Sometimes, anxiety creeps up on us and we can’t pinpoint the reasons behind it. Feelings of anxiety can be evoked by our nervous system picking up on various signals that we’re exposed to throughout the day, that we aren’t aware of until the build-up becomes too much.
Here are three quick and easy scientifically-backed fixes that can have a deeply positive impact on your mood.
Fix your posture
According to a 2017 study, 86 percent of participants were more easily able to access uplifting memories when in an upright position, but when in a slumped position, were better able to recall depressive memories. This study suggests that our bodies have a significant influence on our moods, a concept called postural feedback.
As a manual therapist and movement coach Aaron Alexander told mindbodygreen, “if you’re in a position all the time, it becomes your personality.” This means that you can impact your mood by taking advantage of a more aligned posture and upright postural patterns. If you’re someone who sits hunched over a desk and a computer all day and want some tips on how you can correct this, then check out these helpful articles we wrote on the topic here and here.
Listen to a crackling fire
Sitting next to a crackling fire tends to be a calming experience, and it turns out that this effect is linked to how we evolved as humans. “The crackling of fire for a very long time has been an indicator to your automatic nervous system that you’re safe,” Alexander explains. “You’re protected, you’re warm, you’re sitting around the fire, you’re sharing stories, you’re connecting with people. The predators are going to stay away because they’re scared of the fire.”
There’s a 2014 study that found that hearths and campfires induce relaxation and lower blood pressure. Of course, not everyone will have a fireplace or be able to whip up a bonfire at a moment’s notice, but apparently, a virtual fire from YouTube will work just fine.
This tip is also somewhat related to posture. Just as a slumped, hunched-over posture can negatively impact your mood, looking down can also affect your state of mind. Looking down can bring down your energy, according to Alexander, because it signals to your automatic nervous system that “it’s time to get sleepy.”
However, looking up sends “the signal that it’s time to wake up, time to get creative, time to come up with ideas.” This is why experts advise those suffering from a creative block to gaze out at wide distances—there is evidence that peripheral vision activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Tunnel vision is what happens when your pupils dilate as a response to adrenaline that floods your body in a fight-or-flight situation. Peripheral vision sends the opposite signal to your body that tunnel vision does. Instead of focusing on one thing, like a threat to our livelihood, peripheral vision speeds up neural processing and boosts creativity.