How To Be WellnStrong

44: How to Build a Non-Anxious Life | Dr. John Delony, PhD

March 12, 2024 Jacqueline Genova Episode 44
44: How to Build a Non-Anxious Life | Dr. John Delony, PhD
How To Be WellnStrong
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How To Be WellnStrong
44: How to Build a Non-Anxious Life | Dr. John Delony, PhD
Mar 12, 2024 Episode 44
Jacqueline Genova

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What if I told you that anxiety is just an alarm system? Our guest today, Dr. John Delony, refers to anxiety as our body's internal notification that our brain is detecting danger, that our body is in desperate need of sleep and restoration, that we are disconnected from our community, or that we are lonely. Dr. John Delony is a national best-selling author, mental health & wellness expert, and the host of The Dr. John Delony Show. He holds two PhDs, and has over two decades of experience in counseling, crisis response and higher education. You could say that Dr. Delony essentially spends his time teaching people how to find freedom and reclaim their lives. In this episode, Dr. Delony shares his thoughts on how to create a life that doesn’t leave you feeling constantly overwhelmed, how to overcome toxic perfectionism, and a few strategies to avoid loneliness.

Suggested Resources:

This episode is proudly sponsored by:

Sprout Living, an incredible brand that crafts the cleanest organic plant protein, meal replacements, drink mixes and more. Visit and use the code WELLNSTRONg to save 20%. 

This episode is proudly sponsored by Wedderspoon, my go-to source for pure manuka honey. They're offering WellnStrong followers 15% off with the code “wellnstrong” at checkout!

Join the WellnStrong mailing list for exclusive content here!

Want more of The How To Be WellnStrong Podcast? Subscribe to the YouTube channel.

Follow Jacqueline:

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send me a text!

What if I told you that anxiety is just an alarm system? Our guest today, Dr. John Delony, refers to anxiety as our body's internal notification that our brain is detecting danger, that our body is in desperate need of sleep and restoration, that we are disconnected from our community, or that we are lonely. Dr. John Delony is a national best-selling author, mental health & wellness expert, and the host of The Dr. John Delony Show. He holds two PhDs, and has over two decades of experience in counseling, crisis response and higher education. You could say that Dr. Delony essentially spends his time teaching people how to find freedom and reclaim their lives. In this episode, Dr. Delony shares his thoughts on how to create a life that doesn’t leave you feeling constantly overwhelmed, how to overcome toxic perfectionism, and a few strategies to avoid loneliness.

Suggested Resources:

This episode is proudly sponsored by:

Sprout Living, an incredible brand that crafts the cleanest organic plant protein, meal replacements, drink mixes and more. Visit and use the code WELLNSTRONg to save 20%. 

This episode is proudly sponsored by Wedderspoon, my go-to source for pure manuka honey. They're offering WellnStrong followers 15% off with the code “wellnstrong” at checkout!

Join the WellnStrong mailing list for exclusive content here!

Want more of The How To Be WellnStrong Podcast? Subscribe to the YouTube channel.

Follow Jacqueline:

*Unedited Transcript*

Jacqueline: [00:00:00] Dr. Delony, how are you?

Dr. John Delony: What's happening with you?

Jacqueline: well, to kick things off, first of all, I am Very excited to be speaking with you today

I actually first heard about you on the growth lab with Dr. Axe and then before I knew it, your name just kept popping up on all of the other podcasts I listen to, and I was like, this guy seems pretty cool. And I just wanted to share with you that I really admire your mission. And your work. So I'm just very grateful for your time and our conversation


Dr. John Delony: I appreciate that That's that means the world to me. Thank

Jacqueline: Absolutely. So you are a double PhD and a mental health expert who works with a ton of people. And I've been watching your show and hearing the conversations you have with folks who call in. And I absolutely love it. I've contemplated calling in myself quite a few times, but I mean, hey, now I get to have you. here to myself for the next

Dr. John Delony: you. Yeah, let's do it. We can do it. right? We can do it right here That's all my problems. [00:01:00] Let's go. but you. You really do a masterful job in helping people navigate through challenges that life often brings. I am curious though, 20 years ago, if I were to tell you that you would be doing what you are doing right now with your show, with your books, your speaking, what would your response have been?

Oh, I would think you're You're a goofball. Well, I mean, podcast didn't exist. So the technology like in, and YouTube didn't exist. So there was that, but no, I, I was very singularly focused going to be either a, um, singer in a punk rock band, or I wanted to be an actor. Like I wanted to be a, like a, like a screenwriter and an actor.

And so that. Anything else, I would have been like, you don't, you don't, you don't know me. You don't know the real me, right? And that shows you how dumb you can be when you're 25. College kids today are under so much pressure to choose a major that they think will define their lives, but I feel like in over 90 percent of the cases, right? [00:02:00] We don't ever really end up actually doing like what we thought we would do when we were between 18 to 22 or even what we studied.

Jacqueline: I mean, I studied business and economics and here I am in the health and wellness space because I just decided to pursue a passion, but. It's funny, looking back, right? You can't connect the dots, you know, looking forward, but looking back, it's just It's funny how God

Dr. John Delony: that's pretty wild. Yeah.

Jacqueline: Well, I just finished reading your most recent book, Building a Non Anxious Life.

In fact, my mom actually read it first, and she could not put it down either. but I just wanted to let you know, and I'm not sure if this was done intentionally or not, but I really felt like I was having a one on one conversation with you throughout the entire book, which just makes the strategies that you recommend all the more effective.

But, um, let's, let's get right into it, Dr. Delony. So what do you believe is the root cause of anxiety in people today?

