ’cause we’re human and we have a brain. Like anyone, you know, anyone with a brain is gonna have some stuff coming out of it that’s not so great. But what we can do is kinda come to understand how that works in a little bit deeper way than – than I think probably a lot of us. So probably your listeners are obviously kinda more evolved and kind of have thought about these concepts and stuff, but I think if you just go out in the world and talk to the average person, there’s this real sense of kind of believing everything that shows up in your head, you know? It’s like, well, I don’t know, I thought it so it must be true! You know, or it very much looks like we just think what’s out in the world. So it’s almost like a one-to-one, you know, like a camera kinda metaphor where our brain is taking snapshots of reality, whatever that is, and feeding us reality. So of course we kinda believe what we think ’cause it looks like it’s coming from out there. But as we get a little more sophisticated and just curious, I think, just kind of curious about how is it really work to be human. Like how does our, you know, how do we really think things, it’s not really like that. It’s more like thought arises within us. Some of it’s very negative and feels really bad and really limiting and a lot of it is really wonderful. And our entire lives, every moment of our lives, we’re getting, like, this stream of thought, like this river of thought, you know, and that’s what we live in. And that just looks – that’s just kind of our reality, is all this thinking we’re getting. And it’s so huge to start to see: okay, this is just me being human. Like, thought is coming out of my brain because I have one but it doesn’t mean that it’s all – you don’t need to take it all so seriously, you know. It doesn’t mean it’s true and it’s not always this accurate reflection of what’s happening out in the world. It’s, you know, and if we really look we – we can all notice it’s very, our thinking is very, very subjective and it’s very – it fluctuates. So, when you’re having a good day, everything’s good, you know. You look in the mirror, you think you look good. Like, things look good. Everything’s just looks different. When you’re having a bad day, the exact same things can look totally different. So clearly, our mind is spinning it in a way, you know. It’s not giving us this reflection of life. And so, I think starting to get a feel for that is so helpful because basically you just start to take everything less seriously, including all the negative stuff. You know, and knowing, too, that every human with a brain has a bunch of insecure, kind of, negative thoughts at times. It’s just what it means to be human. But the more we can kinda just know something about that, the less seriously we take it.

Ryan: I like that, kind of, analogy of, like, it’s almost like you have these different filters through which you see the world and some days it’s a good day, some days it’s a bad day. What have you found, in your practice and in working with people, about, you know, the connection with those neurotransmitter levels and, you know, which filter we happen to be looking through on that given day?

Amy: Yeah. I mean, I think – I think definitely, yeah just to see that where you are with things creates such a different experience. You know, that’s just from a layperson’s kind of perspective. That’s just how they see it. Like: ‘Whoa, I’m seeing things really differently today than I was yesterday.’ And starting to, yeah, get some idea of why that is. But I guess, I don’t know, I guess what I just – where I kinda go with that and, like, where it seems helpful is to just, again, be in that place where we – we understand a little bit about how the brain works to where we know it’s okay. Like, you know, it’s not like we need to constantly go out and try to change everything. So it’s more, I think, a place of just saying: ‘Okay, change happens in the brain. Sometimes I see things this way, sometimes I see it that way and everything in between. And it’s okay.’ Because the more I can know there’s a me in there under – even underneath what the brain’s doing, there’s an us that’s – that’s peaceful and clear and safe and all of that, even underneath whatever’s going on up there. It just allows you to kinda relax into it and just flow with those changes. And I think the worst thing and the scariest thing for people is we’re more afraid of our own experience, whether we understand it or not, you know. It’s like: ‘Oh my gosh, why is this happening to me? Why am I thinking this? Why did I feel like this today?’ Whatever it is, we get all caught up in that. And the truth is if our experience is like this river that’s just running through us, it doesn’t make sense to jump in the river and take a bucket of water and say: ‘Look at this problem I have! Why did I do this?’ You know, it’s like, well, okay, that’s done. Let me look here because there’s more experience coming. It’s always coming, you know. So, why stare at the problem? Which is just what we innocently do a lot of times. It’s what we – it’s what seems like the thing to do. We kinda look at the problem and try to fix the problem. And there may be a time and place for that, but I think a lot of times we can kind of just say: ‘Okay, that’s what I got. That’s just experience moving through me. Let me look upstream at what’s coming next. ‘Cause there’s always new stuff and always change coming naturally.

