YANSS 218 – How anxiety hides in our unhealthy habits, why you can’t think your way out of it, and science says you should do instead

In this episode, Dr. Jud Brewer, a neuroscientist and addiction psychiatrist, discusses the biological origins of anxiety and how to unwind our feedback loops using techniques derived from his lab’s research.

Since his last appearance on the show, Dr. Jud has written and published a book which is now a NYT bestseller titled Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind which he describes as, “a clinically proven step-by-step plan to break the cycle of worry and fear that drives anxiety and addictive habits.”

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Patreon – SoundcloudOmnySpotify

Brewer is the author of The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love — Why We Get Hooked and how We Can Break Bad Habits — and his TED Talk on how to change a bad habit has more than 12 million views. He is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and associate professor in psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Brown University, as well as a research affiliate at MIT. He has held research and teaching positions at Yale University and the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness.

Here is the official description of his new book, Unwinding Anxiety:

“We think of anxiety as everything from mild unease to full-blown panic.But it’s also what drives the addictive behaviors and bad habits we use to cope (e.g. stress eating, procrastination, doom scrolling and social media). Plus, anxiety lives in a part of the brain that resists rational thought. So we get stuck in anxiety habit loops that we can’t think our way out of or use willpower to overcome.

Dr. Brewer teaches us map our brains to discover our triggers, defuse them withthe simple but powerful practice of curiosity, and to train our brains using mindfulness and other practices that his lab has proven can work.

Distilling more than 20 years of research and hands-on work with thousands of patients, including Olympic athletes and coaches, and leaders in government and business, Dr. Brewer has created a clear, solution-oriented program that anyone can use to feel better — no matter how anxious they feel.”

  • Willpower is weaker than you think: you cannot think your way out of anxiety.
  • Our brains have tricked us into thinking that we need to be anxious to get things done and perform well. Anxiety doesn’t actually improve performance.
  • Fear + Uncertainty = Anxiety. This is our brain’s survival system trying to help, but getting lost in today’s world.
  • Anxiety is a habit loop. Anxiety and worry feed on each other, getting us stuck, and making both worse.
  • Anxiety hides in unhealthy habits (e.g. stress eating, procrastination, distraction with social media)
  • The key component in the process of unwinding anxiety is learning to be curious.
  • You do need to learn how to be mindful and aware,but you don’t have to learn to meditate. Curiosity is a natural way into being mindfully aware.
  • You have to know how your mind works, before you can work with it
  • You can hack your brain’s reward system to overcome anxiety (and other unhealthy habits)

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Patreon – SoundcloudOmnySpotify

Previous Episodes

Jud Brewer’s Website

Brewer’s Lab: Mindsciences

Unwinding Anxiety

The Apps ( use code YANSS20 for 20% off )

The Mindfulness Center