Dr. John Delony: I don't think anxiety is the issue. I don't think that's the problem. Um, If, if I was to deliver like a root cause of why [00:03:00] all anxiety is, is an alarm, right? That your body's trying to get your attention and.

If I was to distill it all the way down, I think it's, I think we've created lives that our bodies aren't designed to live in and we've called them normal. And anybody who challenges or questions those, um, what we now call normal just gets cast aside as stupid or out of touch or dumb or old or, um, some sort of, um, is, um, like they just, they get cast aside.

And so the whole premise is what if our body's right? What if anxiety is right? What does that say about us? And more importantly, what do we do now?

Jacqueline: yeah. I love that perspective. That's the first time I've heard someone refer to anxiety as an alarm. And it's so true, right? And I think, you know, one thing you said, too, is what if we actually dared to stare and face it down, which obviously not many people do today. We're always kind of suppressing it.

You know, we fail to face a lot of things just due to our, I guess, inherent human [00:04:00] nature, But I think, I think it's, I think it's like, well, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I think it's, 

Dr. John Delony: I think our culture tells us that. I think that's like the, the meta narrative. It, that's, if you're uncomfortable, if something's wrong, then whatever that thing is needs to stop it, needs to fix it. And here's a good example.

Um, I would suggest to people to, if they're going to buy a house, I would tell them, um, take a 15 year note and make sure that your house payment isn't more than 25 percent of your take home pay. Make sure you can put down 10, 20 percent down before you buy a house. So now people are coming out of the woodwork to tell me that I'm out of touch, I don't understand how expensive housing has got, um, that I don't want people to have families and homes.

And here's the deal. I do know. I'm trying to buy a house right now. I know. I know firsthand how insane they are. And I bought a house in 2020. They're literally double. This isn't hyperbole. It's [00:05:00] double than what I was trying to buy in 2020. Here's what doesn't care about my feelings. Math who, what doesn't care about how bummed out I am that I had this picture for my family that I want to get involved in this asset building too.

I want to have a home that is mine, me and my wife and where our kids do it. I totally get it, but math doesn't care. And if we can't afford it, we can't afford it. We can't afford it, but we have a culture saying, no, no, no. What needs to change is math. We need to come up with different finagled loans that are going to make.

different ways for people to buy things that they can't afford. And then we're going to repeat 2008, 2009, 2010. And we do that with. Our psychology with our relationships. We say things like, well, that marriage, just our, our relationship just ran its course. That's so dumb that they don't run their course.

Somebody or both of you quit and that's okay, but that's the truth, right? And so we have these cultural narratives that just say, um, you know, if [00:06:00] you're uncomfortable, if there's something weird, then, um, they need to fix it so that your body's not anxious. No, dude, you need to stare down that reality. And head into that, and then there's peace on the other side.

Jacqueline: That's so good. And then to that point too, I mean, I feel like that whole narrative too is the reason why we can't really be ourselves. In front of people, right? Like, there's the self that you present, like the self that I'm presenting to you right now during this podcast interview and to my listeners, and then there's the self that's going to like call my mom right after this and be like, Hey, mom, you know, go through my list of things I need to say, but to that point, I think, I mean, you know, you talk about the loneliness epidemic a lot too.

And I think that feeds right into it. Like we feel lonely too, because we also feel like we can't really be our full selves because we always have this veneer of what we think we should be.

Dr. John Delony: Yeah, and loneliness works, it works, I would call it the nerd word, it's recursive, it's a dance, right? So, I don't have anybody, so I [00:07:00] innately get small, and I get nervous, and when I do have somebody, I try to perform for them, so they won't leave, because that's all I got, and they feel that it's false. Which makes them not want to hang out, right?

So it becomes this weird, self fulfilling prophecy. Think about this, like, from, like, an evolutionary standpoint. How nuts is it that you care, you, my new friend Jacqueline, like, that you care what some knuckleheaded podcaster in another state thinks about anything that that you're doing with your personal life, you know, it's like the, and that you would feel like, I can't really say this, or I'm worried about saying that, like, that's the state of our world right now that everybody's got to vote.

Everybody's speaking into our lives. Everyone has a, has an opinion and a judgment. I think, I think we can't be ourselves anymore. Um. Because the stakes have become so high, right? If [00:08:00] you say the wrong thing and the wrong person records it, you might be unemployable, right? You might just asking, Hey, I don't understand this particular social issue.

Can you help me? You're out of here. You're, you're wiped off the map. And so I think people just hedge their bets and get real quiet and watch Netflix and it just hide.

Jacqueline: Yeah, and like the irony with that too is that you clearly have more of a reach of people like you have a pretty big following and it's like the irony is that the larger you grow the less inclined you are to speak truth about things that you really feel are truth because again we're always worried about what people are gonna say and how it's gonna affect our following and like the social media algorithms and everything But how do you deal with that?

Dr. John Delony: Well, coming back from like a nerd background, like, so working in higher ed for so long, just, I mean, it was just me and my nerd friends, um, And when people like, it's not even me being trying to be funny. It's like my friends studied like one thing for like 20 years. That was like their whole world.

Um, and that's why I loved him and it made [00:09:00] lunch and made dinner time and hanging out like nacho time. It made it really exciting because like, I would say, you know, this legal matter. And they'd be like, bro, I've studied that for 20 years. You are wrong. But coming from that world. One of the greatest signs of wisdom was the words, I was wrong, or I changed my mind.

That's, that's the currency that someone is really a thoughtful, well reasoned thinker. That they went down and like, when you're doing a scientific study, you reject the null. You have to say like, Oh my gosh, I wasn't wrong, right? The assumption is you're probably wrong. And so when it came to my show, um, I'm thinking of a few episodes specifically, I blew it.

