Superpower Of Choice: Control Your Mood, Control Your Destiny With Dr. Thomas Duncan

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

TBT Managing your Mood | Control Your Mood


Do you live at choice or live at circumstances? This is the question Dr. Thomas Duncan asks us today. If you choose the former, then you have the ability to choose your mood and the trajectory of your life.


Dr. Thomas Duncan is a family physician who practices functional and integrative medicine. He joins Penny Zenker to help us discover our superpower of choice. A big part of that is choosing our mood.


Admittedly, life can be tough. And human as we are, it can be difficult to find light in hard situations. Fortunately, Dr. Duncan has the tools to help us. These tools are what he calls the Three Paths: Energy, Focus, and Self-Talk.


Dive deep into Dr. Duncan’s transformative insights. Learn about how to control attention when emotions are high and intellect is low. Find out the difference between confirmation and affirmation. Plus, discover how you can control your destiny.


We cannot control our circumstances but we can choose the meaning of that. At the end of the day, if you can control your mood, you can make better decisions and achieve better outcomes. Don’t miss out on this great episode!

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Superpower Of Choice: Control Your Mood, Control Your Destiny With Dr. Thomas Duncan

I want to welcome back my dear friend Dr. Thomas Duncan. He’s amazing, funny, smart, and got some incredible programs. I know that you’re going to learn on top of what you might have learned in the last episode. Dr. Thomas Duncan is a family physician who practices functional and integrative medicine in Olympia, Washington. Additionally, he’s a master NLP practitioner. That is Neurostrategies in Neurolinguistics. We started this journey together. That’s why we have been close friends for so many years. Tom, welcome to my show here.

Penny, thank you so much for having me. As I mentioned in the other episode, it’s how inspirational you’ve been and the message, the clarity around productivity, the focus-ology, and the reset moments. It is so fun to follow you because I actually learn a lot on a daily basis and apply that. I’m grateful for the synergy that we’re able to create every time we’re able to connect.

Go on.

Before we get started, we had a tragedy up here. A gentleman tries to burn down one of our trash barrels. He was throwing gas on and trying to get it on fire. He got his sleeve on fire and he’s running through the parking lot, waving his arms on fire. Luckily, they were able to tackle him and put it out. They arrested him, of course. Do you know what the charges were?


Waving a firearm. I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your weight.

I told you, guys. This guy is pretty funny. He always has something funny, but he did agree to keep it clean now, so don’t worry. We’re going to keep it on the up and up. That’s a perfect intro to what we’re going to talk about, which is mood. Humor is a great way to lift one’s mood. I know that I’ve fallen back on humor even in the most difficult times. How do we control our mood and find humor in a hard situation or how do we control that? Our mood is everything.

When I was struggling with Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, the first thing I had to realize was that I actually had a choice. I didn’t have to let the circumstances of my life dictate how I felt. I had a superpower and that was choice. I could choose how I could feel. That was the whole premise behind everything because when we talked about applying that new identity, what’s more important though is if you’re getting in a better mood, you’re going to make better decisions. Thank you, Doc Obvious, you’re going to have better outcomes.

Is that where you got your Doc Obvious degree there?

It was the Wheaties Box Tops. I sent them in and you get a couple of million and they send it to you because I went to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. It seems like tragedy follows me everywhere I go. When I was there at school, our medical who I braid burned down. Both books burned and but Marvel Comics said they replace them for free. Anyway, moving right along.

We do have a superpower for choice and we do forget, especially in those moments where we feel victimized by what’s going on around us. We perpetuate that by blaming, complaining, and not recognizing that we have a choice.

That’s a hundred percent true, Penny. I call it living at choice versus living at circumstances. We cannot control our circumstances. However, we can choose the meaning of that. That’s what I mean by the power of choice. Part of that choosing the meaning, we can choose our mood. I talk about the three steps or the three things. I call it the Three Pat Process. It’s like before I leave to go out, I pat my front pocket keys, phone, and wallet whereas if my wife Christie goes, it’s her purse, sunglasses, and coffee.

The Three Pat Process. I was wondering what those pats were. Maybe you were Irish so you had to check the three pats in your family or something.

