Dr. Amy Johnson Blog’s

Changing your brain

We Are Puppets

Our January guest speaker in The Little School of Big Change Graduate Community was Gary Crowley. Gary’s written several books. In one of them, From Here to Here, he talks about how awakening to enlightenment is the direct result of freedom from the illusion of the separate, volitional self. In other words, there is no


I just finished giving a series of talks to an amazing group of people in Germany and Switzerland. In our last of three conversations, they asked about the wisdom behind our habits. How can I say that habits and anxiety are wisdom in action? Their experience of habits and anxiety–most people’s experience, no doubt–was full

The Definitive Guide to Staying Stuck in a Habit

You’d like to be painfully stuck in a habit, addiction, or compulsion? Do you want change that feels like a tenuous, uphill battle? You’re in the right place! I’ve felt stuck in several of my own habits and I’ve talked with thousands of people who say they are stuck in a habit or addiction themselves.

You Can’t Heal Trauma or Rewire your Brain

Three of Gwen’s immediate family members died, and two of her remaining family members cut off their relationship with her, within a 10-month time span.  A month after the third death she asked the not-at-all-rhetorical question, “How do I get over this?” “What do I do? How do I heal myself from the trauma of

How Your Brain is like the Play-Doh Fun Factory (and how this Can Seriously Improve Your Quality of Life)

Your brain is an appliance. A physical apparatus. It’s a little like the Play-Doh Fun Factory (which is modeled after a pasta maker in case you aren’t familiar). You select an extruder plate (an extruder plate is one of those things that looks like a stencil with shapes cut out) to place over the opening.

Why you Might Be About 5 Days Away from Giving Up on Change. And What to Do Instead.

I bet you’ve tried change the hard way. Pretty much everyone has.  The hard way is where you fall into one or more of these traps: You consider your habit or unwanted behavior a huge problem; it looks like a personality flaw, a weakness, or maybe even a disease. It hasn’t occurred to you that

The Power of Staying Where You Are

There is nothing in the world that can’t be worked out by taking things one…moment…at…a…time.  There are no unanswerable questions and no unsolvable problems. There is no angst or anxiety. All is ridiculously well when you simply Stay Here and do what occurs to you in this very moment. It doesn’t have to be right

Are you Stronger than a Marshmallow? (And what that says about breaking your habit)

Back in the early 1970s there was a psychology experiment done at Stanford. It’s been dubbed “the marshmallow experiment”.  Here’s the CliffsNotes version. Kids around the age of 4 were brought into a room and sat at a table. In front of them was a single large, fluffy, delicious marshmallow on a plate. The experimenter

You + Your Machinery

I’m at a substance abuse treatment center this week, sharing a deeper understanding of habits, addiction, and mental health with their staff.  The unintentional theme of our talks so far has been about our “machinery” (i.e., our brain) versus what’s bigger than the machinery. See, machinery can be a bit wonky. Machinery can be a bit

Whose Mind is It Anyway? A Video Interview with Two Cool Authors about an Amazing Book

I don’t have enough space here to list all the wonderful things about the book, Whose Mind is it Anyway? by Lisa and Franco Esile. But I’ll list a few:  This little book sneaks essential truths about human life into a FUN, quirky, creative package. You’re likely to experience an inner space and quiet–the voices

What We’re Really Recovering From

Recovery and change used to look very complicated to me.  Binge eating, bulimia, depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, low self-esteem, obsessive thoughts…they were all different in my mind. All very unique, each requiring their own brand of specialized attention. And recovery from any of them was a gamble; a better-get-lucky, roll of the dice. I thought

Habits are the Solution, Not the Problem

There’s something quite intuitive about the fact that the more attention we pay something the more a part of our experience it becomes.  Shower your plants, children, hobbies, or relationships with attention and they not only thrive, they become a bigger part of your life. Stare at–or even just think about–that cut on your leg

The Monkey on Your Back

I’d love for you to join me for what promises to be an enlightening, candid conversation on Tuesday, March 15th about finding true freedom from habits and addiction. I’ll be chatting with success coach Steve Chandler. If you don’t know Steve, he’s the author of 30 books and his newest project, called Death Wish, is

Why You Want to Make Choices, not Decisions

I once heard that the Latin root of the word decide is to kill, or cut off. As in to kill or cut off all other options.  That’s how it often goes, isn’t it? We decide, and that’s it. A stake is firmly planted, blinders are on, case is closed. Once a decision is made,

Two Conversations about Life, Habits, Consciousness and Insight

I have two conversations for you this week. Both are about seeing how our human experience unfolds within and through us, moment-to-moment. Which should you check out? Both! But let me give you a little low-down on each so that you can make the best decision for yourself. The first conversation is with Lydia Wente,

Getting in Front of the Pull

The image to the right is my new favorite way of thinking about how the machine-that-is your-brain will lead you through life, if you let it.   Your brain is brilliant. It’s capable of incredible feats of intellect, memory, and logic. It keeps your body humming along and it has successfully kept you alive long

Are you Going through Life Putting Stakes in the Ground?