I blew the call. And I actually, instead of having them edit it out, I went back and said, And did a, like, uh, an introduction to those calls and said, here's where I blew it. And I want you to hear me screwing this up because it's going to happen in your homes. It's going to happen in your lives. And also I'm [00:10:00] not perfect at this.

I'm still trying to figure this out too. And so for me, I didn't realize I didn't think of that as a strength. I thought that's just the way I am. If I screw something up, I'm going to say I screwed it up. Um, and I think the ultimate currency I have is I never set out for this, right? I, I, I wanted to not exist on the internet.

I didn't have any social media when I started this job at all. Um, and so it was never my goal to get a humongous platform. And so I've never felt like I wanted to protect it. The thing that really like the fire that's in my guts is I want people to be well and however delusional I am. I still think people, most people, most of the time

want peace in their life. I just think we've created a world where nobody knows how to get it. And so that's my ultimate goal, whether I work at Burger King or whether I go back to working at the university, or I continue to have a, uh show that a lot of people listen to and watch. Um, the main goal is, man, I want people to be well, not, I want to be famous.

Jacqueline: [00:11:00] Yeah, no, I love that that clearly shows I mean, I think that's why 

Dr. John Delony: You're like, you're not that good. We know we can tell when we are.

Jacqueline: we no I'm a I'm a fan of you and I think I mean you're you're very authentic and that really shines through and again, I think to your point about just airing things that you would have done differently, right that just goes to show like You're accepting of not being perfect.

And again, this whole like culture of toxic perfectionism, right? And you talk about it in your book that if something's not perfect, we automatically say, Oh, this is not good. And the irony too, with me, Dr. Delony, I feel like this is going to be a therapy session is that like, The more I get into podcasting and like building my platform.

I mean, this podcast is less than a year old. This is probably like my 43rd episode and it took a lot for me to start because I had no idea what I was doing. I just purchased a mic. I was like, all right, let's just start learning how to, you know, use Riverside and whatnot. But when I look back and I hear my first 10 episodes, I cringe

and then I start to think, okay, at my hundredth episode, am I going to look back [00:12:00] now on like the 45th one and say like, what were you thinking? And then those feelings they can paralyze you, right? And I think too, like that's the difference between fear and anxiety.

Which I thought were actually one in one, but they're really not. I mean, you can feel the same feelings that accompany them, but like, they're actually two separate things. And can you maybe highlight the difference between 

Dr. John Delony: Yeah. But, um, let's, I want, I want to go back to something you said. Cause it's very important if you were in eighth grade and, um, a coach came out and said, Hey, I've, I've seen you run just around school. Um, I think you're really fast. I want you to try out for the track team. And you ran track in eighth grade and you did really good.

And then you went on to train your freshman year and your sophomore year and your junior year in high school. And then you ran in the district meet and regional meet and state meet as a senior in high school. And you did really good. And then you moved to go and run in college. And when I ran my, I ran for one year in college and it's another level, right?

And I went [00:13:00] to like a, like a nationally renowned track high school. And so I went from eighth grade from middle school to a juggernaut high school to college is a totally different game. If I look back at how I was training and running as a freshman in college, Back to my eighth grade year, all I would be filled with is, is pride.

Look how far I've come yet. When it comes to something like podcasts, when we are trying a new skill as adults, especially when it's in the creative space, we think, Oh my gosh, can you believe how slow I was when I was in eighth grade? Instead of going, dude, when we get to episode 150, this thing's going to be humming.

And then we get to, and I actually crossed when it was, is when I crossed episode 500 that I remember telling our team, I think I'm getting there. Like, I think I'm finally figuring this thing out. And, um, so I, I think we've just decided that. In some contexts, [00:14:00] growth is wonderful and great and others. It's just, it just highlights how, how awful we used to be.

And I think that's a matter of context. And I just can't look at it that way anymore. I just have to look at it and think, man, if I've grown this much in three years, I hope I continue to grow this much in three more years. And that means in six years, I'm going to be so good at this. And I love that. I get, it fills me with optimism and energy and, and jet fuel, not, Oh my gosh, then I must be doing terrible right now.

Cause I'm, I'm brand new. I'm, I'm still learning how this whole thing works. Um, when it comes to fear and anxiety, fear is your body detecting an actual, like there is a named threat in your, I would say environment, but it doesn't have to be proximal to you. Um, it could be like a missile coming at you, right?

There is a named, um, thing. That is about to cause you harm. Anxiety is the imagined threat that may or may not or might be. It's [00:15:00] the alarm that lets you know, Hey, we've detected some things and that detection may or may not be true. And so I tend to distill it down. Fear is real and anxiety is imaginary.

It's, it's, it's maybe

Jacqueline: Yeah, I love that. I read I forget who said this but another book I was reading this year. You're gonna laugh I have probably have like 30 new inspirational, self help motivational books that I just asked for Christmas. So, I'm trying to, like, juggle, like, reading three at a time, but I realize that's not really super effective.

But anyway, one of the quotes from one of these books said that healthy fear allows us to take a risk, but anxiety keeps us from taking any risk at all. And I was like, that's powerful. That's one of those things you gotta, like, type up and post on your wall. But, uh, no, that's so true. But anyway, Dr. Delony, so going back to the non anxious life, one of my new favorite books, you talk about these six daily choices, that we all need to make if we want to live a non anxious life. Can [00:16:00] you touch on what those are and why they're important?