Exactly. I’m patening that as we speak right now.

What are those Three Pats?

Again, if you can control your mood, you can make better decisions and outcomes. The first thing is all about energy. Think about it when you’ve had a bad outcome is when you’re run down on energy. 1) Energy will go into more depth about that because that’s the most important. 2) What are you paying attention to? What is your focus on? Tony Robbins always talks about where focus goes, energy flows. What’s your self-talk? What’s going on there?

That’s probably the three steps. If you can take that three pat and go, “What’s my energy check-in?” We’ll talk about some simple steps to change your energy at the moment. “What am I paying attention to? Am I focusing on things that are going great or am I telling myself a story from the past that’s keeping me stuck?” The last one is, “What’s my self-talk? Am I lifting myself up or am I talking down to myself?” Those are the three steps when you find yourself not in a good mood, how to make that good healthy shift.

I could go take a healthy shift right now, but I’m on the show here. People don’t even know me like this. It’s like when we do this funny banter. This is new to the show. I apologize if this is insulting to anybody who’s reading. Coming back to your three pats, I think it comes back to also your Simple Things Better. You introduced that in the first episode that we did together to talk about Simple Things Better. To me, people might be like, “There goes Captain Obvious again.” We don’t do what we know. If we could just do these simple things better, that’s amazing.

If we know how to control our mood and we recognize that we have a choice then that’s all for me. I’m going to put it into my language. These are things that can happen in that reset moment when you stop and you do the three pats. You say, “I’m not getting the outcome that I want right now. What energy am I bringing? What am I paying attention to? What am I saying to myself that might be creating me to get away from the result that I’m looking for?”

I’m so excited about your new book that’s going to be coming out. I think that’s going to be so impactful and I’m really looking forward to it. When we talk about the first step of changing your mood is changing your energy, the three things that I talk about are number one, breathe. If you find yourself tired, just breathe. I do Wim Hof Breathing every morning. I find that it energizes me and charges me, but sometimes you don’t have that time.

Changing your mood is changing your energy Click To Tweet

If you can do that four-square breathing, inhale for four, pause for four, exhale for four, and hold for four because it’s hard to do Wim Hof breathing when you’re standing in line at the checkout. You can do the four-square breathing anywhere. It’s a little more transferable because you don’t want to be doing the Wim Hof Breathing when you’re operating a motor vehicle, in water, and those types of things.

Box breathing is used in the military for them to get control of their emotions and get grounded. If they can use it and it’s going to help them in a critical situation, we can all use it.

That’s absolutely true. Number two is simple. It’s drink water. What I see is we check our phone battery more often than we check in with ourselves to see how we are. Are we red lighting right now? Do we need to plug in and charge up?  The biggest thing with that is to breathe but then we think, “I need to eat something.” More importantly, we need to drink water. The last thing is to get up and move if possible. Go for a walk and take five minutes to recharge your batteries. If you’re in a meeting somewhere or someplace you can’t go and you need to recharge, you can go on a 30-second trip to your favorite place.

I go in the Sand and Surf in Cabo and sit there. I can picture that wind and the breeze and be in that moment. That helps me recharge mentally if I’m stuck where I can’t get out and about and walk around. Three steps, breathe, water, get up and move. If you can’t move physically, move mentally. As my good friend Jim Brown would say, “Tommy, you don’t have roots. You can get up and move. You’re not a tree.”

I love that one. I’m going to write that down. He’s great. I’m waiting for the book to come out with Jim Brown. Actually, I had Jim Brown early on in my show. I think I’m going to bring that episode back up and bring it on to the show because it was on my older show. Thanks for that reminder, because that was a great episode.

On Duncan Integrative Medicine where I do the pep talk from the plunge, I’ve been doing a lot of shout-outs to Jim because even though I’m Dr. Thomas Duncan, I’m still Tommy so I love that. He goes, “Tommy, if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.” I’ve heard that from the time I was sixteen, so I did a pep talk on that. One of my other favorites that he always says because there are two of them. One is if you don’t go where you’re going, any road will get you there. The last one, and most important is there’s no external solution to an internal problem.