We humans love to put metaphorical stakes in the ground. Our minds crave certainty and efficiency. As a way of feeling more certain, we love to label, classify, decide, and generally believe that we know what’s what. Here’s how this can look: Liz was struggling with a binge eating habit. To help her move past her

Is Your Mind Playing Servant or Master?

(Read this on Huffington Post or comment there, if you want!) You’ve heard, “The mind is a wonderful servant but terrible master,” right? Or, “Use your mind; don’t let it use you”? Over the past few years in my own life, I’ve seen that these are not only cute sayings people toss around when they

Rising Above What No Longer Serves You: A Conversation

I wanted to share a webinar I did in July. The topic was Rising Above What No Longer Serves You. (That also happens to be the theme of this year’s Being Human Weekend Workshop.) I really, really loved this conversation, especially where it goes in the second half as the other participants join in. I know it’s

The Story of the Magic Oven

Imagine there’s an oven. A magic oven!   The magic oven has a timer that you can hear from wherever you are. Even the timer is magic because you don’t have to set it—the oven is so wise and so magical that the timer simply sounds off when your delicious creations are complete. Pretty magical,

Why It Might Look Like People Don’t Change

It can look like people don’t change. Or at the very least, like they don’t change easily.   That’s not true though. We are capable of gigantic jumps in understanding; enormous leaps in consciousness that leave us feeling as if we’re living a completely different life even when nothing externally has changed. Of course, these

Why Willpower Doesn’t Work

I just found out that my upcoming book (it’ll be published by New Harbinger this time next year) will be called The Little Book of Big Change: The No-Willpower Approach to Breaking any Habit. Although I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to describe it as a “no-willpower approach”, it is an accurate description. It’s not that

Seeing Something that Changes Everything

Last month I taught a class about ending unwanted habits, compulsions, and addictions based on the scientific the spiritual principles that freed me of my own binge eating disorder several years ago.  The basic principles are the same ones I write about here each week, and the ones around which my upcoming book on ending

You Are Far Less Stable Than You Think

How It Looked Then  Fourteen years ago I found myself with a diagnosis: panic disorder. I was having up to 25 panic attacks a day.  Many days, I spent more time in a state of acute anxiety than not. The thing about diagnoses is that they suggest a whole bunch of stuff that may or

The Promise in all of this Crazy Stuff I Write About

When I first read this short blog post by my friend Bonnie, I knew I’d want to share with you all at some point.  She writes about the evolution so many of us go through. I went through it too, very similar to how Bonnie describes it. Imagine this—maybe you can relate:  You’re floating through

10 Big Ideas About Ending Habits and Addictions

Everyone I’ve ever met has had some habit or addiction they’d like to kick for good. And nearly everyone I’ve ever met has lots of opinions on how to do that.  The 10 big ideas that follow are adaptations from the latest cutting-edge neuroscience research and some very powerful spiritual principles. This is the approach that

Why Your Problems Are not Nearly as Permanent as They Seem

“When we…go back into the past and rake up all the troubles we’ve had, we end up reeling and staggering through life. Stability and peace of mind come by living in the moment.” ~Pam Vredevelt There is a way in which we tend to view issues in our lives that makes it seem like the issue is

How to Stop Drinking, Smoking, Binge Eating, Shopping, Obsessive Tweeting, and Anything Else you Don’t Want to Do

For the past 6 months, nearly half of my coaching practice has been devoted to coaching women with binge eating disorder. It started when I read an incredible book called Brain Over Binge by my now friend, Kathryn Hansen. Kathryn tells the story of how she cured her own binge eating habit by seeing that

The real Truth about Stress (Or, Why bubble baths might get you clean, but they aren’t going to cure your stress)

I was on my local news last week talking about stress. The truth about stress, actually. It was a little risky. You know how local news stations love to run stories about coping with stress and raising your stress tolerance? Well, I was sitting down with the health reporter who reports on those things, telling

The link between focusing on yourself and depression

I remember hearing about some research once that linked self-focus—thinking about yourself a lot and making things that happen out in the world about you in some way—with depression. The more you think about yourself, the more depressed you are. There are obviously a lot of missing variables here. This doesn’t mean that focusing on

Here’s how to change your brain

As you’ve no doubt noticed, I talk a lot about thought. We are not our thoughts. Our thoughts are not us. Thought is habitual and über subjective. How to detach from thought. The value in observing thought without judgment. You get the picture. Aside from the amazing freedom you find when you stop taking all

Conducting the Symphony of Shoulds

I recently spent an entire week writing down all my thoughts that began with the words “I should”. I went through a lot of paper. Some were blatantly obvious. They flowed from my head and straight out of my mouth, like when I told hubby, “I should be working, it’s almost 9am” as we cleaned

Are you doing what’s normal or what’s natural?

I have a beautiful new client who wants to feel better. She has a lot of circumstances in her life that no one would wish for. Because of those circumstances, her well-meaning friends expect her to be in constant misery. Her dear, benevolent friends believe that happiness and peace of mind come from the outside-in.

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