Dr. John Delony: Yeah. I'll start with why they're important. I think that we've been told anxiety is something you have. It's a like you are only five foot six and you wanted to be six foot tall. Um, anxiety is a thing that is upon you. It is a way you're always going to be. It's a thing you have. And I just reject that.

Um, and so by making it about choices, It gives you agency back in a world so bent on taking away people's power at disempower. Oh, this happened to you. Oh, you're the wrong color. You grew up poor. You, these things, your, your mom got cancer. You experienced brutal trauma as a kid. You're always going to be less than so we'll come rescue you because you're just less than you just sit over there and we'll move you through the system and we'll pat you on the head.

I refuse to continue this culture of disempowerment. I believe in people too much. I've seen them. I've watched these kids who grew up on the [00:17:00] margins go do amazing things. And so I just reject it. Well, that means I have to give you a map and given somebody a map, you got to choose to go forward. Right? And so I don't want someone to sit there.

Being doubled over with anxiety, like, and I've been there. I've, I've been clinically diagnosed. I've taken meds for like, I've been there. I want to give somebody some steps. What are some choices you can make to begin to tell your, let your body know to show your body. We're okay. We're going to be all right.

Or we're heading, heading in the right direction. So I, when I distilled it all down, if I took all the neuroscience and all the experience and all sitting with all these people, and then my own personal N equals one journey, um, I tried to distill it down and I came up with six. Here's six choices you can make on a regular basis.

Um, you have to choose reality. You have to know where you start from, right? You have to be able to know, like, uh, like, what's the state of your health? What's the state of your marriage? What's the state of your job? What's the state of your singleness? You want to be in a relationship, but you're not.

What's the state of your faith? Like, where are you? [00:18:00] You have to choose connection. And we talked about it a minute ago. Like, we're the loneliest generation in human history. You have to choose to have other people. You have to choose freedom. If you owe people money, if the bank is telling you what to do tomorrow, your body would be failing you if it let you sleep all night.

Because it knows you are one, um, Q4 number away from getting laid off and being homeless. right? Um, or you are having to get up and go to a toxic, abusive work environment because Ford Motor Company is making you, um, or we're not free because we pack our calendars or we're surrounded by clutter and nonsense.

Right? Um, so this idea of I'm going to choose freedom, I'm going to unhook myself from all these things, have to choose health and healing. If you are overweight, if you don't exercise, if you haven't been to the doctor and got your blood work done, if your body isn't, um, Well, and whole, then your alarms are going to ring, um, you have to choose mindfulness and that's just [00:19:00] simply man choosing the gap, like choosing to extend the gap between what just happened and what you're going to do, right?

Stimulus and responses, they say. And then the final one is you have to choose belief. You have to believe in something bigger than yourself. My family is, I'm a Christian guy, so that's, that's our belief. But, um, you have to take a need of something bigger than you. Um, otherwise your body will collapse under the weight of holding up the universe.

And so those are the six steps and some of these are easy for some people. Some of them are, it took me and my wife 15 years to pay off all our debts that we racked up. Um, I go through like The idea of choosing belief is really hard for me. For my wife, it is not hard at all as that is doesn't even occur to her to not have belief.

That's a hard thing for me. Um, exercise is easy for me. So it's just this constant going back to the wells, like brushing your teeth, something I'm going to do every day. And over time, you're going to teach your body now we're all right, we're okay.

Jacqueline: What's the most challenging for you personally of those

Dr. John Delony: Um, choosing [00:20:00] belief, choosing mindfulness and choosing belief. I really like to think that I can control everything and I get really upset when I don't and, or I'm unable to, and, um, choosing mindfulness is tough for me. I like to just respond, respond, respond, react, react, react. And it's just not a Yeah. What about 

Jacqueline: No, I'm the same way. I'm the same way. Honestly, who was that, um, doctor or psychiatrist that you referred to in your book? I forget. Dr. Rollo?

Rollo May. 

Is that how you pronounce it? Yeah. And I think he said it was like one, one means, I'm gonna mess this up, but it was like one way of allaying anxiety is through frantic activity.

And that really spoke to me because to the mindfulness point, like, if I'm faced with challenging news, the very last thing I do is, is be still. For example, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer back in 2018. Um, she's, she's the reason behind this whole platform, behind Well and Strong.

So God brought good from a bad situation. But even now, like, [00:21:00] anytime I'm faced with, a doctor's report or like, you know, new genetic guardant testing, if there's been any new mutations, like, the second I learn of a new piece of information, right away, Dr. Delony, like, I am online, I'm on Dr. Google, I'm searching everything and anything, I'm reading through all of the PubMed studies, and it's like, I'm trying to learn as much as I can, and I become frantic , in that state, and the irony is that I think I'm helping her, right, because I'm like, oh, I'm becoming more knowledgeable, the more knowledge you have, the more control you have, but the irony is that we lose our very sense of being able to think rationally, right?

When we're in that state. That's something I still struggle with today. What are just like, even for me, like, tactical steps to get out of that state? Because when you're in it, you can't see anything, right? Like, you are just in your head.

Dr. John Delony: Yeah. I think it goes back. You nailed it. I think it goes back to choosing reality. I know this won't help me. And then I have to choose the [00:22:00] most difficult path. Like in the book I write, you have to choose your heart, right? I can choose the hard path, A, which is to read all the studies, to go down the rabbit holes, to follow all the weird YouTube influencers that have figured out a new path for cancer, right?

What are all those guys? Um, or I can do the other hard thing. Yeah. Which is to exhale and just weep. To write my mom a letter saying, We got yet another diagnosis and I'm sorry. Right? To go call a friend and say, Hey, um, bring over whatever you got left in the fridge. I just need you to sit by me on the couch and not say anything.

