Decoding Stress: A Deep Dive into Neuroscience, Perception, and Soothing Techniques with Dr. Dave Rabin

Meet Dr Dave Rabin

Dr. David Rabin, MD, PhD, a board-certified psychiatrist and neuroscientist, is the co-founder & Chief Medical Officer at Apollo Neuroscience, the first scientifically-validated wearable technology to improve heart rate variability, focus, relaxation, and access to meditative states by delivering gentle vibrations to the body.

In addition to his clinical psychiatry practice, Dr. Rabin is also the Executive Director of The Board of Medicine, and a psychedelic clinical researcher currently evaluating the mechanism of psychedelic medicines in treatment-resistant mental illnesses.

Listen to the episode on Spotify here or on your favorite podcast platform.

Podcast transcript:

Urban monk podcast, Dr. Pedram Shojai. One of my favorites today, Dr. Dave Rabin, super smart neuroscientists talks about consciousness, talks about our ability to perceive talks about all kinds of cool stuff. My kind of guy. I know you’re going to enjoy this one. Let’s get into it.

Pedram Shojai: It is great to see you. Welcome to the podcast. Um,

Dave Rabin: It’s a pleasure.

Pedram Shojai: think my audience is going to love this.

Pedram Shojai: Uh, you, uh, have such a breadth of knowledge in all sorts of areas. Like I, you know, I’ll meet guys that are brain guys and neuroanatomy guys, you know, psychedelic guys. It’s like you, you have four or five different humans living in your brain. Um, and they all somehow peacefully coexist. So this is gonna be fun.

Pedram Shojai: Yeah.

Dave Rabin: Well, thank you. I really appreciate that It’s uh, sometimes a challenge to get them to all cooperate, but you know, it’s it’s been fun ride.

Pedram Shojai: No kidding. No kidding. You gotta play duck duck goose or something. Whose turn is it? So, primarily how I met you originally was going into the research that you’d shared around the touch sensation and the ability to Bring the nervous system out of fight or flight. Bring the nervous system kind of into a calmer, less aroused space.

Pedram Shojai: Um, and it was the research that you had done around this. So I would love to kind of set the table with that body of work, and then we’re gonna have some fun.

Dave Rabin: Sure. Happy to so That I’ve been working in the stress world for and resilience world for better part of 20 years now, uh, really been always interested in, uh, you know, human resilience and performance, whether it’s in the context of folks who have severe mental illness or aging disease or, uh, or just extreme performers like the Michael Jordans of the world, right?

Dave Rabin: Why, why does some of us face tremendous challenge and grow past it and with it and excel and achieve this next level of human potential that most people didn’t think was possible. And why do others of us succumb to illness, right? And not and get shut down by stress. And so this was really interesting to me.

Dave Rabin: And In large part, I started to see that sometimes people would experience the same kind of stress and have completely different reactions, and one would result in growth, and the other one would result in shutting down, and so it became kind of a passion of mine to understand how we interpret stress, how our perception of stress actually shifts through time.

Dave Rabin: the way we make meaning about the world and ourselves, um, and how that impacts our consciousness and our overall health and well being, uh, and then of course our performance and recovery, and how we interact with our loved ones, and all the things, all the parts of life that are impacted by stress. And, um, and so, You know, I think the stress response system is actually one of the most commonly misunderstood and poorly taught systems in the body because most of us, even in medical school, go through training thinking that all stress is bad and that, you know, there’s, you know, when you’re stressed, when you’re stressed out, you know, there’s nothing good that can come of it and things like that.

Dave Rabin: But stress is really in two camps. One of which is what we call you stress or good stress. It’s stress that forces us to grow. that exists in a safe environment, and then there’s distress, which is like chronic, unrelenting stress that is happening in an environment that’s perceived to be or actually unsafe that causes, you know, dysfunction in the body over time rather than growth.

Dave Rabin: And it turns out the way we actually look at stress. because we don’t have survival threats. Thank goodness. Most of us don’t have real survival threats like lack of food, lack of water, lack of air, lack of, uh, or like lack of physical safety with predators chasing us all the time. That’s not most of our days anymore as humans on the earth in the 21st century.

Dave Rabin: Thank goodness. So the way that we learn to look at stress, our perception of it as something that we can grow from or something that’s going to take us down actually has a major impact on the way we respond to it and adapt to it. And, and ultimately the toll it takes on our lives, good or bad. And so studying this became really interesting.

Dave Rabin: And the impact of this on the body became really interesting to me over the years, uh, and resulted in the development of a number of research studies that helped us to figure out. a little bit more about how the stress response system works.

Pedram Shojai: And very specifically, just so I can kind of put a pin in this one, you found that the touch sensation was a particularly good pathway to hijack this system and, uh, hack your way in. So we’d love to kind of just cover that because I have so many questions.

Dave Rabin: Yeah. So, so if we look at the stress response system and what happens when we’re under stress, uh, our bodies are perceiving us to be under threat when there’s distress. So stress in an unsafe or, or perceived to be unsafe environment could be in our day to day, too many emails, too much traffic, too much news.

Dave Rabin: Too many responsibilities, uh, too much noise, any of those things, um, put our bodies into a state that is just like the state our ancient human ancestors were in when they were running from a tiger in the jungle. And in that state, our bodies send all available blood and resources to The parts of us that are necessary for survival.

