Fear is perhaps the most basic and primal emotion. It’s hard-wired into our brain for survival- to escape from the bear that’s chasing us, to get enough food to last through the winter, to find belonging and safety.
But what happens in modern-day times, when we no longer fleeing from bears on a day to day basis? Fear and negativity bias is still there all the same- looking out for what could go wrong, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Only this time, there’s no threat to our survival. This time, our fear and anxiety can actually get in the way of living a relaxed, peaceful life- in our relationship with food and our relationship with ourselves.
If our brain is designed to think through the negative possible outcomes all day long, and we don’t get curious about other positive interpretations, we’re likely to become very, very anxious over time. While that may be great for surviving in the wild (the person who is thinking about a potential bear attack is more likely to survive that than the person who doesn’t), it’s not so great for our day-to-day, relatively safe lives.
To make things worse, our brain doesn’t know the difference between our emotions and reality- it reacts in the same way when we imagine a threat as if the threat was actually happening. This means that if we’re thinking through our fears all day long, our body is staying in a state of fight-or-flight, or hyper-arousal. This makes us more tired and more emotionally vulnerable throughout the day (cue binge eating).
So knowing this information, what can we do to remedy this out-of-date, evolutionary instinct?
Awareness is key. Practice noticing when fear thoughts come up, and ask yourself- Do I know this for sure? What are the facts?
Non-judgemental curiosity is the remedy for our judgemental, fear-mongering brain. With lots of practice noticing these thoughts, checking the facts, and coming up with other possible interpretations, you can work towards rewiring your brain in a way that works for you, not against you.