And just eat really unhealthy with me for a night. And so tomorrow morning I can get a good night's sleep. I'll have connection. I'll go for a walk and now I got a clear head and then I can make a choice about what happens next, but choosing reality is knowing if I go drink a bunch tonight after this bad news, if I go after a long breakup, if I just go start sleeping around just because I'm just trying to like ring the bell, if I like whatever the thing is, [00:23:00] choosing reality knows like that's not going to help.

It's not going to help me. And so I think it's a starting there and then B, um, I think it was in my first book and it may have been Rollo May. Oh, no, it was, uh, uh, Alfred Adler, maybe one of the old psychologists said, I often thought that if I took away somebody's anxiety and depression, they would be well, but what I found is when I took away their anxiety and depression, I made them empty.

And so I think a, you have to know, okay, this isn't going to work. And then you have to have a B. Okay. So what am I going to do instead? And I'm going to have a low friction. ready set of things that I know work for me almost every time. So in my life, when I'm about to start spinning out, I put all my electronics down, put them away and I head outside and go for a walk.

And sometimes I've been known to walk seven miles, like just keep going and going and going. Sometimes I walk for 20 minutes, turn around and I'm all good. And my family knows that my friends know it, my coworkers know [00:24:00] it. Um, but that's one of the things that works for me every time. Another one is I call a friend and just say, Hey, just checking in.

How are you? How's your family? How's your wife? How's whatever. And, um, but, but I just choose connection. So I think it's a matter of a knowing, all right, this is not going to help. And B what I'm really trying to do is use data as Xanax. I'm trying to use more answers as a way to make myself feel better and duct tape over my pain.

And my big pain is mom's not going to be around forever. And that's where I need to sit. And that's the worst. Uh, my friend Ian Simpkins says, if busyness is your drug, rest will feel like stress and that's it. Right? So if, if that's, if, if, if busyness is my, my meth, it's my weed, then just sitting in grief will feel like torture for a while.

Jacqueline: Yeah. That's that's so spot on, even like a few weeks ago, so I've been going to this church here for the past year, never met with my pastor finally thought it was time [00:25:00] so we grabbed coffee a few weeks ago, and I was just telling him about my background, my life, you know what I like about Greenville and out of the blue, he just looks at me and he goes, Are you lonely?

Because I was going on and on about how busy I am and I'm juggling all these jobs and working and he's like, are you lonely? And I had to stop and really think about that question because I'm in my mind. I was like, I don't really have time to be lonely because I'm always doing things right. But then I was like, yeah, actually I am I'm very lonely.

And then I also realized that being alone it's not the same as being lonely. Right. So, I mean, Hey, I've learned so much about like feelings and mental health in the past year, just through like doing some self reflection. Um, but no, that's, that's spot on.

And I think like being a workaholic is definitely not healthy way to, to cope with things. And again, like I found that with myself, I feel like I can divert my attention and my energy from something I don't want to face into something that I [00:26:00] think, you know, is benefiting others, which is good, but if you're not actually dealing with the root issue, right?

Like it's, it's really not good for

Dr. John Delony: Yeah, and you mentioned something that I think is really important to double click on, which is Man, I've often been lonely at a, in a crowded room. I've often been lonely at my kitchen table. I've often, man, I can sit there in a book signing line and sign a thousand people's books and have all these conversations, but I'm not present.

Does that make sense? Like there's a, there's a hand shaking and a smiling and an autographing and we're getting people through and it looks like, Oh man, that guy's surrounded, but I'm all by myself. You know what I mean? And so, um, and even sometimes when you're doing that and I'll see my friend Rachel Cruz walk by and she'll wink or we'll laugh or George Campbell walk by and he'll laugh or that's connection.

Now I'm not so alone, right? Even though I'm surrounded by people. So, um, yeah, I think we run really fast and we throw ourselves in big crowds and we say, look at us, we've got value and we're [00:27:00] not lonely. And that we, that's completely as far from the truth as possible.

Jacqueline: Yeah. And you've said this before too, but it's like, you could have a million followers on social media and people are like, how are you never lonely? But if you like look to see who you can call at what two o'clock in the morning, if you really have a big problem and no one's there.

Like, that's how you really know, I guess, like, do you have solid connections in your life? Um, one question I did want to ask you, I'm sure you've heard about Dunbar's number.

Dr. John Delony: Huh? 

Jacqueline: So it's essentially like the number of meaningful and

Dr. John Delony: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, right? Yeah. They just, they just call it that, that you could have like at any one time.

Jacqueline: And I think he said that humans cannot maintain more than 150 friendships or five close friendships, like at any given time. Based on your experience, would you agree with that number?

Dr. John Delony: Uh, I mean, I don't have anything that would refute it. Um, I have what I would call three or four friends that [00:28:00] are 40 years old. Like I've they've. I've been in relationship with them for 40 years. I have another four or five friends that I still regularly communicate that I've been in relationship with 30, 30 years, 25 to 30 years.

And so, um, those are friendships that literally when we're around each other, it picks right back up. I went hunting with a friend recently. We literally had not talked in 25 plus years. We said, Hey, what's up? And he's like, man, you're famous. And I'm like, whatever. And it was right as though we had just I mean, nothing changed.

He's got a child. I, we knew each other when we were dating the women who are now our wives. And now we got kids or teenagers, but it was as though nothing stopped. Right. And so I had those friends I don't, but I wouldn't call him my best friend, right? I wouldn't call him my ride or die friend. I wouldn't call him at 2am.