Dave Rabin: So that’s like our motor cortex of our brain, our fear center of our brain, our skeletal muscles, our, uh, heart and lungs, all the things that get us to survival to fight it through fight or flight. Uh, but those are not useful when we’re in traffic or when we’re answering emails or giving a talk. Uh, we don’t want that system to kick on even though it might think it needs to, or it might’ve been trained to kick on.

Dave Rabin: And so when we look at animal studies and human studies of this. fear, threat, trauma response. What we see in all the latest neuroscience is that there’s a trained fear happening in the body and trained fear can be extinguished with training. But what kind of training? Well, it’s safety training, right? So safety training is actually the antidote to trained fear or threat responses.

Dave Rabin: And this is now fairly widely accepted, but uh, not fully, uh, brought into medical practice. Um, but there are techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy with exposure, which is one of the leading therapy techniques for PTSD that is based on this entire principle of extinguishing fear with safety. And so by understanding those principles, we thought, well, CBT with exposure therapy takes, you know, several months.

Dave Rabin: It’s intensive therapy work. You have to see a therapist every week at, you know, or every two weeks at the very least. And it requires a lot of effort. And so does breathing practice and meditation and yoga and biofeedback all, but all of them work. They just work. With effort and with a guide. And so we thought, well, how do we give people the benefit of that without necessarily having to put in so much time or effort or, or work with another provider that can be expensive?

Dave Rabin: How do we give people something they can take on the go? And when we started to look at the literature, what we found was that. Evolutionarily, and in modern neuroscience, soothing sensations like soothing touch rapidly restore a sense of safety in the body that you can measure as increased heart rate variability, decreased heart rate, increased vagal tone.

Dave Rabin: And people start to feel better subject, subcon, uh, subjectively and relatively quickly. And you know this, if you’ve ever gotten a hug on a bad day, you know how quickly you can feel better, um, even though you might’ve had a really, really bad day. And there is a neurological mechanism that’s occurring in that situation where the hug of your loved one or holding a pet, for instance, sends almost instant safety signals to the brain.

Dave Rabin: In exactly the same way that a mom cuddling a newborn baby sends safety signals and oxytocin to that child’s brain. And that’s a nonverbal, highly evolved hardwired neural pathway that is almost instantaneously activated with soothing touch. So when we started to see that, we thought, okay, well, This is well, well known and well understood.

Dave Rabin: Maybe we can take that, that neuroscience understanding and put it into a wearable technology. And then that became Apollo that delivers soothing touch to you on the go. But that was kind of the origins of that was studying the stress response and then looking at what could help.

Pedram Shojai: Thank you for that. Um, I want to go back to the survival instinct, because no, the lion isn’t actually there, but your credit card bill is. Bills are racking up and your boss is an asshole, but you can’t say anything because you need the job. And so there are these abstract kind of extrapolations of survival that I think everyone listening to this Is acutely aware of right is you know, if I stop working I’m three months away from my you know mortgage going overdue and wherever all you know America’s in bad shape when it comes to debt And stress when it comes to, you know, keeping the roof over your head.

Pedram Shojai: So in your understanding of this stress and these kind of abstract understandings that yes, we’ll boot up and then start running the same type of circuitry, where is the inflection point? Like, where can we intercept? How do we intercept? in a way that will stop the response. Touch was one of them, right?

Pedram Shojai: But this is, this right here is, I mean, this is the media stuff here.

Dave Rabin: Yeah. Yeah. It’s so, so I think there’s, there’s two major camps of, of things we can do. One of which is, and they’re all centered around this idea of and certainty. So the maybe where I’ll start is that the source of anxiety that is for all humans, the source of anxiety is feeling out of control. And when do we feel out, which, which, of course, out of control means uncertainty, unfamiliarity.

Dave Rabin: Even though I, even though I know in my head, it’s probably not the case. There could be a predator around this corner, right? That kind of uncertainty and that uncertainty sets our amygdala, the fear center off rapidly that says, Hey, there might be threat around beyond guard. And that’s called hypervigilance, which is the most common symptom of PTSD.

Dave Rabin: So, uh, what that system is, is very important for responding to threat. Uh, and. It’s not so important for responding in our normal day to day activities. And so it’s up to us to recognize where our attention is, which I think goes back to a lot of what you teach people is how to understand attention and that when we’re actually in control of our attention at any time, and we might not have been taught that we might not have trained ourselves to know that, but that’s actually still the fact.

Dave Rabin: And so if. The source of anxiety is feeling out of control. Then if we think about all the things that our attention is on throughout the day, the more time we spend paying attention to things we don’t have control over, the more percentage of the day we feel out of control. And therefore the more percentage of the day we feel anxious or restless.

Dave Rabin: Um, the way you fix that is by taking control of your attention and saying, okay, I noticed that I’m focusing on things I can’t control. So I’m just going to. acknowledge that and then I’m going to redirect my attention to things that I can control. And what are those things? They’re your breath. They’re your movement, physical movement.

Dave Rabin: They’re your ability to listen or produce sound, to listen to sound or produce sound singing. And it’s soothing touch, either applied to yourself or applied to somebody else consensually or somebody else applying it to you. So those are the four areas where you can immediately instantaneously regain control over your stress response in the moment.

Dave Rabin: And it requires almost no practice and they’re completely free. So these are my favorite techniques to talk about because it’s just like an immediate interception of that. Stress response and over time as you practice just the mindful awareness the noticing of my attention is on things I can’t control if I can’t control those things right now then Maybe I don’t need to be focusing on them.

