Judson Brewer ("Dr. Jud") is a renowned addiction psychiatrist and neuroscientist who has spent over two decades studying the mechanisms of addiction and the effects of mindfulness on behavior change. On this episode of Flourishing After Addiction, it was great to talk with him about some extraordinary connections between the science of addiction and contemplative practice.
We talk about Jud's own experience with panic attacks, how he found mindfulness to be a powerful tool to work with anxiety, and how this personal experience helped him to see the connections between addictive cravings and the fundamental processes of anxiety. More broadly, we discuss how the urge to control our experiences is often the root of our suffering ("control is the problem, not the solution"). He connects this notion in how the brain's reward-based learning system works and how it can lead to perversely reinforcing unhelpful habits. And connecting this work to broader topics in contemplative practice, he describes how Buddhist philosophy and the concept of craving relates to the underpinnings of addiction he's uncovered in his neuroscience lab. We talk about the role of values and ethics in recovery and in treatment, including how to work with ethics as a practice without getting bogged down by a sense of obligation or guilt--approaching ethics with a sense of curiosity and openness, rather than judgment or rigidity.
And, to conclude the episode, Jud leads us through a beautiful guided practice of opening and curiosity, a mini-meditation to help us cultivate awareness and non-judgmental acceptance.
Dr. Jud Brewer is an addiction psychiatrist, neuroscientist, mindfulness practitioner, and author. He is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and an associate professor at the School of Public Health at Brown University. His research focuses on the neural mechanisms of mindfulness and how it can be used to treat addiction and other behavioral disorders. He has published numerous scientific articles, and he is the author of The Craving Mind (Yale University Press, 2017) and the New York Times best-seller, Unwinding Anxiety (Avery/Penguin Random House, 2021). He is also an experienced mindfulness teacher and has trained thousands of people in the art of meditation and mindfulness-based approaches to behavior change.
In this episode:
- Jud's website
- his apps for habit change
- Episodes mentioned: Melissa Febos, John Kelly, Elias Dakwar, and Eric Garland
- Jud's academic work connecting addiction science to the Buddhist concept of dependent origination: "Craving to quit"
- "Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity"
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