It’s no secret that some behaviors are better for us than others. However, it’s not always so clear just how far-reaching the negative impacts of bad habits can be. In the Western world, the emphasis on rational reductionism can obscure cause and effect. This occurs through compartmentalization and viewing issues in isolation.
To understand how our actions impact how we think and feel, we have to take a step back, reunify the parts and look at things as a whole. We want to remember that the mind, body, energy, and emotions each play a role in how we experience the world. This impacts any system that affects others, for better and worse.
The following habits deserve attention because they are known drivers of anxiety. By recognizing the part each plays in exacerbating the disorder, we can take steps to minimize or even eliminate their impacts.
Excess social media/news
One consequence of reducing ideas to their simplest form is that many people believe that calories are all created equal. If you consume the right amount for your height, weight, and gender, you’ll be fine. Even medical doctors scarcely receive education on nutrition (less than 25 hours in four years and less than 20% of schools require a dedicated nutrition course). Instead, most instruction focuses on pharmaceutical and surgical interventions.
The result is that nutrition has been undervalued, with costs to the healthcare system that are through the roof. In the case of anxiety, studies show that dysbiosis (an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the gut) has a direct causal link with the disorder.The use of specific strains of probiotics is currently being explored to reduce symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
This is good news, but what about suggesting that people prevent disease by eating foods (whole foods in a rainbow of color) that support the healthy life forms in their digestive tract rather than feeding the bad ones? Perhaps you’d think twice about consuming highly processed food, heavy laden with trans fats, sugar, and salt, if you knew how directly you were feeding your anxiety.
It’s possible that feeling anxious is your physical body telling you it wants to move. We evolved over millennia to be active beings, and our bodies still need/crave activity. The modern world has led more and more people to sit for extended periods and exercise less. A situation that doesn’t bode well for physical or mental health.Fortunately, studies have shown an inverse relationship between exercise and anxiety. This means that resisting the urge to be still for long periods, incorporating walk breaks into the day, taking a dance class, hitting the gym, or going for a hike can actually reduce your anxiety.
The longest-lived people worldwide maintain close relationships with others across their lifespans. Contrarily, isolation and loneliness are linked to higher levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide rates, as well as heart disease and reduced cognitive function.Our society emphasizes individuality, but we might better serve our overall health by fostering more collective activity and building a sense of community. Also, It matters if it’s personal and direct, which leads us to our final anxiety-inducing habit to avoid.
Excess Social Media/News
There is a sweet spot to both social media and news consumption which falls far below what most people consume. Both have been shown to increase anxiety and have addictive elements revealing how they could be driving a toxic cycle that keeps people held in the grip of dis-ease.
The attention economy perpetuates this already vicious cycle by inundating people with advertisements, alerts, and reminders while simultaneously fanning the flames of FOMO. Succumbing to these snares on your time and attention could be a notable player in your anxiety.
Rewire Your Anxious Brain for Healthy Habits
Just as bad habits potentially exacerbate or cause anxiety, healthy habits can do the opposite. It pays to be a careful consumer of food and information. It also yields favorable results to move regularly with joy and perhaps in the company of loved ones.
And, for those who genuinely want to optimize mental function, there are healing modalities such as breathwork, meditation, and trauma recovery (through therapy, hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming, etc.) that can help elevate you to the next level, both releasing anxiety and stress stored in the body, and rewiring the brain for healthier habits.