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Using Mindfulness to Ease Worry and Anxiety

Dr. Judson Brewer | 02:51


Many of us don't actually know how our minds work, and this is especially true with anxiety – it can really feel like a black box. In fact, we might feel anxious and then start worrying as a way to exert control over that anxiety. This can inadvertently lead to a habit loop where anxiety triggers worrying as a behavior, and the feeling of control becomes the reward for our brain. However, our brains eventually realize that worrying isn't inherently rewarding, and this can initiate a cycle where worry amplifies anxiety, and anxiety intensifies worry. 

So, what can we do? The good news is that we've conducted extensive research on how our minds function in my lab, yielding some intriguing data that suggests relatively simple solutions. We can essentially intervene in this habit loop by allowing anxiety to spark our curiosity about the actual sensations, emotions, and thoughts in our bodies. 

This shift leads to a different kind of reward, as curiosity feels more positive than anxiety or worry. Instead of being ensnared in an unending cycle of worry, we can redirect our attention and inquire, "What am I experiencing right now? Where do I feel this? What thoughts are passing through my mind?" This approach prevents us from becoming entangled in the worry habit loop, allowing us to introduce a curious awareness and access the inherently rewarding nature of curiosity.

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