Those are great. I’ve heard some of the other ones which are also pretty great. I guess that’s a good time to come to the attention. Some of those are also about where we’re putting our attention. That last one that you mentioned, what is it?

External solution to an internal problem.

That’s also about attention and what we focus on. Give us a couple of quick tips around that. How do we control our attention when emotions are high and our intellect is low?

Understand that we are basically a walking antenna. We are getting bombarded with stimuli. We have this superpower of choice of what we can tune into so we can tune into what’s going right and positive or we can go negative and tune into what’s going negative. It’s all about the environment of what we are creating within us and what we’re creating outside of us. Again, what we’re focusing on or what we’re paying attention to is the power of choice. You recognize that there’s something that’s challenging going on. Remember what we talked about in the previous episode, there’s no failure, there’s only feedback. You learn the lesson and then you focus on what we learned from that and imply it. You focus on what could go right.

We talked about this in neurolinguistics where the focus goes, energy flows. How our mind works real quick is you ever gotten a new car, you’ve never seen it before, but once you buy that Toyota, Chevy, Ford, Tesla, or whatever it may be, “There’s one there.” The flip side is whatever you do, don’t think of a pink elephant. Whatever you are paying attention to, the part of your brain called the reticular activating system is going to bring that to your attention and bring more of that to you. Not only visually, but also energetically. Again, we’re all connected. We talk about quantum entanglement and fancy words. The bottom line is whatever you put out to the universe, you’re going to get back because there is a frequency of energy.

Whatever you put out to the universe, you're going to get back because there is a frequency of energy. Click To Tweet

Whatever you’re paying attention to, you’re going to get more of that in your life. If you’re focused on what’s going right and what you’re trying to accomplish, etc., you’re going to bring that versus how many of you may have seen some people that may have a little dark cloud right over their shoulders and that are focusing on the negative, the drama, and their problems. The whole thing is you want to be focused on the solutions. We talked about solution-oriented questions. How can I fix this? How can I move forward? versus the why questions. Why does this always happen to me? Why do I feel bad?  Where focus goes, energy flows. We have the power of choice to tune into what’s going right and we’ll draw even more of that to us.

I call them ants, Penny, those automatic negative thoughts. We talked about that for a long time. It’s like growing tomatoes. You don’t plan them. They just show up. Those automatic negative thoughts are there to keep us alive and not happy. You recognize that’s part of the process. Invite them to go, “I understand that you’re trying to keep me alive. Keep me from being humiliated or failure, whatever it may be to try to protect us,” but then you recognize it. What you do is you dance with it, learn it, and then what can you apply going forward. What are you paying attention to? It’s a superpower of choice. It’s about our environment. What’s really important is what are you consuming. That’s the thing I talk about in my online programs. What is it that you’re consuming? Social media, news, etc.

If you’re being bombarded by negativity, it’s going to turn on those genes within your body and it creates a chemical and biochemical signal, an electromagnetic signal within you. That’s how people end up with chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, all these things. That’s why I’m so passionate when I’m talking to people. Whatever you’re focusing on, it’s going to create health within your body. It’s like junk food. If you’re thinking bad thoughts, it’s not going to serve you. The same thing if you’re focusing on what’s positive. That’s a good whole healthy food that’s going to help you create that health and vitality. What I push really hard is if you have your health, you have your vitality and your freedom to live life on your terms.

It’s a shame. It’s the first thing that we sacrifice. I’ll sleep when I’m dead or eat this because it feels good now or it’s easily accessible. We don’t put our health first. Many people don’t realize that stinking thinking impacts our bodies. It actually impacts what we choose to eat and how we choose to take care of ourselves. It’s critical and definitely people should be checking it out. I know you have an online program that will take people through these different steps of how to use your mood to get better outcomes and all the things that we’re talking about, how to get out of that sick and tired place. Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired is the book that’s coming out.

When we’re talking about energy, I was talking about short-term in-the-moment energy. Long-term energy is about sustainability with a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, and exercise. If you look at sustainability, that’s part of the bio strategies that I have in my book and my online program. If you want to live longer, sleep longer, exercise, and nutrition. You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken dodo. Long-term strategies are more of the bio strategies behind sleep, nutrition, and exercise that play a role in that short-term energy and how you change it quickly. We talked about attention. The last one is our self-talk.

