Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D.,and author of “Good Anxiety”, loves to research what she deems “very, very practical neuroscience,” looking at the minimum most powerful activity people can do to decrease their levels of anxiousness.
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 favourite holiday -a neutral yet positive topic – with one of her research assistants.
“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 holiday memories conjure up 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 practise mindful conversation in your own life:
“Really be present, listen deeply, be curious, ask questions, and give your conversation a timeline.”
For instance, Suzuki allotted her students 10 minutes, but you could dedicate 15 or 20 minutes to discuss your topic before changing 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 practise this kind of listening: “You start to realise 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 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.