Um, but man, I know he's out there and I know if I did call him at 2am that dude would show [00:29:00] up. And so I, I think there's just different layers of friends. And so I think the challenge with one of those Dunbar things is we tend to, um, it's why I won't answer the question for couples when I'm doing like a marriage retreat.

I won't answer the question, what's the average amount of sex a couple should have each week. Cause I would tell them it doesn't matter. What matters is what works for y'all. Cause otherwise you take these numbers and you start trying to plug actual friends and humans into these things and you say, well, I don't have enough.

Or you say I should be all good, even though your body's telling you you're not. So yeah, about 150, um, five good friends. If everybody on earth had five good people that could call in the middle of the night, we'd have a radically different world, radically different. 

Um, so I think that's a 

Jacqueline: so true. 

Dr. John Delony: I just wouldn't beat myself up one way or the other.

Jacqueline: We're hopping all over the place

here, but like, my mind just keeps thinking of new questions. To the point about friendships though, so this is something I'm struggling with is trying to maintain those friendships when you're in a very busy season of life. I'm sure you've [00:30:00] experienced this even in writing your books.

So how do you balance, and I'm sure you've gotten this question like millions of times, but how do you actually balance? Maintaining healthy friendships, but also, establishing healthy boundaries for yourself when you know you just can't take on more things.

Dr. John Delony: I have largely thrown the word balance out of my life. Like that's a word you'll never, you'll never hear me use. Yeah, it's not real. Um,

I just, I just have none. I have no balance at all. Um, and I, I, I get excited about a work project and I jump all in. And I, um, the, the men and women that I love that call, I call my closest ride or die friends, the people that would be in my tribe, if you will know that about me, and they also know that part of their job is making sure my head stays above water.

And so, hey, [00:31:00] we're going out every Monday night. I don't care if you want to or not. This is happening. Um. We're going to all go get pizza tomorrow night. And I know Delona, you're on some fancy, stupid diet. And I know that you don't eat whatever carbs we're getting pizza and you're coming. And so that's their role in my life.

Um, so I think it's developing rhythms that are important and also knowing like, um, you may have heard me talk about this on another podcast. I, my first book came out and I didn't, I was just woefully unprepared for the national media attention. I was unprepared for all the travel. I was unprepared for all of it.

And At the end of the day, in my stage of life, when I'm unprepared for something, my wife and kids wear it. They're the ones, because I'm going to get my work done, because I have to, they're the ones that have to, um, clean up the mess. So for this book, um, it was coming out in October, I think it was. My wife and I sat down in June and said, now that we know what's coming.

What [00:32:00] must be true for the next 4, 5, 6 months so that when this book launches, you're whole, we're whole, everybody's on the same page. And it was transformational. And so we started putting money in the relational account so that when October came and I was MIA for 30 days, man, my house didn't miss a beat.

My wife was all over, she was on it and we had rhythm set up and no matter what, I was still home for these events and I still, so we built that into the calendar this time. So all I have to say is I would replace the word balance with intentionality. Are you intentional about seeing people? Yes. Are you intentional about swan diving into a work project or a master's degree or you're trying to get a small business off the ground and it's just all consuming?

Yes. And none of that works without people in your life. It just doesn't. Sometimes I have to call people. Sometimes I get to sit with people. Um, it's when one of those gets out of whack that, um, I got, I need to be held [00:33:00] accountable for it. 

Jacqueline: I recall you also mentioning that you take your son to Waffle House on Tuesday nights. Is that still

Dr. John Delony: Every Tuesday 

morning, uh, this morning, we, uh, this, this, and it comes from my friend, Dave Ramsey. I, I, he has a son who's in his thirties now, who's one of the greatest men I know. And when I say greatest men, he's hilarious. He hangs out. He knows how to have fun. He knows how to run a comp.

Like he does all the things. He's a good dad. He's a good husband. And I look and say, okay, I want my son to look like when he's 30. What do I need to start doing right now? And one of the things I've watched over the last five years of Dave being a good friend of mine is Once a week in the mornings, those two get together for breakfast just to, just to say, Hey, how's it going?

And so I started that with my son when he was in sixth grade, maybe fifth grade, and it just has never stopped. And it's become one of our important touchstones. This morning, we went to a local gas station that had a sign out that said best breakfast in town. And my son was like, let's call their bluff dad.

And I was like, let's do it. So we ate inside a gas station at a picnic [00:34:00] table and it was incredible. It was so fun. Um, but here's, what's really important about that. Most parents. Like are dreading the big sex talk or the big drug talk or the big here's where you're going to go to college or not go to college talk.

If you make the small things a part of your regular life and you talk about insignificant things, things that don't matter, things that are silly, things that are, let's go eat in the gas station. Okay. Hey, let's tip this waitress. Insane. You want to have some fun? Let's tip her 150 bucks. Dad, the meal was only 18.

I know watch how she lights up, right? What my son gets is a real life, a real world tangible example, not of dad lecturing, but, Oh my gosh, look at her. She's crying she's jumping up and down, right? He gets to see that. And also eventually he has said, Hey man, I like this girl at school.

Can I ask you? And now we're in it, right? We're already having college conversations about the role of college and the [00:35:00] importance of college and where you would want to go and not go. And why do you think that? And he's in eighth grade. And that way, when college conversation comes around, we've already had it a million times.

And so it makes concrete decision making easy. But yeah, all that starts with, I'm going to intentionally plan to spend time with you for the purpose of nothing, just you.

Jacqueline: yeah.

Dr. John Delony: And it builds over time. 