There was a study done at Harvard and it was in Trevor Moawad’s book. He was Russell Wilson’s psychological coach. He wrote a book and he talked about this Harvard study. It was really amazing. Negative thoughts are 4 to 7 times more powerful than positive thoughts. When spoken out loud, it’s ten times on top of that. Negativity, when spoken out loud, is 40 to 70 times more powerful. If you take a look at what’s going on in our country, that’s why negativity sells. If it bleeds, it leads. Why? It’s because it’s that much more powerful. This is the one take-home message I have for your audience, Penny. What’s the one thing that can do about their self-talk? Stop complaining.

TBT Managing your Mood | Control Your Mood

Control Your Mood: Negativity when spoken out loud is 40 to 70 times more powerful.


That really annoys me, Tom.

You should because it goes against all your demons and it’s releasing them, Penny. The biggest thing is to stop complaining. When you speak that out loud, guess what you’re bringing to you? That’s the pink elephant that I was talking about. You’re going to attract more of that.

That’s really interesting, especially to hear that studies have been done to show that the one thing is the thinking. Once we think of something, we don’t recognize, but it comes out in the words that we use and the way that we show up. We don’t make that connection. We’re like, “I don’t think that way. That’s not who I am or how I am.” We have to pay attention. This goes back to these three things are intertwined. The energy, the attention, and the self-talk. When you pay attention to the words that you’re using then you start to wake up to it to see, “I could see why more negativity is coming towards me, why I’m not able to get unstuck, or why other people are reacting in the way that they are to me. I’m not getting my results.”

In the last couple of months, I’ve noticed that some negative things slipped into some words that I’m saying. It’s not full negativity. That’s not who I am, but I’m paying attention. I’m noticing I am feeling a little stressed. I hear some of these automatic negative thoughts and that’s good. It’s okay. I don’t want people to think that you got to be positive all the time. This is not being positive all the time. This is about paying attention and choosing how we want to live our lives and the results that we want to get in our lives. I think a lot of people with this toxic positivity. It’s important that we make a distinction between them. We’re not saying you have to be happy and in a good mood all the time. Is that what you’re saying?

Not at all.

It’s just that we’re paying attention and activating the actual choice that we have.

There’s a good friend of mine. Her name is Penny Zenker that I borrowed an acronym from and it’s called RISE. I have people do an exercise. Have a conversation and notice what words you’re using. For instance, I used to say to my son Hayden when he was young, “Hayden, it makes me angry that you would do that.” Instead of saying that, I go, “What would be a better word?” I started saying curious. That RISE, I would recognize my pattern that I would say that. I would interrupt it and then swap or switch. Instead of saying angry, I would say curious and then exercise. One of the things in my program that I emphasize is the power of visualization.

There’s not enough time in the day to really focus on doing the work over and over. One of the shortcuts that I have people do is to visualize that process as they’re going to bed. That unconscious programming is going on throughout the night. With neurons that fire together, they wire together. That’s how I went from learning how to drive a car on the track or a race car to eighteen months later being in the advanced group and an instructor because I would visualize that process. That wiring went deeper and faster. That’s like lifting weights. If you lift 2 pounds, you’re not going to build much muscle. If you’re lifting 30 or 40 pounds, you’re going to reinforce that you’re going to build muscle even faster.

TBT Managing your Mood | Control Your Mood

Control Your Mood: Neurons that fire together wire together.


The same thing with emotion. When you do these things with emotion, you’re going to build those pathways better. The other technique that I use is the power of confirmations versus affirmations. Affirmation is you’re affirming within yourself. You’re affirming something positive. Confirmation is letting you know it’s already within yourself. You’re confirming what you already know. You don’t call the hotel and affirm your reservation. No. You confirm what you already know and then you can practice those. Remember we talked about in the last episode the steps of transformation?

