Aneesh Chaudhry on “Mental Health, Well-Being and Meditation: Overcoming Addiction Using Your Brain”
Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, episode #102 with Aneesh Chaudhry, the CEO of SoulPhysio Lifestyle that was born largely from his own personal struggles.
As we start a new year, and Season 5 of the podcast, we will continue where we left off with Season 4, with a focus on Health and Wellness, that will take a shift to the importance of brain health, mental health and well-being. If we want to improve our results, and the brain is involved in everything that we do, and everything that we are, then we must put our attention towards understanding how we can optimize this organ—our brain.
We all know that 2020 was difficult for many people, but those who struggled the most were those who already were struggling. The Centers for Disease Control found that from a survey in June 2020, adults in the United States reported “considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19”[i] and that “40.9% of over 5,000 respondents reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder, trauma-related symptoms, new or increased substance use, or thoughts of suicide.”[ii]
When I was introduced to Aneesh Chaudhry, through a mutual friend, you will see why I took one look at the work he is doing and knew immediately that I had to interview him in our first podcast to launch 2021, to provide some hope and direction for those who might either know someone who is struggling at this time or going through their own personal struggle.
Aneesh dealt with significant Mental Illness and Addiction through his teenage years into his early twenties. He was diagnosed with conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar, and this led him to search for answers as to why he was feeling the way he did. A Major shift occurred for Aneesh when he had his brain scanned in 2013 at Amen Clinics. He learned that the brain can heal itself, where his brain might be imbalanced, leading him to have the symptoms he was having. These answers gave him hope and direction that catapulted him into years of diligent study and lifestyle change. He got his bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a concentration of Behavioral Neuroscience. Aneesh also has a list of certifications in the area of health and wellness, including a Brain Health Coach Certification through Amen Clinics, making him a true expert in the field of Mental Health, Wellbeing and Neuroscience.
Welcome Aneesh, thank you so much for agreeing to come on the podcast to share your incredible story that really does defy the odds, showing the dedication you have in this area.
Q1: Aneesh, when we first spoke, on New Year’s Eve of all days, it really hit me that you understood this topic at the brain level, and this means that you have a grasp of something that we were never taught about in school, and most families that have these issues usually end up sweeping problems like addiction, mental illness or depression, under a rug, never to be discussed or addressed out loud, which doesn’t solve the problem. I shared with you that when I first encountered someone with a serious addiction, I was at a loss of what to do. Now this was going back 20 years ago, when I didn’t find out all my answers to whatever I wanted to solve through Google (that had just gone live a few years before this). I spent hours at the library reading books, trying to understand alcoholism, and why one person can have one drink and not be bothered with a second, while another person just can’t do this. It baffled me that something so important was never taught to us in school. Can you share just how deep your addiction to marijuana and alcohol was, how you think it began, and how were you able to defy the odds and make it to the other side to recovery?
Q2: For people listening, this can be a challenging time of year, (with the Pandemic aside which we all know amplified this issue) whether they are struggling with an addiction themselves, or living with someone else whose struggling which is just as stressful. This time of year can be the perfect time to make some personal changes. I’ve covered how to use your brain to break bad habits on EPISODE #35,[iii] covered Self-Regulation and Behavior Change for Leaders with David R. Hawkin’s “Power vs Force” on EPISODE #70[iv] and we did speak with the hosts of the BrainTools Podcast Samuel Holston and Kirin Goy for EPISODE #97[v] on “The Neuroscience Behind our Habits, and Addictions” but can we go a bit deeper into first of all understanding what’s happening at the brain level and what exactly is involved in stopping the addictive behavior from the point of view of someone who has been there, come to the other side, and now wants to help others do the same? I want to go to the level of understanding what triggers the brain to engage in something we know is bad for us, and how do we break these triggers?
Q3: Aneesh, now that you have this understanding, I love how you want to make an impact on other people’s lives and educate our youth on this topic. Since you are certified with Dr. Amen as one of his brain coaches, I think it’s important to note something that I heard him say. If you are a parent, and you know that addiction runs in your family, Dr. Amen[vi] talks about the importance of having a discussion with your kids when they are old enough to understand, by saying something like, “Since addiction runs in the family, I want you to be prepared that you might like alcohol more than other people” or something along those lines. I know that Health and Wellness and this topic finally making its way into our schools, which I think is great progress, since it wasn’t there at all when I was growing up and having these conversations with our children can reverse the cycle of this disease. Can you share why you were drawn to working with children, your vision with your Foundation for Youth[vii] and the work you are doing in our schools to beat the addiction cycle?
