You can better manage your anxiety with a Holistic Lifestyle and good nutrition, says research.
Anxiety is the most common mental health challenge Canadians face, and global rates are on the rise. Luckily, there are easy ways to manage anxiety naturally with a holistic lifestyle. From nutrition to daily activities, science has uncovered simple things you can do today, to manage your anxiety and feel better.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to manage anxiety naturally, according to a large study that found adults who live an active lifestyle have a lower risk of anxiety.
Regular exercise helps reduce anxiety and boost your mood as it causes the release of feel-good hormones and chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins. Exercise also causes anandamide (a natural cannabis-like chemical, or endocannabinoid) to be released.
Plus, the health benefits of exercise are fantastic, which include improvements in blood pressure, blood sugars, strength, and better sleep. However, being physically active may also help reduce your dependency on unhealthy options, such as alcohol consumption, or dwelling on your feelings to manage your anxiety.
How much exercise do you need to manage anxiety?
Doing about 30 minutes of exercise a day, for 3 to 5 days a week, may significantly improve anxiety symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. It may also improve symptoms of depression.
Exposure to nature-based spaces is a great way to manage anxiety naturally. Mounting evidence shows mental health benefits of spending time in natural environments, including a sense of relaxation and less anxiety. Forest bathing is an example of a holistic lifestyle habit that can help manage anxiety naturally.
How much time do you need to spend in nature to reduce anxiety?
Studies suggest at least 120 minutes a week. That’s equivalent to taking an 18-minute walk each day in a forested or green area – which sounds pretty pleasant.
Mindfulness may be as effective as some medications for anxiety, according to an interesting human study. After 8 weeks in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, participants in the study reported a 30% decline in their anxiety levels.
How does mindfulness help manage anxiety?
To help you increase your capacity to bear anxiety, instead of trying to ignore this uncomfortable feeling, mindfulness helps you make peace with it. Mindfulness allows you to become aware of your thoughts and emotions so you can move through and beyond them.
Certain foods have anti-inflammatory potential, such as berries, leafy greens, and some spices. However, the most researched anti-inflammatory food may be omega-3 fatty acids.
According to a review of 16 human studies, omega-3 supplementation reduces the severity of anxiety symptoms. In Canada, regulations by Health Canada allow omega-3 supplements (containing EPA and DHA) the claim to “help to promote healthy mood balance”.
How do anti-inflammatory foods help manage anxiety?
Inflammation plays a major role in anxiety, with higher rates of inflammation found in those struggling with mental health. The interaction between inflammation and anxiety appears to be complex. In simple terms, evidence suggests inflammation can be neurotoxic to the brain, impacting its well-being.
Another anti-inflammatory food that may help you manage anxiety naturally is turmeric. There is a natural compound called curcumin in turmeric. In 32 human trials, curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation has been noted.
Yet, there’s more going on here than an ability to reduce inflammation. In 5 human studies, curcumin significantly reduced anxiety symptoms. Research notes this may be caused by curcumin’s ability to modulate dopamine, a chemical in the brain known to improve mental health.
Evidence has linked anxiety with unhealthy gut microbiomes, a state called dysbiosis. A healthy gut microbiome is another way you can manage your anxiety naturally.
Connected by the vagus nerve, the gut is in direct communication with the brain and capable of impacting mental health.
Most interestingly, research has found that the microbiome influences the part of the brain involved in anxiety and fear recall, called the amygdala.
How does gut health impact anxiety?
The helpful microbes, called probiotics, can positively influence the anatomy and chemistry of anxiety thanks to their impacts on short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), cytokine production (inflammation), and gut peptides.
A deficiency in vitamin D is linked with anxiety and other emotional disorders, according to research. Increasing your body’s vitamin D levels can help you manage anxiety naturally, suggests evidence in several studies.
The problem for Canadians is skin exposure to UVB rays which form pre-vitamin D3, the precursor to the vitamin D2 and D3 the body needs, is limited. There is a lack of sunlight exposure in dark, northern hemisphere locations. With limited food sources of vitamin D, supplementation may be required to meet ideal levels to reduce anxiety symptoms.
For more help with using a holistic lifestyle to manage your anxiety naturally, reach out to Holistic Nutrition Professionals, such as Registered Holistic Nutritionists.
Discover more about becoming a Holistic Nutrition Professional – at home!
Physical activity is associated with lower long-term incidence of anxiety in a population-based, large-scale study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2021 Sept 10, 12.
Can physical activity support the endocannabinoid system in the preventive and therapeautic approach to neurological disorders? International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2020 Jun; 21(12): 4221.
Associations between nature exposure and health: a review of the evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021 May; 18(9): 4790.
Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports 2019 Jun 13; 9: 7730.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction vs Escitalopram for the treatment of adults with anxiety disorders: a randomized clinical trial. Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry, 2022 Nov 9; 80(1): 13-21.
Altered gut microbiota profile in patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research 2018 Sep; 104: 130-136.
The microbiome regulates amygdala-dependent fear recall. Molecular Psychiatry 2018 May; 23(5): 1134-1144.
Neuroinflammation-associated alterations of the brain as potential neural biomarkers in anxiety disorders. International Journal of Molecular Science 2020 Sep; 21(18): 6546.
Potential role of curcumin for the treatment of major depressive disorder. CNS Drugs 2022, 141.
Curcumin for depression: a meta-analysis. Critical Review Food Science Nutrition 2020 Aug; 60(15): 2643-2653.
Does omega-3 lessen anxiety? Association of the use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with changes in severity of anxiety symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-based Practice, 2021 March; 24(3): 6-7.
Relationship between vitamin D deficiency and psychophysiological variables: a systematic review of the literature. Clinics (Sao Paulo) 2021; 76: e3155.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.