Jacqueline: I feel like that could also be applied to like time with ourselves Right, like just to create time to do nothing and be bored and not be stimulated Yeah, and honestly too dr. Delony like I find that like when i'm not doing anything That's when all of my great ideas come and like, I've been really, I've been intentional.

So like in the mornings I used to go on walks, I'd always have a podcast in right. 24 seven, listening to podcasts. I think about six months or so ago, I was like, what if I just changed my routine and just left my phone at home during my morning walks. And that has made all the difference because it enables like time just to pray or just be with [00:36:00] yourself and I feel like escaping that constant stimulation has done wonders for my mental health and it's not hard, right? It's like 20 minutes a day just of non stimulated activity. It's just, it's

Dr. John Delony: It's easy, but we have to be honest about the voice is saying you got to read 50 books a year or you're, or you're dumb, or there's another book. There's another book and there's time and you got to manage your time and you got to balance that. And so it's, it's really an act of rebellion to say, I'm just going to go for a walk.

I'm going to plug back into something way bigger than me and that's nature. I'm going to plug back in and then your body's not going to war. And it can go, ah, and that's when you can finally have thoughts that aren't about survival, but are about what if we did this, what if I had this guest, I wonder about this.

And now you're talking about life change.

Jacqueline: Exactly. Spot on. Going back to intentionality. We sound like we may have similar personalities, but do you have, like, a morning routine that you do to just help [00:37:00] put yourself in that mindset? So, like, again, I feel like we're in the age where everyone's like, oh, you have to do a 60 minute morning routine, your cold plunge, your meditation, do you do any of that, realistically, every 

Dr. John Delony: So I'll go, I'll tell you my, my morning routine journey. So when I started here, when I left the university and I came to, um, be a YouTuber, as my son calls me, um, I had about an hour and 45 minute morning routine that was dialed into the minute. I mean, I, from my wake up time to my coffee, to my meditation, to my scripture reading, to my workout, to ev, to my cold plunge every second.

And it was actually a run in here at the office. Uh, Alex Hermosi came in. He's a guy who's all over social media, talks about business and stuff. And he was on one of my friend shows here. And he was talking about. Why are we, why do we work? Why do we do all this? So that we have freedom. [00:38:00] And that's one of my core messages.

That's why you get out of debt. That's why you have healthy relationships. That's why you don't have clutter. So your body can go. And I realized I was a slave to my morning routine. My morning routine dictated everything about my life. Didn't matter how I felt. Didn't matter what my kids needed or my wife needed.

The thing that was reigned supreme in my life was that stupid routine. So now, several years later, I have distilled it down into some non negotiables. What are the things I need to do so I can show up as a husband, as a dad, and as an employee the best? And I've learned I have to move in the morning. I have to have some sort of workout period.

I just don't show up. Well, if I don't, um, I have to have some time with my kids and my wife. Sometimes that's just sit at the table coloring and we don't say anything. Sometimes it's checking in. Sometimes it's just me and my wife hugging for 30, 45 seconds without moving, just standing there and hugging.

Um, I have to [00:39:00] have, um, Some, some sort of meditative reading time. I hired an old theology professor who's taking me back, um, for the semester. I said, I want you to create a class that is faith 101. I want to go back and all the way to the beginning and really dig into what I actually believe in, in, in a way that I can explain it to my 14 year old son in a way that he could understand.

And he's like, game on. So I, this morning I read from the book of Mark. And. It's been fascinating going back and just starting from ground zero, be like, I don't remember this part being in here. Right? And I think some of the people that are claiming this haven't read this part. So it's been fast. But, um, and there's a few other things that I do, but it's very much based on what are the things I need to do so I can show up for the things that are important to me, not I got to get these things done.

And then with whatever I have left, then I'll give that to my wife, my kids, my job. [00:40:00] So it's made, it's made my morning way, way looser. And also I found myself infinitely more productive. And can I just say this part? Um, I don't have a six pack abs is nearly as tight as I did. Right? I don't, and I probably can't run a mile as fast as I could three years ago, and I'll trade that all day long for me and my 14 year old son looking at each other across the room and just laughing so hard, or my daughter coming in and hitting me with a towel and us starting to laugh.

Like, I'll trade that all day long.

Jacqueline: Yeah. I love that. No, I mean, that's what it comes down to, prioritizing what is important to you, right? And, yeah, I'm, I'm getting to that point now, and I think, too, like, my morning routine was pretty intense, too, in terms of length, and I realize that now it's not about checking the boxes, right? 

Dr. John Delony: And it also changes seasonally, right? When I'm in the middle of writing a book, my morning routine looks very different when I am just getting off [00:41:00] the road and I'm trying to get my feet underneath me. My morning routine looks very different. And so it's just being intentional about, all right, here's the season.

It's winter. So I need to put a coat on. It's summer. I'm gonna put shorts on. It's just being intentional about the season I'm in and creating a roadmap for how I need to be, how I can best be well to show up for whatever craziness is coming my way that day.

Jacqueline: What does your daily road map look like? Are you the type of person where you like block out your time and structure segments to avoid distraction? Because that honestly something I really struggle with, being on social media I feel like I have to always be responsive immediately to people.

And I'm realizing now that like, yeah. really helpful, um, on both 

Dr. John Delony: right. 


Jacqueline: like, how do you, how do you deal with

Dr. John Delony: Um, I have a unique position where I'm a media person, but I also work at a thousand person corporation. I work at a big media company. And so we have staff meetings and I have business meetings and I've got sales meetings and I've got product development meetings. [00:42:00] And so, um, today I've been with some.