Ryan: So, in – I guess, in your coaching then, how are you able to help people make that shift?

Amy: It’s a lot of just teaching and just really coming to understand how it works. ‘Cause this is just something, like, you know, I’m sure in the work you do like all of us that are in any kind of work like this with people, even for in our own lives we all see, man, I really thought I kinda got how this worked, you know. But I don’t really, you know. Just in terms of what our experience is, what it means. And – and the misunderstandings and the, you know, yeah just misunderstandings are really, really huge. Like, it really, really looks like when someone does something out in the world or I fail at something or I have a bad day – that, the way that our human perception kinda system is just set up, like that just looks like that’s all we can see in that moment. And it looks important, and it looks meaningful and it looks personal. And, you know, we just take it on. And when we can start to see no, it’s almost like I like to use the analogy of kind of a kaleidoscope. So you know how you can, like, look through a kaleidoscope. There’s this constant stream of light. Like, light is what brings everything to life. And that’s kind of, like, whatever is breathing our lungs and beating our hearts right now, right. It’s always there and it’s kept us alive forever. That’s what kind of brings us to life in a sense and gi- and lets our brain, you know, spit out thoughts and feelings and all kinds of stuff. And so in that kaleidoscope, you just turn it a little bit the other way and you get a totally different picture, or you turn it that way and you get a totally different picture. And I think that’s kinda how our minds work, you know, is that what we’re getting – it’s interesting, it’s nice, it’s the stuff of life. But when you really wanna make a change or when you wanna see things differently, you kinda wanna look before that, you know. At like, hm, what’s powering this whole system? And not hang too much on what you did last week or what you thought yesterday, you know. Because, again, that’s just always changing. So – so in working with clients, I think, it’s a – it’s a lot of helping people kind of break through the misunderstandings and just kinda come to relax into, you know, and seeing a bigger picture of how our experience is created and where it comes from. Because when we have that understanding, we just naturally leverage it. It’s like, when you understand how something works you just naturally use it better. You know, as opposed to before you understand that.

Ryan: Okay. So, I’m fairly certain that everybody listening, at some point or another has dealt with either – I don’t wanna say depression but the blues. Everybody has bad days, down days, we’ve all had habits that, you know, creep in or in some way or another we wanna try to fix them. So, what would you tell somebody listening who’s either struggling to make a change or kind of on the verge of making a decision to, you know, try to fix or – I don’t wanna say fix ’cause I guess that implies that there’s something wrong but somebody that wants to make a change.

Amy: Yeah. I – I would – see, it’s tough sometimes because I think, like you said, we get into a slump or feeling really bad or we feel really stuck in some habit. And what’s natural for us or what’s kinda – what we learned, at least. It’s not natural and then it’s innate. But it’s – it’s what society has told us, where we tend to just go is okay, I need to fix this. I need to make some- I need to do something to make this change, you know. And that – that’s okay. It’s kinda healthy, it probably gets us, you know, motivated and ready to do something. But one of the things, I think, it’s really important to just kinda see is, again, if we’re looking at the fact that we’re already – just assume that we’re already by default healthy and habit-free. It’s not that we need to do a bunch of stuff to get us back to that state. We need to let the garbage that’s in the way – it’s just like a block between us and that state. That state is already there. We know how to live without our habits. We know how to just be happy and clear and, you know, like we were as kids. It’s just there’s interference. So you just – it’s almost as, it’s horrible advice, I would never say this to a client. But it’s almost like, if we can just relax and see the interference for what it is, it starts to go away and we naturally join back up with what’s already there. So, it’s not like I get on the phone with a client and say: ‘Okay, just relax. That’ll be $100 please,’ you know. But – but it is – it is that continued conversation and helping them to understand how that works, you know. So I’d say anybody that’s like just in a place where they’re just ready for a shift, it’s – it’s hard sometimes because you wanna kinda of speed up and do some stuff to get you there faster, but it’s gonna be more of a slowing down. It’s gonna be more of a subtracting and letting things, old ideas, old ways of thinking, you know, fall away rather than an addition of things. And for some people that’s good news. I don’t know, for some kinda higher, you know, more ‘go do it’ people that’s kinda scary news. But I think that’s just the way it works.