Dave Rabin: I’m just going to acknowledge that I’m doing that, and I’m not going to judge myself for it. And I’m just going to bring my attention back to center, which is my breath or my movement or listening or whatever it is. And then you repair, you, you retrain that process. of where your attention is. And that is a fundamental practice of meditation and mindfulness that we teach, which is just recentering your attention, being mindful of your attention.

Dave Rabin: And you can do that sitting with sitting meditation practice, or you can, or doing yoga, uh, and just being mindful of your breath, or you can do it on the go when you’re walking around in your day to day life, just being mindful of your thoughts, um, which is what many of the expert yogis and meditators teach is that kind of wakeful walking.

Dave Rabin: meditation awareness, but it’s something that does require practice. Just like training your muscles in a gym, you’re not going to be, you know, nobody would expect themselves to go to the gym and bench press 200 pounds straight out the gate without having practiced that a little bit and training those muscles.

Dave Rabin: So it’s no different than with your attention muscle, your attention muscle needs to be trained. And meditation and mindfulness are such cool practices because that is the whole basis for why they work. And as you train your attention, you’re actually rewiring your neural circuitry around safety and control rather than fear and threat.

Pedram Shojai: You had mentioned four of the five senses just in that nexus. And my question would be, you, I guess conceivably you could bring in the final sense by saying I’m getting all this visual stimuli and input and I could control by shutting it off and closing my eyes and turning my attention, my visual attention inward.

Pedram Shojai: And it’s almost as if now you’ve lassoed all five of these senses and any meditation practice or Qigong practice that’s worth its salt. At some point addresses all of these, right? It’s the entirety of your sensory experience and bringing it back under the nexus of control.

Dave Rabin: Yep, absolutely. Nailed it. And I, and the closing of the eyes practice and being comfortable just being with yourself with your eyes closed is one of the most important things that we should be teaching everyone, and especially children. Um, But it’s something that is just not commonly taught and that you can experience different parts of yourself and the world with your eyes closed and with your eyes open.

Dave Rabin: Um, so that’s a very, very important technique that I’m really glad you mentioned. And the other two techniques that I think fall into that similar category that are also, somewhat sensation based are like nutrition. So what you choose to put into your body in terms of smells and tastes, right? And nourishment, what you actually choose to put in is something that we generally have control over.

Dave Rabin: We don’t always acknowledge it, but we generally can decide what we put in and what we don’t. Um, and then the last one is sleep and recovery and getting good sleep, prioritizing sleep. is something we also generally have more of a say in than we think. And those are also ways to remind ourselves that we’re in control and that we’re able to center ourselves in our bodies to access recovery states.

Dave Rabin: So these are all, um, critical tools that we can use that are very, that are relatively simple, but again, they just require a little practice.

Pedram Shojai: Allow me to indulge in swimming around this for a second. Um, just, this is my favorite stuff here is, so how, how much of this is, let’s use the word indigestion. There’s so much visual stimuli. That you got to kind of close your eyes and digest and let that part of your sensory array Stop for a second chill too much noise too much everything, right?

Pedram Shojai: So how much of it is processing time and downtime in a world? That’s just overwhelmed or how much of it is the actual? safety alarm signals That are just, you know, I mean, to me, endotoxemia is also a way of saying I’m not safe. You know, I was, I was in the bank yesterday and one of the guys that worked there had so much Italian cologne on that I had to leave, right?

Pedram Shojai: Because it was just overwhelming my senses. Right. And so there’s so much stimuli on all of the channels that you talked about. How much of it in your assessment is indigestion? And then how do we learn to chew on those in their own verticals? I

Dave Rabin: And so I think the, I think indigestion is a really interesting metaphor to think about, which is in this case, it’s like undigested information, right. Or two. And, and I think the, there’s two components to it, right. But I think to the, to your main point, it’s that, It is, in fact, that sheer amount of in of high levels of of, you know, high levels of information, intense information, um, sounds, smells, uh, news, responsibilities, et cetera, that are overstimulating us.

Dave Rabin: All the time, almost every moment of the day, starting from the moment we wake up. If you look at your phone, right? Like I think some of the statistic I saw, um, a year ago said that we, on the average human who picks up their phone in the morning is consuming as much information as the average human consumed in a week in the 1950s in just 30 minutes.

Dave Rabin: Right? So you think about that sheer amount of information overload and what stimulates the fight or flight system more than anything else. It’s overload. Right? It’s too much, too fast, too intense. Right. Too loud. So too smelly, right? In any sense, in any sense of the body, you get too much, too fast, too loud.

Dave Rabin: You’re going to set off the fight or flight system because that’s what it was designed to respond to. That too much, too fast, too loud is a signal that evolutionarily going back, like, you know, 50, 000 years, that was a sign that something dangerous could be nearby. Right. And so that is important for us to recognize, but it doesn’t mean we’re in a survival threat.

Dave Rabin: In this moment for you in the case of the of the cologne right in that situation, you know, hey, if I stick around this, I might be sick. I have to get out of here. So you, you know, you have trained yourself to know what decision to make in that situation, but to also know you’re not under a survival threat.

Dave Rabin: Um, You just know that you need to get out of there so that you can feel okay, and that’s a really important knowledge that you have. Um, the other side of it is the training piece that we can train ourselves to filter out the overwhelming information because there’s always a ton of information coming in.

