Last updated on November 23rd, 2023.
The most common reason why people decide to meditate is so that they can reduce anxiety and depression. Meditation is a practice that helps bring you back to yourself and the present moment over and over again. Since our minds are overly active, they primarily focus on past events or predict the future.
Meditation helps the mind slow down by returning to the present moment and appreciating that. Mindfulness meditation in specific has shown positive results in research looking into meditation and anxiety reduction. A study shows that mindfulness meditation taps into the areas of the brain that regulate self-referential thought processes. When meditating, the anterior cingulate cortex is activated, which leads to a reduction in anxiety.
Another study followed up subjects that had undergone an 8-week meditation intervention on anxiety. The previous research had witnessed positive results. Moreover, following up on the patients three years later showed that the ones who kept up with their meditation practice showed significant improvements as their anxiety levels had reduced immensely.
Meditation, in general, has kept proving that it is instrumental in treating most mental health problems that, most of the time, science hasn’t been able to treat. Meditation isn’t necessarily a replacement for your medication and therapy, but it won’t hurt to add it into your daily habits and see how you can transform your life. Most mental health doctors are urged to incorporate meditation as a treatment method.
Does Guided Meditation Work For Anxiety?
Yes. Meditation does help decrease anxiety and stress. Since anxiety results from the inability to regulate emotions, consistently practicing meditation reprograms our brain’s neural pathways improving the ability to control emotions.
Meditation helps us observe our thinking patterns. Knowing where these thoughts arise from and not judging them helps a lot when it comes to anxiety. This is because you’ll be familiar with anxiety-provoking thoughts and learn to sit with those thoughts and let them go during meditation. Now when you’re off the mat, you’ll recognize those anxiety-inducing thoughts and learn how to know when they’re not real and let them go.
Meditation will teach you that your thoughts arent real, don’t define you in any way, and you shouldn’t let them bother you. a meditation technique known as a body scan helps you mentally scan every inch of your body. By exploring these physical sensations, you can learn how to come back to the present moment anytime you’re having an anxious moment with your thoughts as with your physical senses.
A body scan is a perfect way to connect with the present moment anytime anxiety is about to creep in.
An Easy To Follow Guided Meditation For Anxiety On Youtube
Yoga With Adrienne has a meditation for anxiety practice on YouTube that I find to be very helpful. Adrienne is different because she leads by telling you how to sit, introduce you to the practice, and set a calm and worry-free mood.
Unlike most of the other guided meditations for anxiety on Youtube, hers will let you calm down without any ad interference in the middle of your practice. A lack of ads is a big plus since we all would love to meditate without fearing that soon a loud ad will pop up and you will be back to be anxious.
Yoga With Adrienne’s style is easy to follow, and any beginner wouldn’t be lost when practicing this meditation. Her voice is calming and reassuring.
She will lead you through breathing and scanning your body as you become more aware of your body and surroundings releasing all the tension you’ve held all day long. At the end of the practice, you will appreciate how calm you will feel.
What causes anxiety?
There hasn’t been an exclusive answer as to what causes anxiety because different people are triggered differently. Some people experience anxiety because they’ve inherited it. When a couple of people in your family experience anxiety, you most likely will have it too.
When one experiences anxiety, their blood pressure goes up, and they feel tensed and worried. Although anxiety is a normal feeling, excessive anxiety is a mental health illness.
When in danger, the body’s natural way of reacting is “fight or flight” during this time, our bodies get prepared to confront or flee any incoming danger physically. Since there aren’t any animals that we would necessarily be running away from like our ancestors, we instead have anxiety from work, school, and family.
Anxiety stems from the fear of what’s to come or being in a situation that you associate with a past traumatic event you had in your life.
Various risk factors could lead to one experiencing anxiety. These include;
- Genetics. Some people who experience anxiety disorders come from families with a history of anxiety.
- Personality. Sometimes one’s character leads to the development of anxiety. For example, if your a perfectionist, have low self-esteem, or a control freak, you tend to develop anxiety when things don’t go according to your plan.
- On-going stressful events. These include work or school-related stress, pregnancy, abuse, loss of a loved one, change in living environment, among others. Such pressures could lead to anxiety.
- Medical causes. Illnesses such as heart attack, diabetes, drug misuse, or withdrawal could develop an anxiety disorder.