Ryan: Okay. I like that, that’s cool. So, I mean, to me it’s almost like – it’s almost like you have to have an objective view or an outside view looking in to kind of see that. And, you know, for somebody who’s like – what is it about our brains that doesn’t allow us to see that, you know, when it’s happening to us? Are we just so – is it the, you know, the saying ‘forest for the trees’? You know, you’re just so zoomed in, you’re so close to it, or – ?

Amy: Yeah.

Ryan: Why – why are we so reluctant to, you know, let go of those things?

Amy: That’s a great question. I don’t know [laughs]. I don’t know.

Ryan: You’re the expert! You have to know this.

Amy: [laughs] What do you think? Tell me! No it’s – yeah, you know, it’s – I – there’s definitely this movement as we get older – I just have this weird, kinda, I don’t know if it’s a memory, like, just weird feeling of you’re a kid, you’re just hanging out in life, there’s no problems. And then something happens and then we, like, for the first time in our life we feel like we’re not safe. So it’s almost like you, as we get older, we start to get more and more into our heads. And we – we’re gonna figure things out. Like: ‘Oh, I know what to do. I know how to make him like me. I know how to make sure I’m safe.’ You know, and like little kids it’s just so innocent. Everyone goes through it, no matter what kind of childhood you have. But it’s like you just get more and more in your head and I think that just takes root. And I think there’s so much in society that’s on us and a lot of self-help, and a lot of stuff that’s like: think this way, do this and this is how you’re gonna be successful, you know. That it almost becomes easier in a way to say: ‘Okay, well I clearly don’t know anything. Let me listen to what all these other people have to say.’ And it just, you know, it just points us in the wrong direction and gets us thinking we need to figure it out. So, I don’t know, but yeah it is –

Ryan: Yeah.  I think, I mean, that’s a good explanation. I mean, there’s – there’s so much noise out there, there’s so many things telling you what to think, what to eat, what to buy, how to dress, what to drive, I mean all that. And we – a lot of times it can be very to lose the ability to think for yourself and, you know, it’s like you said and I think that’s why I and we like that saying to much of, you know, you are well, you are, you know, you’re born with the ability to make these decisions and think for yourself. You have all the programming in you that you need to be able to take care of yourself. And as technology advances and as the world gets smaller and smaller it’s um, through technology that it just becomes – there’s just so much chatter and chaos it’s hard for us to think and, you know, kinda quiet our mind like you said.

Amy: Yeah. Yeah. You said it better than I did. [laughs] You answered your own question.

Ryan: Well, you – you got me started on it. So what’s – tell us about your writing process, then. I mean, how do you, like how long does it take you to write a book? What’s – what’s that like?