Dave Rabin: So how do we train our brains to filter the stuff that’s not useful to us or true to us right now and just focus on the stuff that is useful and true and serving us right now? And there’s a lot of different practices for that. Uh, the ones that we use the most are a combination of ancient meditation practices and mindfulness and CBT.

Dave Rabin: But ultimately, as you train your brain to do this process of mindful awareness and noticing where your attention is, and then the gentle redirection of your attention back to the center, back to your body. back to your gratitude, back to your breath, things you have control over, then you’re training that attention muscle.

Dave Rabin: And when you train that attention muscle, what we’re doing is we’re rewiring the networks in our brain that filter incoming information. So if you train that filter and you train it well, then you’re Which you can start at any time in your life and start it right now. Um, just by practicing this mindful awareness of where is my attention?

Dave Rabin: Oh, it’s not on something that, that is useful to me. I’m bringing it back to something that is useful to me. Then all of a sudden your brain starts to over time, learn to filter out all of the stuff that’s not useful or important or true to you. And only things that are that have passed that test, we call it the, is it true is useful test.

Dave Rabin: Um, only things that pass that test are allowed in. Okay. And, you know, I would, I would like in this, I think this is the act what the real vampire metaphor is or a story is about, right? It’s if you, if you pay attention, like our attention is our gateway to our consciousness. What we pay attention to literally becomes part of us.

Dave Rabin: If we pay attention to, you know, a useless and untrue thought, like what’s wrong with me that I can’t sleep, right? A useless and untrue thought because 99. 9 percent of people are genetically genetically born to sleep one third of their lives. So there’s nothing wrong with you that you can’t sleep. But if you ask that question and it starts to feed into your sense of identity, We actually start to believe that, hey, maybe there’s something wrong with me that I can’t sleep, right?

Dave Rabin: What is that thought? That is a vampiric thought. It saps our energy, it saps our attention, and it invades our consciousness to the point where we start to believe something that’s not true about ourselves. There’s only like three families in the whole world that have a genetic disorder that prevents them from sleeping.

Dave Rabin: Everybody else can sleep. Right? This isn’t taught well. So if we, if we pay attention to the thought that is not serving us and we allow it in, we’re inviting the vampire into our lives, into ourselves, our personal house. And then that vampire just literally saps blood and energy, our energy source from us and prevents us from being present.

Dave Rabin: And if you say instead, Hey, thought. I see you. I see you’re trying to get my attention. I acknowledge you, but you’re not, you’re not true and useful to me right now. That thought does not serve a purpose in this moment when I’m trying to fall asleep. Then you can let it go and come back to center and then maybe come back to it later at a different time and reevaluate it.

Dave Rabin: But you’re not inviting the vampire in. Does that make sense?

Pedram Shojai: love that. I love that. But there’s, there’s a piece right there, right at that moment where you observe that thought and turn inward enough to say, Oh, hey, this is a thought that I’m having that not may not be serving me. And that skill. It’s like saying, Oh, you know, I tried doing pull ups. I wasn’t good at it.

Pedram Shojai: I’m not good at pull ups and people will never, never train their pull ups. Right. Just that, that little, I mean, we’re not talking about Satori. We’re not talking about bliss. We’re talking about just like primary awareness of, of thoughts and awareness of what’s happening. I encounter a lot of people who feel like they’re no good at that.

Pedram Shojai: They’re in their forties. It’s too late for them. Therefore, what do you got? And you, you see this every day in your clinical practice. You see this every day. It doesn’t take long to turn that one switch on. And then that switch becomes almost like the alchemical agent that helps sift the good from the bad and, and, and gives you the control back.

Dave Rabin: Yeah, absolutely. And if anybody who’s listening to this heard the phrase, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and you apply that to yourself, it’s not true. Uh, modern neuroscience has proven that’s not true. Our brains continue the ability to learn for our entire lives. There are certain parts of our lives where learning is easier than others, like when you’re a child.

Dave Rabin: But there’s other parts of our lives where we continue to learn into old age and we have the capacity to continue to learn and develop new skills at any time. And to give you a example of that, my 75 year old father has always wanted to play jazz piano and never has taken real piano lessons. And over the last five years, taught himself how to play jazz piano as well as I play.

Dave Rabin: And I took lessons for 10 years growing up. Right. And so it’s just, you know, anything is possible if you have the will. to actually do it, but you have to do it and you have to believe that it’s possible that you could do it. And if you don’t have those, if you don’t have those two pieces, the, I’m willing to put in a little bit of effort to try and explore the unknown of what’s possible.

Dave Rabin: And I’m willing to suspend disbelief that It’s that it’s not possible, right? I’m willing to believe that I can actually achieve my goal. You put those two things together and you have a straight, straight shot success path to victory. Right. But you have to put those two things together, which requires breaking a little bit of the old preconceived notions or, or questioning a little bit of what we were taught about what we’re capable of, and that’s actually the first question I ask every single patient who comes to my office.

Dave Rabin: What, which is, is it possible that What you were taught about the world and about yourself and what you’re capable of is not the whole story. And most people, if not everybody, can answer yeah, it’s possible, that wasn’t the whole story. And that just starts the process in their own mind of hey, maybe I can do more, maybe I’m capable of more than I thought.

Pedram Shojai: This concept of time scarcity, that. Is pervasive, right? Everyone’s so time poor. They’re so broke. They can’t pay attention. Right. And your father, as you said that my thought immediately was, well, I mean, look, he’s out of his householder phase of life. He’s 75. He’s like, I got time. And he could actually focus for the first time in probably decades on something and, and, you know, have the attention span to do it.