1) You got to think about it. 2) Believe it. 3) Speak it into existence. 4) Take action. Sometimes, what happens is we get into the think it, believe it, and we get in that cycle. By taking action at the moment, what that does is you don’t have to think and then it drives things and moving forward. What I tell guys or anyone actually is that if you want to transform your health, work on transforming your body. Do simple workouts or the Simple Things Better. Go for a walk for five minutes or lift. Do one set of three simple exercises because if you can move, you get that momentum. You can carry that on and make that small incremental changes over time. We call it STB, Simple Things Better.

I want to come back to the power of confirmation. What does that look like in terms of what I might say that’s different from an affirmation to a confirmation?

It’s not too much different. I just like it because it’s pre-framing the process. It’s very similar. “I am a healer.” Tony Robbins and I talk about those affirmations. It’s like, “I am enough. I am powerful. I am a believer.” One of the confirmations that I say to myself is, “I cannot control what happens to me, but I can control what it means. I may not know all the answers, but I know that I’ve been able to figure things out before and I can continue to find solutions no matter what comes up. I’m able to find an empowering meaning behind what is happening to me.” Those are the confirmations that I use.

I have a couple of books that I listen to. Idil Ahmed is amazing. Manifest Now is one of her books. The other book is Inner Glimpse. I listened to that on my audiobook when I’m working out because it takes you through that process of building that mental muscle of your confirmation process. It’s beautiful. She’s articulate. I love it. I go to the psychological gymnasium. It’s part of what I do on a daily basis from Wim Hof Breathing, cold plunges, red light therapy, nutrition, my confirmation process, and my manifestation process. It’s all part of my morning routine to control my mood. If I’m controlling my mood, I’m controlling my destiny.

I love it. Of course, I love you. I want to come back on that confirmation piece because I want to make sure that people get this. I’m a word geek and you clearly are a word geek as well because words matter and they have energy, intensity, and direction. When we go into these statements and we recognize them as confirmations, it lands differently than if we were to use them and recognize them as an affirmation. It lands differently when we call it a confirmation because we recognize deep down in our unconscious that we are confirming what is already true. What you’re saying isn’t different. It’s what you believe it to be that’s different.

I want people to understand that because I think it’s super powerful and it’s a really easy thing out of all the great things that you’ve talked about. It’s also a very simple thing to do every morning when you wake up, maybe at lunch, or add it to when you go to bed. If you have a couple of confirmations that help you reaffirm your identity, how you want to show up, and who you are, that can make all the difference. That can be the shift in energy, reset moment that happens, and have you enter the experience you’re going into in the way that you want to. You’re going to have the experience you want versus the experience that could have been if you weren’t intentional and purposeful about it.

One of my patients has a great idea that she does for her confirmation. She makes it her password for her computer.

Awesome. That’s a great one.

She’ll put “I am a rockstar, I am enough, or whatever it may be. She makes her passwords her confirmations.

That’s a great place for us to end this show. Tell people where they can reach you and find your online program.

Thank you again, Penny. How much fun is this?

That’s great.

You can find me on and there’s an online program. Take a look at that. What we’re talking about is doing the Simple Things Better and small incremental changes over time. My purpose and passion are to inspire and empower individuals to break the chains of limiting beliefs so they can unlock their true potential and live the life of their dreams. If you have health and vitality, you have the freedom to live life on your terms.

Thank you so much for being here, Tom.

My pleasure. Thank you, Penny girl.

For all of you who are reading, another great episode with Dr. Thomas Duncan. He’s got a world of great nuggets. What I love about it is, he’s a medical doctor and he is coming from all of that incredible knowledge from the medical field, but he’s also very much into the psychology from neurolinguistics. He talked about integrative medicine as more holistic and he’s very down to earth. You can hear the words that he’s using. These are things that he’s helped to make simple and help to make those simple things better. Please go check out his work. Be on the lookout for his new book and thank you so much for being here. Remember to confirm and make those confirmations for yourself, morning, noon, and night. We’ll see you in the next episode.


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About Dr. Thomas Duncan

TBT Managing your Mood | Control Your MoodDr. Thomas Duncan is a family physician who practices functional and integrative medicine in Olympia, WA. He is a master neurostrategist in neurolinguistics. Additionally, he is the author of the upcoming book Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, 3 Simple Steps to Take Control of Your Life. Also, he hosts 1-day seminars called STB Simple Things Better.



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