Can meditation for anxiety really work? Yes! As someone who has been practicing meditation for a number of years, I can testify that it’s well worth giving a go.
Increasing numbers of people are incorporating holistic and mindful practices into their daily lives and I’m sure you already know someone who meditates on a regular basis. For some people, it’s a daily practice, while for others it’s just for emergency situations, such as when you feel like your life is spinning out of control, or times when you can’t seem to get out of your own way.
For these reasons, meditation can help to reduce anxiety at times when you’re really struggling, plus if you maintain your practice, you’ll notice improved mental health on an ongoing basis.
What is Meditation?
The practice of meditation has been around for centuries. People have used it for religious purposes and cultural reasons. There are as many forms of meditation as there are practices.
The art and practice of meditation basically has one goal in mind – to slow down the mind. In today’s culture, we all have such busy lifestyles and even busier minds. Stress/anxiety levels are up, blood pressure is up and relaxation is waaaaaaay down. This is where meditation can really help.
The art and practice of meditation is one where you allow yourself and, most importantly, your mind to relax, rest, and rejuvenate itself. You take time to practice the art of breathing, slowing down your mind and coming back to center.
What is Center?
Center is the place where your deepest desires live and breathe. It’s the place where you can move forward from and get back on track. The true history of meditation is really the practice of getting into a thought consciousness of total awareness and not letting the mind wander.
However, this is something that takes time and practice. The history and background of meditation is to serve one higher purpose. That purpose is to be in and experience present-moment living.
What is the Power of Meditation?
While some people might view meditation as some sort of woo woo practice which doesn’t really work, the truth of the matter is that there is power behind meditation. When you meditate, your brain waves change. Meditation actually has the power to change your mind, or at least your mindset.
With proper breathing techniques, beta waves in your brain begin to calm and you’ll feel a sense of overall well-being as an after effect.
According to scientific studies and research, each part of the brain is affected by meditation. Incoming information can be slowed down when meditating:
- Emotions are not as strong
- Sensory input slows down
- Over-thinking ceases
- Information overload slows down
Imagine more focus and clarity, along with feeling more relaxed and calm? All this can come from meditation.
Meditation Decreases Anxiety
Some people have a chronic ‘fight or flight’ response to everyday stressors – if you have ongoing anxiety I’m sure this is something you can relate to. That feeling of being on permanently ‘high alert’ is exhausting and can lead to panic attacks and further health problems.
There’s a neural pathway which leads to the part of our brains in which we need to determine whether or not we are in real, imminent danger. For some, those connections are so strong we feel we are in danger when we are not.
When taking on the practice of meditating, this connection can be diminished; however, this is not a danger – this is a plus. Our brains have many parts, and the part that assesses reasoning is strengthened by meditating, while the irrational fear pathway is weakened #winwin
Getting Started with Meditation for Anxiety
Any new routine or practice takes time to get used to. Just like anything else, you don’t want to jump in too much too soon. If you are starting out running for the first time, you certainly wouldn’t aim to run 5K on your first day!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Start slow. No matter how keen you are about beginning your meditation journey, it’s important to start slow. There’s no point going all in and then feeling overwhelmed before you even begin. Take it slow and learn how to train your brain and guide yourself back to center.
- Set up a space. It’s important to set up a space that you can call your own. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate – just somewhere quiet which you can call your personal meditation space. It could be as simple as a chair in the corner of your bedroom, or a cushion on the floor of your spare room. Whatever it is, make it your own. You could even treat yourself to a new throw, or some cosy socks as a reward for getting started.
- Create a routine. Just as you would with any new practice, it’s important to create a routine. You might decide to alternate one morning with one evening, or start with a midday 10 minute meditation. Figure out which time is going to slot into your daily routine best and stick to it.
- Commit. Stand in integrity and do what you say you will when you say you’re going to – if you say you are going to take on the practice of meditation, then take it on wholeheartedly.
- Get a partner. Don’t go it alone – meditation can be fun when you partner with other people. Find an accountability partner who you can check in with each week to talk about your progress.
- Stand proud. Don’t be embarrassed about embracing a practice that some people might disregard. There is proof that meditation works and if you’re serious about living a calmer life with less anxiety, be proud of the steps you’re taking.
Meditation is not difficult to learn and there are lots of great beginners videos to help you get started on YouTube. It’s worth watching/listening to a few to find the one that suits you best as not all will be a good ‘fit’ for you. Find someone whose voice, temperament and style resonates with you.
I recommend partaking in a short, free course on meditation which is available via an app called Insight Timer. Headspace also offer a meditation for beginners programme via their app.
With only 10 minutes meditation practice a day, you could be on your way to a calmer you!
Do you find the time to meditate? I’d love to know if it’s helped you overcome anxiety. Share you experiences below.