How to Harness the Power of Anxiety With Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki

Wendy Suzuki

Verywell / Julie Bang

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews authors, experts, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Wendy Suzuki

Wendy Suzuki is a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University. 

She invests much of her time studying brain plasticity—how the brain is able to grow and adapt over the lifespan. She is known for her extensive work studying areas of the brain that are critical to our ability to develop and retain long-term memories.

Her books include "Healthy Brain, Happy Life" and "Good Anxiety."

Why Wendy Suzuki Is Mentally Strong

It used to be thought that the brain stopped producing new neurons after a certain age. But research like Wendy’s has helped change this idea. She’s shown that the brain can continue to grow and adapt over time.

One of her major areas of research involves exercise and the impact this has on the brain. That led to her first book. But she’s also conducted a lot of research on anxiety and how we can use it as a way to empower ourselves.

Although she’s an expert in the field, she doesn’t shy away from talking about her own experiences. She shares the strategies that have helped her work through grief and how she manages her own anxiety

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • Why anxiety is such a powerful emotion
  • How we can start harnessing that power to help us
  • The difference between clinical anxiety and everyday anxiety
  • How to identify the coping skills you currently use to deal with anxiety
  • Why comfort foods and alcohol make anxiety worse
  • Why deep breathing exercises are so good for anxiety
  • The top breathing exercise Wendy recommends
  • How exercise and strength training combat anxiety
  • Why you should go get a massage
  • The benefits of being in nature
  • How giving away money can shift your mindset
  • What Wendy’s loss taught her about emotional pain
  • How the negative contrast effect can make us happier even when bad things happen
  • How to manage pandemic anxiety
  • How your pet can help you deal with anxious feelings

What You’ll Learn About Mental Health and Mental Strength

Anxiety feels uncomfortable. And for the most part, we don’t want to experience it. 

But we should have some anxiety. After all, it is meant to keep us safe. Anxiety might warn you of danger or steer you toward better decisions.

Your anxiety alarm bell might be a bit faulty, however. It might ring loudly even when you’re not in any actual danger. 

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage anxiety in a healthy way. As Wendy says, you can learn to harness it in a way that it becomes more of a benefit, rather than a hindrance.

Quotes From Wendy

Wendy Suzuki, PhD

Anxiety isn't the same as deep grief that comes with a death of somebody that you love, but there is pain that comes with anxiety. And I ask myself what wisdom, what gifts could come from that pain?

— Wendy Suzuki, PhD
  • "Those comfort foods can be immediately comforting. But in the long run they can shift your emotional balance to actually make those feelings of anxiety worse over the long term."
  • "I needed gifts to come out of pain and anxiety."
  • "That unconditional love that you get from your pets is a wonderful, quick fix to decrease your anxiety and get that kind of endorphin high."

More About the Podcast

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Links and Resources

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.