Q4: Since this is the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, I like to bring in the 6 SEL competencies, and when we spoke, one them, self-awareness came up a few times in our conversation. Why is self-awareness so important here? What should we all know about ourselves, and others, and why is a daily routine so important?
Q5: Can you explain what Ayurvedic Medicine is, how it helped you and how does it help to balance the body?
Q6: Since 2 of my favorite actors of all time (Robin Williams[viii] and Phillip Seymour Hoffman[ix] both relapsed after decades of sobriety, I’ve got to ask you about this. How do you look at relapse, and does using your drug of choice ever cross your mind? What do you do to prevent this from happening?
Thank you so much for your time, for all you are doing for the world to give people hope in these challenging times. If people want to learn more about you, they can go to
Twitter @soulphysio https://twitter.com/soulphysio
Instagram @soulphysiolifestyle https://www.instagram.com/soulphysiolifestyle/?hl=en
Aneesh Choudhry on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/aneesh-chaudhry-986186145/
https://soulphysiolifestyle.networkforgood.com/projects/103477-main-giving-page Learn more about how to give to your youth foundation where you will support young people through the prevention of these challenges.
I also want to list some resources for people for might be looking for some answers with addiction.
Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions by John Norcross (Dec.25, 2012) http://www.changeologybook.com/
David R. Hawkins, M.D. Ph.D. Power vs Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior. https://www.amazon.com/Power-Force-David-Hawkins-M-D/dp/1401945074
Understanding the Neuroscience of Addiction: What it Means for Prevention and Treatment April 25, 2018 by https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/04/understanding-the-neuroscience-of-addiction-what-it-means-for-prevention-and-treatment
Neuroscience of Addiction Abstract https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17101174
Understanding Addiction: New Insights into the Causes of Addiction https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain.htm
How to Balance Your Limbic System by Daniel Amen Dec. 27, 2016 https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/limbic-system-caring-brains-limbic-system/
Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #80 with Samantha Wettje on “Mitigating the Negative Effects of ACES” https://www.achieveit360.com/harvards-samantha-wettje-on-mitigating-the-negative-effects-of-aces-with-her-16-strong-project/
Rick Hanson The Neuroscience of Happiness https://www.rickhanson.net/ and his book Hardwiring Happiness https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CCPIIZK/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Ayurvedic: The 6 Stages of Disease https://essentialayurveda.com/ayurvedic-6-stages-of-disease/
The 3 Doshas: Their Elements and Attributes https://www.ayurveda.com/resources/articles/doshas-their-elements-and-attributes
[i] Is the Country Experiencing a Mental Health Pandemic? Oct 13, 2020 by Ronald W. Pies, M.D. Psychiatric Times. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/are-we-really-witnessing-mental-health-pandemic
[ii] Mental Health Symptoms During COVID (Source CDC.gov) https://cdn.sanity.io/images/0vv8moc6/psychtimes/07d1f6853560f1cb04ddc689734c02ef87ab2d67-996x565.jpg?auto=format
[iii] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast Episode #35 Solo Lesson with Andrea Samadi “How to Use Your Brian to Break Bad Habits” https://www.achieveit360.com/how-to-use-your-brain-to-break-bad-habits-in-2020/
[iv] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast Episode #70 on “Self-Regulation and Behavior Change for Leaders with David R. Hawkin’s “Power vs Force” https://www.achieveit360.com/self-regulation-and-behavior-change-for-leaders-with-david-r-hawkins-power-vs-force/
[v] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #97 with Kirin Goy and Samuel Holston on “The Neuroscience Behind our Habits, Addictions, Love/Fears” https://www.achieveit360.com/kirun-goy-and-samuel-holston-from-the-brain-tools-podcast-on-the-neuroscience-behind-our-habits-addictions-love-fears/
[vi] Alcoholic Parents: What it Does to a Child’s Brain by Dr. Amen and Tana Amen on the Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/alcoholic-parents-what-does-it-do-to-a-childs-brain/
[vii] The SoulPhysio Foundation https://soulphysiolifestyle.com/foundation-overview
[viii] Robin Williams’ Long Struggle with Addiction https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/robin-williams-death-his-cocaine-724802
[ix] Phillip Seymour-Hoffman’s Partner Opens Up About His Tragic Drug Addiction https://www.today.com/popculture/philip-seymour-hoffman-s-partner-opens-about-his-tragic-overdose-t120028