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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Weighted Blankets Reduce Anxiety. But Why?

Humanity is on a journey of discovery - nowhere more so than in the recesses of the mind. It is what goes on here that matters most to our lives. And yet, surprisingly little is known about how the brain actually works, and why we sometimes feel the way that we do.

To tackle this problem, researchers have taken all sorts of tacks - some of them a little weirder than others. Perhaps the most surprising recent discovery is that weighted blankets appear to reduce the signs of anxiety and help people get a better night's sleep.

How Weighted Blankets Address Anxiety

A weighted blanket is simply a regular blanket, but with the addition of extra material that intentionally makes it heavier. Practitioners have known for a long time that the extra weight seems to offer children therapeutic benefits, but they didn't have a great deal of science to back up their intuitions.

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Now researchers have confirmed that weighted blankets really do make people feel better. Participants in experiments report how they feel more relaxed and content when blankets apply comfortable pressure to their bodies.

Okay, that's interesting. But why does it happen? How can a blanket deal with something as intractable as anxiety? 

Researchers don't have definitive theories on that matter. However, it could be to do with the fact that people associated pressure with receiving hugs or physical touch - two things that often help to relieve feelings of worry.

Another theory states that the positive effects come directly from deep touch receptors in the body. When we feel the embrace of another person, it activates particular receptors that send unique signals to the brain, signaling comfort. Blankets mimic this effect.

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Weighted Blankets Aren't The Only Strange Thing That Reduces Anxiety

Weighted blankets, however, aren't unique in their ability to suppress feelings of anxiety. Researchers have found other unexpected things that may have a similar effect.

For instance, mindfulness can change the brain's structure in ways that make anxiety less of a problem in somebody's life. Similarly, telehealth appointments with professionals can help guide patients through their most difficult times, recasting their feelings in a more manageable form.

Fermented foods are another option. Things like miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh all contain probiotics that can change the structure of bacteria in the gut, altering mood in profound and decisive ways. Researchers think that this leads to lower social anxiety.

Please be aware that introducing a lot of probiotics in a short space of time can lead to radically uncontrollable flatulence. Where possible, introduce them slowly. If you introduce them quickly, you may be unable to stop farting, and that could make your social anxiety even more challenging.

Finally, you can reduce anxiety through dietary means. People who eat whole foods high in omega 3, like linseed, experience less brain inflammation and generally feel healthier and less sluggish. DHA and EPA in algae oil appear to be particularly useful in this regard. Within a few weeks, you could be feeling much better.

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