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I’m A Neuroscientist: This One Weird Trick Can Help Conquer Anxiety

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. No running with scissors. No talking at the movies. Life’s full of rules. But there’s one powerful rule you’ve probably never learned that can change your life. In 40 years of practicing psychiatry, I’ve seen this simple rule improve the lives of many of my patients. What is it?

I call it the 18-40-60 Rule.

Here’s the breakdown. At age 18, you tend to worry about what everybody else is thinking of you. When you hit age 40, you couldn’t care less what others think of you. And by the time you reach age 60, you finally come to the conclusion that nobody else has been thinking about you at all. People typically only think about themselves, not you!

I love sharing this little tidbit of insight into how our brains stay focused on ourselves, because it is so enlightening. Regardless of how old you are when you learn this lesson, it can help calm anxiety, decrease negativity, and soothe worries. At the same time, it boosts self-confidence, moods, and your general sense of contentment.

A 2021 survey of 2,000 older adults backs this up: An overwhelming 72% of the respondents said that in their 40s, they quit worrying about what other people thought of them–and doing so increased confidence and happiness.

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