New sponsors. I spent some time with them coming up with ads and spent some time this morning, um, coming up with buckets to redo our website. So, um, no, I don't have the luxury of just saying I don't do anything from 6 45 a. m. to 11 because I'm doing my, I just don't have that luxury. Um, when it comes down to writing a book, then I block off some time when it comes down to media.

I've got blocks in my calendar so that I can do interviews like this. Um,

Jacqueline: Yeah.

Dr. John Delony: But I, I try to make it project specific and I'm, I'm really working hard this year specifically to not just have that phone all the time with me. And here's, here's really what, um, broke me of it. I had a goal last year to reach X number of followers.

Like I had my big audacious goal. Like the team came up with what they thought we could do. And I was like, I think we can do a hundred thousand more or whatever. We [00:43:00] ended up maybe tripling. I mean, we went so far over that goal and. But it was all around social footprint. I didn't have any, any of that stuff.

I had no social media, like I said. And so now it's done what I needed it to do, what I wanted it to do. And this year I have a different goal. And so if I look at social media, if I look at my, I have social media on a separate phone. Um, if I look at that phone as. As a shovel. Well, I've dug all the fence posts for the fence I'm building.

So I don't have to carry that shovel around with me everywhere. I might need it here and there, but I'm done with the shovel. Now I'm on to not need to build a fence. And so this year I have some very specific goals around. I want the Dr. John Delony show my show. I want it to have X number of subscribers on YouTube by the end of the year.

Um, cool. Then that's my new, that's my new operating goal. And so I just don't have to carry the shovel around anymore because I'm trying to do something different this year, [00:44:00] but again, it comes down to intentionality and if you're not intentional, um, very intentional, hyper intentional social media is designed to vacuum up every square second of your life, unless you put up some pretty strong boundaries. And by the way, they're better than us. They are better than us. They're smarter than us. They're faster than us. They are better than us. And so thinking you can play the game and even keep up is insane. I'm just not gonna play. 

Because I can't, I can't, win. I can't win. None of us can.

Jacqueline: Yeah. No, I hear you. Certainly for me too. Like, there's always things as a business owner that you don't want to do, but that you have to 

do. Right. But if I were to just, if I were to just ask you like, you could be spending all of your time on one thing. What 

Dr. John Delony: Oh, no question. I would be reading. Like I would be reading, reading, reading, reading. That's, that's one of my favorite things to do. I just like learning new stuff. 

Oh, geez. Um, I, so I'm haunted by [00:45:00] questions and that's why I have so many degrees. I get a question that gets stuck in my head almost pathologically and I can't get it out of my head.

And so I'll end up like getting a master's in it or a PhD in it. And so somebody asked me a question at a conference. They said, given everything we had talked about, um, was marriage still worth it? And that question haunted me because I could say in my life, yeah, for me, it's been worth it. But I didn't have a great, like when it comes down to economics, when it comes down to the way the church has done done marriage, why individuals have done marriage, I was like, ah, I think, yes, I think, but the fact that I couldn't just rattle off 45 points of this is why this is.

If you ask me about anxiety, like diagnostically or ADHD, I can just rattle it all off. I can tell you what neurochemicals are doing what and why I couldn't do that with marriage. So I got haunted by it. So I came back and I, uh, I told my wife, I said, this is when I would go get another degree. And she said, you can do that, but you're going to want to get [00:46:00] another place.

Cause you're going to be single doing that. I'm not doing no one. So, um, I just asked, um, The person who runs my life here at the office, I said, I want you to get on Amazon and order every book on marriage that they have all of them. And so I got just cases of books on. And so I've been down a rabbit hole.

So I'm trying to read everything I can on, um, marriage. I've also gone back to reading fiction, and I think it was really hip and cool to not read fiction because I only have this much time, and I think we've turned off an entire part of our brain, the brain about storytelling and the brain about feeling in the part of the brain about being absorbed in a narrative.

And so, 

um, I'm really trying to toggle back and forth with, um, fiction much, much, much more than I have in the past.

Jacqueline: Yeah. I love that. That goes just back to the same concept of being bored, right? Like giving your brain a rest. So I love that. Well, Dr. Delony this has been such a fun conversation, but I do want to be conscious of your time. Where can listeners find [00:47:00] you?

Dr. John Delony: The best place to find me is. The Dr. John Delony show, you can find it on YouTube anywhere or on anywhere you get podcasts. So after you listen to this show after, then you can go check out, the John Delony show, and you can follow me at John Delony on the internets, anywhere you can.

Jacqueline: Awesome. I will be linking all of that in the show notes. But my last question for you, and this is my favorite question to ask my, my interviewees is what does being well and strong mean to you?

Dr. John Delony: being well and strong means I have done the things I need to do so that I have the capacity to be there for those who I love and honor. 

Jacqueline: Can I quote you on that? I'm just going to include that WellnStrong's main page. 

Dr. John Delony: go for it. 

Jacqueline: Awesome. Well, Dr. Delony, thank you so much for your time. Super excited to share this with listeners and I hope to have you on again soon. I mean, we've just skimmed the surface of so many topics that you 

Dr. John Delony: Well, thank you so much for your kindness. I'm really, really honored to be on your show. Thank you.

The root cause of anxiety today
The loneliness epidemic
How to deal with censorship
How to deal with toxic perfectionism
The difference between fear vs anxiety
The 6 daily choices of a non-anxious life
The relationship between frantic activity & anxiety
The importance of feeling our emotions
Strategies to practice when you feel out of control
Being alone vs feeling lonely
Dunbar's number and meaningful relationships
Morning routines & intentionality
The balancing act
What's Dr. Delony reading right now?