Pedram Shojai: How much of that plays into this math? Um, someone’s ability to actually be in the room and pay attention.

Dave Rabin: Yeah, I mean, it’s a great question. I, I will say that from the work that we do in mental health, uh, and therapy, a lot of the work we do is around Breaking core preconceived notions for people, and one of which being that there’s a rush all the time, right, and people will come in. And I am guilty of this, too, right?

Dave Rabin: I think all humans have faced this time scarcity situation in different points of their lives, but sometimes it feels like it’s all the time. Right. And how can you sit down and take any time for yourself or be, or, or experience, allow yourself to experience pleasure or joy when you’re always out of time and time is money, right?

Dave Rabin: It creates like a really complex relationship with time and joy and joy. capital and productivity. And it makes it way too complicated. And so one of the things that that comes to people when they do the work with us, um, that is a almost universal experience, especially when we do ketamine assisted therapy with people, is that they realize they have ketamine puts people into An observer mind state, right?

Dave Rabin: Something we talk about in meditation and mindfulness, something we talk about in therapy, but something most of us don’t do very well for ourselves. And so ketamine has this way of putting people into this kind of quiet stillness and observer mind where you can just watch yourself without judgment and just watch yourself and notice where your attention is going and notice your thought patterns.

Dave Rabin: And one of the most common thought patterns people notice is Wow. I have been rushing through so many different parts of my life that I’ve been making stupid silly mistakes because I’m trying to cut corners and take shortcuts when there actually isn’t a shortcut in this situation. You just have to do it right the first time and I’ll get to my outcome quicker.

Dave Rabin: Taking the shortcut actually just set me back days, weeks, months, years, because I had to redo it again at some point, right? And so one of the core things that comes out is people realize actually there is no rush. Right? The idea of the rush is an illusion, uh, and it’s an illusion created by society. And are there certain times where there’s somebody who’s having a life threatening issue where you have to get there and take care of it immediately?

Dave Rabin: Of course there are, but that’s not the majority of our experiences. The majority of our experiences require us to take our time to be present with whatever it is we’re doing for at least a little bit, because when we can be fully present, we have access to our full selves and we’re going to it. that much closer to our desired goal outcome.

Pedram Shojai: So this is this is fascinating to me because I’ve I’ve been on both sides of this argument. I kind of live in the middle, but let me kind of lay it out is you’re talking about almost like a top down control where it’s like, AHA, I’m being an idiot. I’m gonna slow down. Whereas this There are camps and functional medicine that are like, well, look at your inverted adrenals.

Pedram Shojai: And if you have this much cortisol, cortisol almost turns the dial on time and it makes you feel unsafe. And if you feel unsafe, then you don’t have time because the tiger’s chasing you. And I’ve played on both sides, obviously being a meditation teacher, a big fan of ketamine, psychedelic assisted therapies, but also just let’s.

Pedram Shojai: Bring down your cortisol, bring up your oxytocin and fix this, uh, you know, fix the, the biochem. And so somewhere in between, I’ve seen all kinds of results. I’m just curious where you fall in, in that spectrum. You’ve obviously mentioned the top down, like you see the bottom up as well.

Dave Rabin: Of course. And I think we, we’d be remiss not to acknowledge that there’s two sides happening at the same time, right? And there’s, and I, and I think that this is also one of the most common misunderstandings of modern medicine and science, which is, you know, that most people are taught that the mind and the body are separate and they’re in fact intimately connected.

Dave Rabin: Um, there’s no separation. Um, Um, and when we, we know this because when we are physically stressed out or overwhelmed or, or distressed over long periods of time and we don’t do anything about it, we can become mentally and emotionally ill. And when we’re mentally and emotionally distressed or ill and we don’t do anything about it, we can become physically ill, right?

Dave Rabin: And so there’s a direct relationship between the mind and the body where one is. actively influencing the other and it goes both ways. So I think what’s, what’s interesting is that in these two camps of medicine that you’re talking about, like functional and more allopathic medicine compared to kind of like the 21st century, like mental health and Eastern practices, I think I use, I came from the allopathic functional side and it was all about treating the body to treat the mind.

Dave Rabin: And, and I think what I found over the years is that, and, and now more recent studies have echoed this, which is that when the mind is sick, when we’re just, when we’re under chronic stress, when we have had severe trauma, like mental or emotional trauma in the past or extreme hardship or just constant, or just like we’re not sleeping enough because we have racing thoughts, whatever it might be.

Dave Rabin: That that changes our hormonal and neurotransmitter landscape in our entire bodies, and it changes how we absorb our food and how much we absorb our food and what gets absorbed. It changes, um, this, the way that our, our blood pressure is and our vagal tone and it changes our cholesterol levels and it impacts our cortisol.

Dave Rabin: Right. And, and so I think it’s like more of a chicken and the egg question, which is what came first. And I think that what we’re, what we used to think was that, and what was taught for at least 30 years, ever since the discovery of the human genome was that much of illness is genetic and that that genetic inborn illness or, or predisposition to an illness.

Dave Rabin: is causing a hormonal cortisol, whatever imbalance in the body. And then that causes the illness in the mind. I would actually venture to say that the latest evidence is suggesting the opposite, which is that there are some people who have a, there are some people, maybe 1 percent or 2 percent of people who have a genetic imbalance.

