This Habit Can Ease Anxiousness In Just 10 Minutes (A Neuroscientist Says So)
Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D., author of Good Anxiety, loves to research what she deems "very, very practical neuroscience." In terms of reducing anxiousness, she continues, "What is the minimum most powerful activity [people] can do to decrease their levels of [anxiousness]?" she says on the mindbodygreen podcast. Or to put it simply: How can you get the most bang for your buck?
We've discussed Suzuki's brain-healthy smoothie recipe and affinity for tea meditations (both of which are also practical neuroscience habits, we should add)—and now we're back with another one of her easy, yet profound, techniques. Allow Suzuki to explain the power of mindful conversation.
How to reduce anxiousness through mindful conversation.
Suzuki, a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University, created a quick lab experiment: She invited students to engage in a 10-minute mindful conversation about their favorite vacation—a neutral yet positive topic—with one of her research assistants. The only parameters? "It's just a conversation where my undergraduate is trained to listen to you deeply," she shares.
Afterward, when the students reflected on the experience, they noted the profound benefits of having someone to connect with. Suzuki recounts, "[They said,] 'It was so nice to have a conversation where somebody really listened to me and asked questions about this experience that I found useful.'" Not only do the vacation memories themselves conjure positive emotions (which can help enhance mood), but the deeper exchange between two people can cultivate feelings of validation—which, in turn, Suzuki says can help ease stress.
We should note that Suzuki saw these benefits in a lab setting between two people who met for the very first time. "It's even easier to do it with somebody that you know," she says. To practice mindful conversation in your own life, here's your homework: "Really be present," Suzuki says. "Listen deeply, be curious, ask questions, and give a timeline."
For instance, Suzuki allotted her students 10 minutes, but you could dedicate 15 or 20 minutes to discuss one person's vacation before switching stories. No matter your timeline, make sure you fill the space with curiosity, follow-ups, and details. "It really makes a difference."
When it comes to conversation, our default is not always to practice this kind of listening: "You start to realize how many superficial conversations [we have]," says Suzuki. "Communicating mindfully with another person means listening for its own sake, and not just waiting to respond." While it's important to speak with a trained professional if these feelings are overwhelming, mindful conversation can help reduce feelings of anxiousness for all parties involved—the key is just taking the time to be present and truly listen.
Olivia Giacomo is mbg's Social Media Associate. A recent graduate from Georgetown University, she has previously written for LLM Law Review.