If you deal with anxiety, you know just how crippling it can be to your day to day life. It affects your work, relationships, and overall well-being. It can seem like a never ending battle. All can seem hopeless. However, more and more studies are showing the effectiveness of meditation for anxiety. Meditation can help calm anxiety and perhaps re-wire your brain to avoid anxiety altogether. Here are five ways to use mindful meditation to calm anxiety.
Mindful Meditation to Calm an Over Active Mind
“One aspect of anxiety is racing thoughts that won’t go away. Meditation helps with this part of the problem by quieting the overactive mind. You can detach yourself from these (thoughts) to rest in your own being. This involves remaining centered, and if a thought or outside trigger pulls you out of your center, your meditation practice allows you to return there again.” Deepak Chopra, M.D.
The crazy monkey mind, as some have come to call it, is one of the biggest struggles of those with anxiety. Your mind just keeps jumping from one thought to another and you can’t seem to turn it off. Or it starts with a small thought that snowballs into an hour long worry session, eventually ending in a panic attack. The experience is common among anxiety sufferers. So, using mindful meditation to calm anxiety, especially a racing mind, can be a powerful tool.
Meditation Can Change the Structure of Your Brain
“Meditation, like anxiety, changes the structure and function of your brain (but in a healthy, productive way). A regular meditation practice not only can reduce anxiety symptoms, it also can reverse the damage caused by anxiety. A meditation practice can help restore an optimal balance of neurotransmitters. Meditation also reduces cortisol, a stress hormone that, in excess, significantly contributes to anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and memory loss,” Deane Alban, at Be Brain Fit.
At the risk of sounding too woo-woo with this meditation talk, here is the scientific aspect of the effects of meditation on the brain. Take some time to read up on current studies and see how the medical field is being impacted by the findings. There seems to be more and more proof that meditation is much more than a placebo effect. If you’re serious about finding a long-term solution to your anxiety, mindful meditation should be on your list of things to try.
Meditation Can Ease the Restlessness in Your Mind and Body
Ed Halliwell, at Mindful.Org, says that after a period of regular meditation sessions, he “noticed that sustained practice tended to lead to a settling of my mind and body, rather than the escalation of frustration I had encountered in previous similar situations.”
How many times have you found yourself completely restless for no apparent reason? Anxiety can impact the body as well as the mind. As your thoughts roam around wildly, your body seems to be unable to find ease or calm. While sitting still in meditation can seem counterintuitive in this instance, it can actually have the opposite affect and bring a renewed sense of calm to both the mind and the body. Truly, using meditation to calm anxiety can help ease that feeling of restlessness.
Meditation Helps You to be Present
“Ultimately, meditation helps us slow down, get perspective, and think more objectively and with less knee-jerk reactivity. And that helps us be less anxious.” Tom Corboy, co-author of The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD.
When anxiety kicks in, your brain is focused on anything but the present moment. Whether its worries about the future, something that happened in the past, or simply fear of things around you… it’s incredibly difficult to drop into the present moment when you’re feeling anxious. Meditation acts as an anchor in those times, that brings you back to now, allowing you to slow down and focus. As such, it can help you avoid the anxious whirlwind that often leads to panic attacks.
Meditation Can Help you Resist the Fight or Flight Response to Stress
In a study reviewed by the ECO Institute, one Harvard University physician explains that “By using meditation to simultaneously activate the parasympathetic nervous system while deactivating the body’s ‘fight or flight’ stress mode, his patients reversed countless health issues, with anxiety often the first domino to fall.”
Again, many people brush off the idea of meditation as too far-fetched or pie-in-the-sky. But the reality is that there’s a strong connection between the mind and body, and meditation is one way to effect that connection. As an anxiety sufferer, you are probably familiar with the fight or flight mode. When your mind is riddled with busy thoughts, it leads your body to experience a plethora of symptoms as well. Using meditation as a tool to control that experience can lend itself to even greater overall health and well-being effects.
Hopefully by now you’re starting to see how beneficial meditation can be when it comes to calming and easing your anxiety. You don’t have jump into an hour long meditation session each day. Just five to ten minutes can be effective. Begin with a short, guided meditation like this one, and go from there.
Do you have a regular meditation practice? Have you used meditation to calm anxiety? How has it helped your anxiety? Share your experience with us in the comments below!
Feature photo: Brian Mann / Unsplash