Dave Rabin: illness that results in the mental and emotional issues and the hormonal issues later. But in probably 98 percent of cases, what we see more often is that most people’s bodies are working just fine. They might have a predisposition for stress to come out or be expressed in a personal way. And ill, you know, an illness might be their kind of way of expressing stress.

Dave Rabin: But, uh, In general, that the, a lot of the hormonal imbalances and neurotransmitter imbalances come from what’s going on up here and in here in, in the emotional and the cognitive nervous system. And that, uh, over time as we train ourselves to be in a stress state emotionally, mentally, spiritually, even financially, we end up in a physical stress state and that manifests as increased stress response hormones throughout the entire body, including cortisol.

Dave Rabin: So should we be treating the cortisol first or should we be treating what’s going on in this person’s mental, emotional, spiritual, financial life first and seeing what happens to the cortisol? I would argue that it’s the latter. Um, but that’s, Kind of where we are as a field right now.

Quick pause, let you know that the mind-body stuff I’ve learned for the last 30 years, being a monk, being a priest, doing all this stuff that I’ve done. Most, all of it is in the temple grounds. Go to the urban, go to the store, check out the temple grounds. You want to learn this stuff? You want to be better.

You want to feel better. There’s practices for this. And I teach it.

See in there.

Pedram Shojai: Well, I know people have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to beat, beat up their, uh, adrenals and bring them back online and live in their shitty lives and bad marriages. And, you know, to your point, they’re not handling it. Um, you had mentioned something that in our, we recently, um, in featured, uh, Dr.

Pedram Shojai: Raven in, uh, vitality Summit, and there was a conversation there. If you haven’t heard it go, go listen to it. But what I walked away with was, um, remembering an old Carlos Castaneda quote, which is. The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that the warrior sees everything as a challenge, whereas the ordinary man or woman sees everything as either a blessing or a curse.

Pedram Shojai: And we had talked about an area of the brain that we are now starting to identify that really starts to grow, develop plasticity, and become more robust As we take on adversity and challenge. And as we do so and get better at it, we get better at all things across the spectrum. So I’d love for you to just, let’s revisit that for a couple of minutes and let’s take the conversation there.

Dave Rabin: Yeah, it’s one of my favorite topics and you know going back to stress and resilience, right? It’s how it’s about what happens in us as we train ourselves to bounce back more quickly from stress as we train ourselves To adapt to whatever comes our way What, what’s happening in the body and you know, I think that it’s less, it’s less about one particular part of the brain being active or underactive as it is multiple parts of the brain that exist in a network that are all talking to each other.

Dave Rabin: in at different times. And when we train ourselves to be more resilient or more adaptable, more, making it easier for us to respond to stress quickly and then bounce back more quickly afterwards, we’re training our vagus nerve system. And the vagus nerve system is a system that’s responsible for the reminding our bodies that we’re safe enough to recover and heal.

Dave Rabin: And so what does that system govern? It governs every single function of our bodies that is required for recovery and healing. So everything that needs to be getting resources when we’re not running from a bear in the jungle is governed by the nervous, by the vagal nerve system. So that means Uh, the reproductive system, the digestive system, the immune system, our sleep and recovery systems that get us deep restful sleep, our empathy parts of our brains and our emotional self reflective part of the brain, which is called the insulate cortex that interfaces directly with the hypothalamus and the amygdala.

Dave Rabin: The hypothalamus regulates all of that stress response in the body, the amygdala and, and the epinephrine, the endorphins, all of that stuff. The amygdala is the fear center. that blasts off when we’re exposed to threat or uncertainty. And those all have really strong connections between them. But we don’t want our fear center to be running the show all the time, right?

Dave Rabin: If the fear center is running the show, we live a life that is very unpleasant and very scary because literally everywhere we go, we just, you know, Feel unsafe and afraid. Um, and that’s what our patients with severe PTSD live like. And I can tell you it is a very, very hard life. And so what we work on in terms of repairing that is by teaching people top down with.

Dave Rabin: these techniques that we’re talking about here and therapy, but also bottom up through the body first, which is what we call somatic therapy or with breathing with soothing touch with Apollo and technologies like that, that helped to remind us that we’re safe. And if we remind ourselves that we’re safe and we’re not under threat, then all of a sudden vagus nerve activity goes up.

Dave Rabin: We bounce back more quickly from stress. We recognize safety more quickly when it’s there. Our heart rate comes down. Our blood pressure comes down. Our HRV goes up. HRV is now an all cause indicator of longevity and health span or a correlate of longevity and health span that has just come out in a recent study.

Dave Rabin: Um, and it’s a measure of vagal tone. And so it’s really this this parasympathetic vagal nerve, cranial nerve 10 is the vagus nerve that comes down from the brainstem to innervate the whole body. And it’s this particular nerve system that interacts directly with the emotional cortex in our brain that we can train connectivity with and practice through the brain.

Dave Rabin: the breathwork, the soothing touch, the meditation, the mindfulness, yoga, et cetera, et cetera. Right. And as we practice those techniques, we are training that nerve to have stronger activity with the emotional cortex that goes directly to the amygdala, that fear center that’s blasting off in times of threat.

Dave Rabin: And it’s going like this. And then the emotional cortex comes in and says, Hey bud, You’re safe enough to not have to react right now. So just settle down. And then, because there’s a lot of soothing stuff going on and you want to enjoy it, you want to enjoy these hugs. You want to enjoy the smell of this delicious chicken soup.