Here are different types of anxiety disorders;
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)– SAD is characterized by overwhelming anxiousness in everyday social settings. Sometimes this anxiety can be a specific situation like speaking to other people or eating in public. But in extreme cases, the person cannot be in a social setting without experiencing anxiety.
- Panic disorder– characterized by repeated periods of intense fear accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pains, etc.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)– OCD stems from recurrent, unwanted thoughts or behaviors such as washing your hands multiple times in a row. These repetitive actions are to prevent obsessive thoughts or get rid of them.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)– PTSD is caused by witnessing a traumatic event or being part of it. These include; accidents, military combat, violence, etc.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)– GAD is extreme anxiety and worries even when there is logically nothing to worry about.
What is the best type of meditation for anxiety?
Any meditation is better than no meditation. But when you’re looking for ways to calm down your anxiety, mindfulness meditation is the best way to go. Many studies have looked into mindfulness and found that it’s the best type of meditation for anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation can best be described as being aware of the present moment without judgment. For example, anxiety always stems from anxious and worry-filled thoughts about something that has happened or what you think will happen. When you practice mindfulness meditation, you can come back and observe the present moment without engaging those doubt-filled thoughts.
When practicing mindfulness meditation, many things happen to the brain that helps decrease anxiety in the long run. There is an increase in brainwave activity in the frontal lobe of the brain. This part of the brain is majorly associated with relaxed, gentle attention. This only happens when you focus on the present moment without judging or getting attached to it.
When you’re experiencing anxiety, the opposite happens in this part of the brain. When you fixate on disturbing thoughts (which happens when you’re anxious), the brain’s frontal lobe is overactivated, resulting in high brainwaves. As a result, you won’t be able to introduce new thoughts, and you end up stuck on the feeling of anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation also affects the Posterior Cingulate Cortex. This part of the brain deals with thoughts of your identity. Stress and anxiety cause overstimulation of this part of the brain. By practicing mindfulness meditation, you train your brain to observe life from a third-person perspective and not take everything personally.
How do I start meditating for anxiety?
At this point, you might be very interested in mindfulness meditation and might want to try practicing it at home. Here are steps to help you start your practice.
- Sit upright on a chair with your legs flat on the ground or upright in a yogi’s pose.
- Pay attention to your breath. You don’t need to change the lengths of your breath, but rather sit there and observe as your breath goes into your body and leaves it. Make no judgment.
- It can be difficult paying attention to your breath alone. Try not to buy into any other ideas. Just observe your breath. If at all your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath.
- Anxious thoughts may come to the surface. Acknowledge these thoughts, but don’t engage. Instead, bring your awareness back to your breath.
- Sit quietly and observe your breath for as long as you feel you can.
- When you feel like you have come to the end of your practice, open your eyes, and notice how you feel. Don’t evaluate. Observe.
Choosing the number of minutes to meditate can be difficult. You can start with as few as two minutes. Then, after practicing for a while, you can keep adding the minutes as time goes by. Eventually, mindfulness will spill into your daily life, and you’ll find yourself observing difficult situations rather than engaging and being upset or anxious.
Breathing is an important part of meditation and anxiety reduction. If you would like to know more about the art of breathing as it pertains to anxiety, check out this article on the benefits of pranayama breathing! And if you are looking for the best pranayama courses online, here is another article for you!
How often should I meditate for anxiety?
If you’re having a difficult time starting meditating, you can do it a little at a time. Start with a couple of days a week. After a while, you’ll notice that it isn’t enough. Then, you can add up to practicing every day of the week. At first, start with two minutes, or one minute, then keep increasing this time as you keep practicing. Eventually, you’ll be looking forward to meditating every day as it will significantly improve the quality of your life.
Meditation can be a bit challenging when you’re just beginning. For example, if you’re suffering from anxiety, you will need a great start-up guided meditation practice that will later help you develop your routine and practice by yourself.
If you’re undergoing anxiety treatment and your doctor is open to the idea of you using meditation alongside your medication, then you’ll be in luck.
But if you have mild anxiety and don’t use prescriptions, then meditation is something you should consider. All these studies proving meditation as a way of reducing anxiety symptoms should help make your decision easier.
The above tips and guided meditation examples will help you find your bearings in the meditation world. There are many guided meditation practices online, and eventually, you will find one that suits you perfectly. Maybe you’ll even study to become a guided meditation instructor! All you need is a little patience.
(If you would like to learn more about anxiety and ways to help, check out these yoga for anxiety courses!)