Episode 305

Judson Brewer - Unwinding Anxiety. Breaking the Habit of Worry and Fear

Judson is a psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and author of the book, Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal your Mind. He has combined his expertise in mindfulness, habit, and behavioral change, and neuroscience to create practical tools to help unwind anxiety. The interview offers several ways to uncover what triggers anxiety and how to identify and break these anxiety habits using a variety of methods, including mindfulness and reward-based learning.

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  • Recent research has uncovered incredible insights on how the brain functions — and what might cause patterns of anxiety and panic.
  • When we’re anxious, our pre-frontal cortex tends to go ‘offline’ so it can’t do what it’s designed to do…think and plan.  This is why ‘willpower’ doesn’t always work when trying to change something. 
  • Anxiety can be a habit or pattern of thought.  Simply being aware of the habit is a great start. 
  • Judson’s Three Gears for Change:
  • First Gear: Mapping out your habit loops and become more aware of them. Recognize the behavior. 
  • Second Gear: Tapping into the brain's reward system. 
  • Third Gear: Creating a habit of curiosity and kindness toward yourself. We can train ourselves to shift from anxiety (contraction) to curiosity (openness, expansion).  
  • The definition of addiction is “continued use despite adverse consequences.” Any behavior can go to this extreme. 
  • Research has discovered the neural pathways that make the traditional practice of mindfulness so effective, and how to apply it specifically to the modern epidemic of anxiety. 
  • The process of identifying and breaking an anxiety loop includes identifying the trigger, the behavior and the reward or result of that behavior. 
  • Reward-based learning invites us to shift a reward or result of behavior and practice this many times.  A great quote is “Short moments. Many times.” 
  • Working with anxiety can help with insomnia as well. 
  • The most important thing one can do is to “know your own mind.” 


Learn more about Dr. Judson Brewer at HERE
Find his book Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal your Mind HERE
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