7 Ways to Help Lower Anxiety Naturally

  1. Get a good night’s sleep.

Research shows that after a full night of sleep — 7-9 hours is ideal — we’re likely to feel less anxious and more confident. Physical activity during the day will help us sleep better, too. And remember: if winding down for the night inclues reading before bed, don’t make these mistakes.

  1. Fill the plate with anti-anxiety foods.

Science is discovering more about the “gut-brain connection.” Researchers often refer to the belly as the second brain, since about 95% of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut. (It’s why we get butterflies in our stomach when we’re anxious.) Science shows that foods containing certain vitamins and minerals may help reduce anxiety, so when we’re thinking about natural ways to help anxiety, consider filling up on these:

  • Leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, which are rich in magnesium. Evidence suggests that magnesium may have a beneficial effect on anxiety.
  • Oysters, liver, and egg yolks contain the mineral zinc, which has been linked to lower anxiety.
  • Wild Alaskan salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce anxiety.
  • Turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which the body needs to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin that helps regulate sleep and mood.
  • Berries, apples, prunes, cherries, plums, broccoli, beets, and spices like ginger and turmeric are all high in antioxidants. Anxiety is thought to be correlated with lower levels. Artichokes and asparagus, which is widely used in Chinese medicine, are known for their anti-anxiety properties.

It might also be a good idea to limit caffeine and alcohol — both of which can aggravate symptoms of anxiety.

  1. Take a vitamin B-complex or a probiotic supplement.

Research shows that B vitamins have many health and quality of life benefits, and supplementing with B vitamins is gaining scientific traction. This 2018 study found that people who ate food high in B vitamins showed significant improvements in their anxiety and stress scores than those who did not. Taking a high-quality B-complex supplement is generally very safe, since B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning the body excretes what it doesn’t use. But always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements since they can interact with medications or have side effects.

  1. Warm up in a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi, or hot bath.

Most of us associate feelings of warmth with a sense of calm and well-being — much the same way we would relaxing in the sun on a sandy beach. Research shows that heating up the body, whether in a bath, steam room, or sauna, reduces muscle tension and anxiety. Sensations of warmth may alter neural circuits that control mood, including those that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin. Try cozying upby a fire with a cup of tea or hot cocoa, too.

  1. Spend time in nature.

Most of us intuitively feel relaxed and less anxious when we’re outdoors, but in fact there’s science to back that up. Spending time in any natural setting lowers our blood pressure, heart rate, and the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. Research analyzing data from 10,000 people found that those living near more green space reported less mental distress.

When it comes to the healing power of nature, Japan is clearly at the forefront with their practice of shinrin-yoku, roughly translated as “forest bathing,” or “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It’s about experiencing nature through all 5 senses, being mindful and present, absorbing the beauty, sounds, scents, and light in your surroundings. It’s a cornerstone of preventive healthcare in Japan, with officially designated trails, organized walks, and guided meditations.

  1. Consider complementary treatments like acupuncture, aromatherapy, and massage.

Of course a massage feels fantastic, but it’s also recognized as an integrative medicine technique, and often recommended to treat anxiety and insomnia caused by stress. Therapeutic massage relieves muscle tension, improves circulation, and helps lower the fight-or-flight response that’s typically overactive in people with anxiety disorders.

Acupuncture has become an accepted treatment for both medical and mental-health conditions, and it’s also more widely available, including through many hospitals. (Some insurance policies will cover a set number of treatments.) Acupuncturists and medical professionals are unclear exactly why it helps with anxiety, but research notes that acupuncture appears to have a calming effect. If you’re considering treatment, speak with your doctor first. To find a licensed practitioner, check the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture websites.

Aromatherapy uses essential oils derived from various plants to promote well-being. They can be diffused throughout a room, added to bath water or massage oil, and are an ingredient in body lotions, candles, and incense.

  • Lavender oil is known for its soothing effects and promoting restful sleep.
  • Lemon essential oil may help lift your mood, calm fearful thoughts, and relieve stress.
  • Bergamot oil is said to ease anxiety and encourage deep relaxation.
  • Ylang-ylang, derived from the flowers of the ylang-ylang tree, may help with self-esteem perception.
  1. Start a meditation practice with Headspace.

While there’s no getting rid of anxiety, meditation can have a benefit after only one session. But with a regular meditation practice, we increase our ability to manage anxiety. Studies show when it becomes a habit, meditation helps us develop the skills to better manage anxiety and stress, and cultivate peace of mind.

“Meditation isn’t about resisting anxiety or pushing it away,” says Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. “It’s about changing our relationship to it, being at ease with it, and being okay with it when it arises, without buying into it. When we’re able to watch the anxiety come and go, then that’s a really comfortable, healthy place to be.”



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