Dave Rabin: You want to enjoy this, your favorite song. You got to quiet down for a minute so I can. So you can hear this or feel this or experience this. And then it does. And all of a sudden, you’re present in the moment again. So that system is really what’s trainable. And what’s so interesting is that probably gratitude practices are also training that system.

Dave Rabin: So there’s a lot of different things that we can do that are free to train that system. And Apollo is a tool that can help if you’ve never done that before.

Pedram Shojai: So this beachhead, if you will, into this Crazy space called peacetime economy that we’ve all kind of fallen, fallen out of, right? Like we’re so in wartime that, you know, the, the bullets are flying your average patient. How long does it take if they start digging now to find water enough to say, Oh, Oh, and then understand that they’re getting tangible, objective benefits and keep going.

Pedram Shojai: Cause I think a lot of people quit too soon and it does take a minute.

Dave Rabin: Yeah, absolutely. I think the good news is that once you start on this path of healing and recovery, it takes a, when you actually do the work, it takes a lot less time to get to your goal of feeling better and feeling less anxiety and feeling more in control and more resilient than it did to get you to here today.

Dave Rabin: Right. So that’s the good news. It might’ve taken you 10, 20, 30 years to get to where you are at today before you start this journey. As soon as you start the journey, it can be done in six to 12 months and you can be on a really nice spot. Um, I would say that, that the modern approach, the old, so the old approach, which we’ll start there where you’re getting, you know, antidepressant medication or multiple different kinds of medication to stabilize you plus psychotherapy that can take.

Dave Rabin: Many years because those techniques require a lot of practice, a lot of practice and day in, day out, constantly practicing a new way of thinking. And when you’re already stressed out, it can be really, really hard to actually retrain your brain to think differently because when we’re stressed out, again, our brains are amygdala and our fear center opposes learning new things.

Dave Rabin: We actually. Take resources away from learning when we’re stressed out. And we see that because the hippocampus, which is a little, very important stripe of the brain, right here ish, which is critical for short term memory. And then when we dream, it takes that short term memory and goes to long term memory.

Dave Rabin: That hippocampus actually shrinks under chronic stress. So the ability for the brain to learn new things, is dramatically decreased when we’re stressed out. So the modern techniques and approach I would say, which is very exciting is that we’re starting to see the years of training. It used to take to get to recovery and feeling better can now be done in a month to a year.

Dave Rabin: Um, in some cases it’s like, Four to 12 weeks. We can get people to a place where they’re noticeably feeling substantially better with a combination of, I would say four things. One of which is the same lifestyle stuff we were telling people to do for the last a hundred years, right? The exercise meditation, the mindfulness, the yoga, the breathing, all the lifestyle stuff falling, you know, good sleep hygiene, right?

Dave Rabin: All that normal stuff. Then number two is, um, technology. So using technology in a thoughtful, intentional way. where you’re not using things like your phone right before bed because that’s going to mess up your sleep. Um, but you’re also using other things to soothe you and to give you the environment that’s conducive to calming and feeling safe.

Dave Rabin: So that’s like, listen to soothing music. Um, listen to, you know, have soothing lighting on around bedtime. And when you’re at home and winding down, don’t have bright fluorescent lighting on that’s going to make you feel terrible, right? So it’s going to mess up your sleep. So little things like that. And then Tools like Apollo, which delivers soothing vibration to the body, you can wear and it will also activate your vagal nervous system and train your body to be in a calmer state more of the time.

Dave Rabin: Um, and then the third camp I would say is like nutrition diet. So just optimizing your basic diet and I would include supplementation in that as well. So it’s just thinking consciously thinking about what is the fuel I’m putting into my high performance vehicle. Right? Our bodies are the single most high performing vehicle we will ever be in charge of in our entire lives on this earth.

Dave Rabin: If you put garbage fuel into your high performing vehicle, your high performing vehicle is not no longer going to be a high performing vehicle, right? And so being conscious and intentional about what fuel we put in and including supplements, the quality The, whether it’s organic or not, whether it’s too much or too little, the dose, right?

Dave Rabin: The amount, all of that is so important to recovery and healing, um, across the board. And then the fourth is altered states of consciousness. So Getting yourself out of your what we call ordinary mind, which is the mindset that we’re in every single moment of the day, whether you’re doing it with meditation, whether you’re doing it with, um, soothing touch, extreme exercise, extreme performance, uh, accessing flow states in different ways, um, or whether you’re doing it with psychedelic assisted therapy in a controlled environment.

Dave Rabin: Um, all of these techniques have one really powerful benefit, which is perspective. Right? And when you’re stuck doing the same thing in the same way every day, including thinking about yourself in the same way every day, you forget, just like everyone does, that there are other ways to do it. Right? And there are other ways to think about yourself.

Dave Rabin: We don’t have to think about ourselves as, you know, shitty people all the time. We can think about ourselves like great people that are capable of doing anything. And it just requires a mindset shift or a perspective shift to say, actually, when I look across the board with an open mind, I realized, Hey, there are tons of different ways to see myself in the world.

Dave Rabin: And maybe the way I was taught was to see the world as a scary, dangerous place. But maybe that’s something I learned as a kid that’s no longer true to me. So let’s question that belief system, right? Maybe I can rewrite a new belief system or a new story for myself. And so those perspective shifts are incredibly powerful to help us get into the state of activating healing and activating healing and recovery.