Amy: Um, I kinda just write when I feel like writing. And that’s – that sounds bad ’cause, I mean, I think that can be misunderstood. But I really – there’s this weird feeling, I don’t know, of, you know, people that do anything creative I think maybe have a feel for this, where it’s like, I just try to, like, follow the energy of it. So, a lot, like just this morning before we got on here I had an hour and a half and I just – I just wrote ’cause it felt like it was coming out. So I let it come out. Now, it’s not – it’s not good, yet. You know, it’s not complete. But I like to kinda just, when an idea strikes me, like, just go to work on it. And I have, you know, millions of files of, like, half-baked article ideas and book ideas and stuff that when it comes back I’ll just kinda go flesh ’em out. So, I get a lot of inspiration from the people I work with, too, you know. So like, I, you know, have a client session and a lot of times just 2 or 3 ideas from what they say, you know, pop out. So that’s kinda easy, too.

Ryan: Yeah. Cool. Well, where can our listeners get more of you?

Amy: Go to my website. I have lots of stuff there. Lots of free articles, lots of free videos, lots of free stuff. And some other stuff. Recorded classes and stuff that I have there. But it’s dramyjohnson.com, just D-R AmyJohnson.com. And, yeah, sign up for the newsletter and every Thursday I write a news article about these ideas. About the fact that we’re healthy and how to kinda see the forest through the trees, you know, see our thinking as separate from what’s our wisdom, as something that’s bigger. So every Thursday there’s a free article that comes out there.

Ryan: Cool! So we’ll have that link on our website, too. So you guys listening, head over to optimalperformance.com and you can see the video version of this also. If you are not watching you should watch because Dr. Amy has a really cool bookshelf behind her, it is color-coordinated.

Amy: [laughs] It’s my claim to fame! It’s my famous backdrop.

Ryan: I think it’s very cool, I like it. Alright, Amy, it’s time for your 3 tips. If you could tell our listeners 3 things to live optimal, what would you say?

Amy: Know that you are optimal. [laughs] So, even on our least optimal days, we all have them, our least optimal moments, you’re caught up in thought. It’s not that big a deal, you know. So it’s like, there’s a, you know, we all get caught up in a swirl of stuff and that leads us astray. But when that settles down, we all have an optimal and it is a good place. And it’s full of clarity and wisdom and resourcefulness and strength and everything you need to do anything. So, first one, I guess, it’s probably just knowing that that’s there. Because when we know that’s there we tend to just relax when we’re not there a little bit more, knowing that we’re gonna kinda be drawn back there, you know. And um, another one, let’s see. So, kinda coming to get a feel for the fact that when we aren’t feeling optimal, when we aren’t feeling that we’re at home base, we’re in our heads. And our mind works like a snow globe, you shake it up and it gets really busy and really cloudy and snowy in there. But then if you want it to settle down, you just step away. You just set the thing down and you step away. And it comes back down on its own. So it’s so normal to think: ‘Oh, I have to fix my thoughts. I have to do something. I have to go for a walk and shift this feeling.’ And sometimes those are great things to do, it’s not like those are bad if they’re coming to you from your wisdom. But there’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing any of us has to do. Because clarity is our nature, we are gonna return there. The optimal state is our nature. Um, a 3rd, let’s see. So I think just don’t take anything, our obstacles, our – our habits, addictions, even the good stuff, too seriously. Because when we can kinda be in that place where you know, okay, I live – I – there is an optimal me in here and then there’s all kind of waves on top of that, you know. And sometimes the waves are really violent and really crazy and sometimes there’s not a lot of waves, you know. And it’s always shifting, though. It’s just like weather, it’s just like the ocean. Like it’s never going to stay the same for long. So knowing that, I think, just helps us to just kinda be in the flow of life and not get caught up in it and take any of it too seriously.

Ryan: Awesome. Great tips. Amy, thank you for hanging out with us today.

Amy: Thank you.

Ryan: For all you guys listening, make sure you head over to optimalperformance.com, you can see the video version of this, we’ll have links to Amy’s website and some of the other resources that we talked about. And if you guys found this helpful make sure that you share it with anybody that you know, friends, family, loved ones, whoever it might be so that we can share the message and help everyone realize that they are already optimal. So, thank you guys for listening and we’ll talk to you next Thursday!


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