Think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time in silence or with the aid of breathing, as a form of relaxation.
Meditation has been used for years in religious practices, but it wasn’t until recently that it has been taken up by those looking to just relax and clear their minds. Meditation techniques to reduce stress and anxiety are now widely known, and used.
6.8 million Americans suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This is a serious condition that cannot just be shut off. Sometimes the worry and fear drives us to spend the day hiding under the covers rather than facing it head on. And yes, there are supplements/medications for generalized anxiety disorder, but meditation has ZERO harmful side effects. What if these 6.8 million people could benefit from the meditation technique to relieve symptoms of everyday worry and stress?
Society isn’t what actually worries those with anxiety, but rather our fixed habit of mind that causes us to respond with anxiety. “Born worriers” don’t know how else to approach a situation except with anxious thoughts because that is how our brain works. Even the smallest thing like thinking about locking the door when you left, or what are we going to do for the holidays. We think we are helping others by being the ones worried about these things, but in reality being anxious about the situation is not actually helping. And that is why “born worriers” need to practice controlling the mind in these situations. Meditation techniques are hard to teach, and take a lot of time, but they can mean the difference between healthy/happy life or health issues down the road!
Meditation is the act of getting in touch with ones emotions and strengthening the cognitive ability to control them. Controlling where the mind goes and where it doesn’t. Those who suffer with anxiety have a hard time regulating emotional responses to perceived threats.
The type of meditation that has been proven to decrease anxiety at a neural level is called mindful meditation. This technique is based on the principles of breath and body sensation focus and the evaluation of distracting thoughts and emotions without judgement or discrimination.
A study done by Wake Forest Baptist reports, “Brain imaging found that meditation-related anxiety relief was associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex and anterior insula. These areas of the brain were involved with executive function and control of worrying. Meditation-related activation of these three regions was directly linked to anxiety relief.”
So by activating these areas of the brain we can significantly lower every day anxiety, as well as control self-referential thoughts and empathy. One simple meditation technique for anxiety could change a lot of lives, ifit was a little more well known.
Mindfulness does not always mean sitting in one spot in the dark/quiet and thinking. Mindfulness is simply just recognizing what is around you and what you are feeling, which you can do wherever you are.
Meditation does not have to be a significant amount of time to be successful. Even starting with 2 minutes per day will help you create the habit and then you can lengthen your practice from there.
Just 10 quick minutes everyday can help to:
• Rewire your brain
• Balance brain chemicals
• Reduce brain inflammation
• Build a better brain
There are a few different mindful meditation techniques that can lower anxiety. There is not a right or wrong way to do it, but rather, what works best for you that you feel more at peace when it is over. There is a lot of information out there about different meditation exercises for anxiety and how to do them, so let’s dive into the most common!
Sit quietly with your eyes closed.
Breath normally and notice your breath. Is it quick and shallow or slow and deep?
Think to yourself “breathe in, breathe out” as you try to keep your other thoughts at bay.
If another thought comes in, notice it as a thought, and then bring yourself back to your breathing.
The point of meditation is not to have zero thoughts, but to notice them and then push them aside.
Sometimes this form of meditation can cause more anxiety, if that is the case try something new. Or realize you are anxious and try again. Don’t give up too quickly as meditation is going to be something new for your brain, and we all know what “new” does to our anxiety.
These are all really great techniques for beginners of meditation. You can also try classes to see if maybe that is your niche. The meditation that is most beneficial is the one that works for you.
Find a place that you can walk at your own pace and that gives you some peace. Whether it be outside, at a store, in nature.
Start by walking at a pace that works for you. Some people find a slow pace helps them slow the mind while others find it more agitating to move so slowly. So pick a pace that just feels natural to you.
Think about the movement of your legs and what they feel like. Are they tired? Sore? Warm? Cold? Tingly? While thinking about this keep a normal breathing pattern and just look around. Take in
the surroundings, have your thoughts, but push them aside to remind yourself why you are there. Remember, we are not trying to STOP thoughts, but rather notice them and let them pass.
There are a few different ways to process thoughts during this walk:
Mindfulness: being aware of what is around you and your senses
Gratitude: Ponder things in your life that you are grateful for.
Self-appreciation: feeling your body move and appreciating the fact that you can. Think about your strengths and what you are capable of.
This technique is probably the simplest form of meditation for anxiety relief.
Simply pick a word or phrase that speaks to you and repeat it to yourself over and over again.
You do not need to be sitting quietly or alone to do this.
After awhile you may feel the mantra change; get louder, softer, faster, slower, fuzzy etc., let it. Take it all in and let the mind follow.
The goal is to create a quieter headspace and allow the mantra to be the only thing heard for that period of time.
There really is no right or wrong time to meditate, but whenever you can fit it into your daily schedule is best.
There are a few recommended times such as:
• Right away in the morning to start your day off with a peaceful mind
• At your lunch break to relieve mid-day stress and tension
• End of the work day to sooth your body and switch from work bode to relax mode
It is not typically recommended to meditate before bed as the body may become confused by what is relaxation for sleep. During meditation we are trying to become aware of what our body is feeling and doing and allowing thoughts to come and go. Whereas relaxation for bed is more of clearing the mind and allowing the body to fully relax and feelings to disappear.
Meditation takes time. You will not see results after a few days, in fact, you may not ever see results. This is because you are changing your brain. It isn’t until you are in a fully schedule/routine of meditating that you finally think back to what you have accomplished. You will not just wake up anxiety free. But after a few months of practicing you may think back and realize that you really don’t find yourself anxious over petty things anymore. Meditation is a lifestyle; a commitment to yourself that you will stick to your guns and allow those few minutes a day to truly benefit you.
There are a few physical and emotional short term benefits you may see which include:
• Improved sense of wellbeing
• Enhanced relaxation
• Reduced levels of stress and tension
• Improved sleep quality
• Increased energy and stamina
Overall, meditation does not have limits. There is no structure to how long, when, or what to do, but it does show amazing benefits for those who stick to it. Whether you are seeking out meditation for General Anxiety Disorder, daily work stress or strengthening the mind, it has been proven to significantly help train the brain. You just have to remember that you will NOT be a pro at the beginning. You will get frustrated, angry, wonder if you are doing it right or if it is helping, but in the end the feelings will show and you will have formed a habit that can only give you more peace. So try it out. Set an alarm every day to remind yourself and make it part of your routine. Start with 2 minutes and progress when you find yourself able to sit still that long. Over time the brain will be able to stay in a state of mindfulness of longer periods of time, it all just takes practice.
Meditation is hard. It takes time, patience and a lot of will-power. You have to be okay with spending time with yourself and slowing down (something a lot of us are not very good at these days).
These easy meditation techniques are just that, easy. But this is just the beginning. Remember, it takes time and to really find what works for you and for something to really take effect. These techniques include taking a few deep/belly breaths when you feel anxious, take steps to decrease your stress load, go for a walk, close your eyes and listen, BREATHE. We always forget to breathe. Now, these meditation techniques aren’t going to solve the problem, but it will help decrease the side-effects.
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