Dave Rabin: It can, when you do it right, and you combine those things, it can take only maybe Maybe you can do it in like under a half hour a day of work, uh, total under a half hour a day, and if you put that in, you can see results in four to 12 weeks that are dramatic results, like feeling substantially different as a human being.

Dave Rabin: So I, so I think there’s a lot of hope there and promise to, to move people through this process much more quickly. Now,

Pedram Shojai: Uh, there is a lot of noise in that last channel, right? It’s, you know, the, the, the challenge with the psychedelic assisted therapy and the perspective change is, you know, there’s a lot of guys selling, you know, shovels of the gold rush. There’s a lot of weekend shamans that, you know, went to burning manor now, you know, somehow credentialed to, you know, handle someone’s mental health.

Pedram Shojai: What is the best way to navigate those choppy waters?

Dave Rabin: that’s a great question. Um, of course you can reach out to us. Um, and we’re happy to direct you. If you go to Apollo dot clinic or Dr. Dave dot IO, you can reach, reach right out to us. We’re happy to direct you to where, uh, somebody who’s a reliable provider. Um, it’s especially important to be aware of this now because psychedelic medicines in many states have been decriminalized.

Dave Rabin: And so people don’t realize this. that the person they’re seeing for psychedelic care may not actually be trained to do this work. And if they’re not trained to do this work and they’re not doing it with the standard of care, two therapists, one patient, right. In a, you know, kind of a gold standard protocol approach, which we’ve actually published on last year that anybody can check out at journal of effective disorders.

Dave Rabin: Um, if you’re not following that standard of care and then you’re probably not seeing the right person. And then you also have to trust your provider. So making sure that you don’t, you feel completely safe and trust trusting of your providers and that you can actually feel safe enough to talk about anything with them and anything that comes up is hugely important.

Dave Rabin: And, um, if you don’t trust the therapist, you’re the providers you’re working with, you need to find somebody else. Cause it’s not going to be therapeutic for you. Um, my favorite resource for this, uh, to wrap, to wrap that topic is psychedelic dot support. If anybody’s interested in this topic, go to psychedelic dot support.

Dave Rabin: Um, it’s run by a very close colleague and friend of mine who coauthored the best practices, gold standard and psychedelic, uh, medicine paper in journal of affective disorders last year, uh, Dr. Allison fiducia, and they have a huge list of actually, uh, actually trained psychedelic therapy providers. Um, that practice based on the best practices, gold standards, and they also have a full list of clinical trial, uh, registration.

Dave Rabin: So anyone, any clinical trial that’s going on generally in the psychedelic space, you can find on their website and then you can actually sign up through their website, through the links to participate. Um, they also follow best practices, uh, and they also, psychedelic. support also has an amazing harm reduction guide.

Dave Rabin: If you’re the kind of person who says, you know what? I don’t care what, what Pedro and Dr. Dave are saying. I’m just going to go take these, find some mushrooms on the street and take them myself and see what happens. Please, please read the harm, even though we don’t recommend it. If you’re going to do it anyway, just go read the harm reduction guide on psychedelic thought support.

Dave Rabin: And I can guarantee you, you’ll have a better experience.

Pedram Shojai: I’m sure there’s nowhere in there that says do it at Disneyland.

Dave Rabin: Definitely not.

Pedram Shojai: Right. It’s, you

Dave Rabin: Somebody just told me a story about that the other day.

Pedram Shojai: I, you know, honestly, I, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories about people going to some stupid venue in a completely unsafe environment. I’ll talk, you know, think about the, like the first 40 minutes of this conversation about feeling safe and then going into an unsafe environment and then amplifying that with psychedelics and, and wondering why they had a bad trip.

Pedram Shojai: I mean, it’s just. Think people think right. And so, listen, we’re out of time. I could go on for days with you. Uh, tell people where they could find your work. Apollo neuro. I love the device. I wear it all the time. Uh, honestly, like way before you and I even got to be friendly. I was just like, damn, I like this thing.

Pedram Shojai: What is it? So tell people where to find it. I got mine right here.

Dave Rabin: Yeah, of course. And I’m so glad you’ve had such a great experience with it. It’s been a complete game changer in my life. I use it every day. Um, mostly on my ankle. Um, but if you want to find Apollo and learn more, you can check it out at Apollo neuro. com. That’s a P O L L O. EUR and you can also go to wearable, which is what the kids call it.

Dave Rabin: And if you wanna find me, uh, dr. or on Instagram and Twitter at Dr. David Raven. Uh, and if you wanna learn more about my work in consciousness and psychedelics, you can check out my shows on, uh, the psychedelic report and, uh, your brain explained on Spotify and Apple, uh, podcast.

Pedram Shojai: Love it. Dr. Dave, always, always a pleasure. Love talking to you. Um, and, uh, keep up the good work, keeping the loop when new stuff comes. I just, I, I, you’re a trusted resource for me on this.

Dave Rabin: Oh, thank you. I really appreciate that and it’s always a pleasure to chat with you. So thanks so much for having me.

Pedram Shojai: Thank you.

All right. That’s a wrap. Like I said, I love this guy, Dave Raven, um, all day, every day I can talk to him, uh, looking at doing some more collaborative stuff. Uh, just really geeking out with him because of the east west mind, body connections there. Let me know how you liked it. Let me know if you’d like to see more of him on the show, wherever you’re watching this put comments, uh, let us know.

And if you haven’t subscribed, please do so I’ll see in the next one.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.