Understanding Anxiety with Dr. Jud Brewer

by | Jan 7, 2021 | Podcast

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What We Discuss in this Episode:

  • Anxiety can be perpetuated as a habit. To break this habit, we have to identify the cycle of anxiety.
  • The “first gear” is to map out triggers, behaviors, and results. If we are not even aware of the habit, we’re actually moving in reverse.
  • The “second gear” is identifying the reward hierarchy of the result. Once you have set the reward, you stop thinking about any of it and merely continue in the result. With bad habits, it is critical to identify what you’re gaining from this behavior. Once you do this, you can drop the bad habit’s reward value and step out of the habit.
  • The “third gear” is the bigger, better offer. In this stage, mindfulness can take the place of the bad habit and become the reward.
  • Curiosity feels better in our brain than worry. Mindfulness helps us switch to being curious about our feelings, instead of avoiding. Further, when we observe thoughts, we are not as attached to them.
  • In modern society, science has become a religion. Putting scientific language behind these ancient philosophies helps people give it a chance.
  • Whether it’s a good habit or a bad habit, mindfulness helps us see very clearly what we get out of the results we’ve hardwired. For example, does it help us feel better to be divisive or work together? We can’t logic through this to change our behavior. It must come from experience. Mindfulness unlocks that ability.

Mentioned in the Podcast:

Judson Brewer, MD, PhD

Dr. Jud is a thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery,” having more 20 years of experience with mindfulness training with his scientific research therein. Dr. Jud 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 the executive medical director of behavioral health at Sharecare, and a research affiliate at MIT. Previously, he held research and teaching positions at Yale University and the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness.

As an addiction psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for treating addictions, Dr. Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments for smoking, emotional eating, and anxiety (Eat Right Now, Unwinding Anxiety and Craving to Quit).

Based on the success of these programs in the lab, he co-founded MindSciences, Inc. – acquired by Sharecare in 2020 – to create app-based digital therapeutic versions of these programs for a wider audience, working with individuals, corporations, and hospital systems to put effective, evidence-based behavior change guidance in the hands of people struggling with unwanted behaviors and “everyday addictions.”

Modern Science, Ancient Wisdom

Dr. Brewer has also studied the underlying neural mechanisms of mindfulness using standard and real-time fMRI and EEG neurofeedback, adding to the understanding of the brain’s “Default Mode Network” and the role of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) in self-referential thinking. He regularly gives talks on the intersection of modern science and ancient meditative practices, helping to expose a modern audience to specific techniques and insights first discovered 2,500 years ago.

He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, trained U.S. Olympic athletes and coaches, foreign government ministers and corporate leaders. His work has been featured on 60 Minutes, TED (4th most viewed talk of 2016), TIME magazine (top 100 new health discoveries of 2013), Forbes, CNN, BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera (documentary about his research), The Washington Post, Businessweek and others. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and American Heart Association, among others. He is also the author of The Craving Mind: from cigarettes to smartphones to love, why we get hooked and how we can break bad habits (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017).

Jud and his wife Mahri live in Massachusetts where they enjoy biking, hiking, and meditating with their two cats, Ananda and Julian of Norwich.


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