If you’re concerned about your anxiety levels, a few changes to your lifestyle may well improve your mood a lot over time.
Well-controlled studies in this area are not plentiful, but there is evidence to suggest that anxiety can be lessened by:
• aerobic exercise;
• healthy diet;
• relaxation training (in which you learn to progressively relax your muscles);
• mindfulness (a synthesis of modern Western psychological thinking and ancient Buddhist beliefs and practices, particularly meditation, that emphasizes learning to live in the moment, and understanding that your thoughts and feelings are temporary, transient, and not necessarily a reflection of reality).
A telling illustration of the difference the first two on this list can make was provided by a two-year study of more than 10,000 people living in some of the poorest areas of Britain. Large increases in the amount of physical exercise taken or the quantity of fruit and vegetables eaten led to significant improvements in mental health. In particular, people reported feeling much more peaceful and happy.
Anxiety can cause major difficulties for many people. But, as we’ve seen, there are now many ways of dealing with problematic anxiety. Some have been recognized for centuries; some were discovered by chance; and some of the most promising are based on the research into the causes of anxiety we’ve described in this book.