167. Get Curious and Change Unhealthy Habits with Judson Brewer

We all have unhelpful habits, and whether you overeat, use substances, or worry, you may have noticed these habits have gotten worse lately. In this episode, Diana joins Dr. Judson Brewer (Dr. Jud), neuroscientist and author of The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits, for a fascinating conversation about why stress makes our habits and addictions worse. Additionally, they talk about what’s happening in your brain when you’re caught in these habits, and how to unhook from even the trickiest ones using mindfulness and curiosity.

Listen and Learn:

  • Diana’s and Debbie’s pandemic habits
  • How Diana’s shifting unhelpful habits to values-based ones (get her free download here!)
  • The three core elements of a habit
  • What’s happening in your brain when you are craving
  • Why uncertainty and stress makes it harder to break unhealthy habits
  • How anxiety and rumination are similar to smoking and eating 
  • Dr. Jud’s groundbreaking brain research on mindfulness and the Default Mode Network
  • How curiosity changes your brain and why it is key to unhooking from habit loops
  • Why it doesn’t work to “think your way out of a craving” or “think your way out of anxiety”
  • Mindfulness tools you can use right now with yourself and your kids to get grounded
  • Why swapping choosing kindness and generosity over self-righteous rumination is “so much sweeter”
  • The personal values that underlie Dr. Jud’s work


Listen to Diana’s interviews with Paul Gilbert here and here to learn more about threat, drive, and compassion systems in the brain

Dr Jud Brewer headshot
Dr. Jud Brewer

About Dr. Judson Brewer

Dr. Judson Brewer 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. Before that, he held research and teaching positions at Yale University and the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness. Read more about his research here.

As an addiction psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for treating addictions, Dr. Jud 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. 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.”

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Episode 167