Today’s world is filled with stress that causes anxiety for many. Medical issues, genetics, and life experiences can all lead to anxious feelings. Besides pharmaceutical treatments, many individuals turn to meditation for anxiety relief. Meditation slows down the mind and brings a sense of deep peace to the soul. For thousands of years, stress meditation techniques were used in Eastern cultures. Today, researchers view meditation as one of the most effective forms of stress reduction. It enables a person to focus on the present and not dwell on problems from the past or questions about the future.
The Science Behind Meditation for Anxiety Control
The scientific explanation of how meditation lowers anxiety rests in the delicate chemistry of the brain. Meditation for anxiety decreases the production of catecholamine and other stress hormones and heightens parasympathetic activity. A study published in the journal “Health Psychology” reported a clear association between meditation for anxiety control and a decreased amount of cortisol, the major stress hormone in the body. The research followed 57 people who spent three months in a meditation retreat. Each participant’s cortisol levels were recorded at the beginning and end of the study. Results showed a definite correlation between meditation and low levels of anxiety. With regular meditation practices, cortisol levels and anxiety decreased.
On a neural level, anxiety is a state of being linked to the inability to regulate emotional responses of perceived threats. Although many studies have been performed analyzing the effects of meditation for anxiety, the specific brain involvement was never identified. However, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical College pinpointed what regions of the brain are activated by mindful meditation and how they are affected by the practice. Imaging uncovered meditation for anxiety activates the anterior cingulate cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and anterior insula, all parts of the brain that control thinking and emotions. During meditation, the brain is encouraged to control worries. As stimulation is boosted in these areas, anxiety is greatly decreased.
Specific Meditation for Anxiety Relief
There are many different types of meditation techniques. The best form to ease psychological stresses of anxiety and depression is mindful meditation. Harvard psychiatry professors believe this type of meditation is quite powerful and helps dampen anxiety. They explain anxious individuals as usually have problems dealing with distracting thoughts and feel that they have trouble distinguishing between problem solving ideas and nagging worries that bring no benefits. The mindful meditation for anxiety technique helps a person live for the moment and naturally get past these kinds of negative feelings.
There are three basic parts to this meditation technique. To begin, a person sits comfortably in a quiet space on a solid surface and concentrates on a certain spot that is not distracting in any way. Posture should remain upright but not stiff, and hands should face downward onto the thighs. A person’s eyes can remain open while loosely gazing directly ahead. It is important not to stare intently at any one object. As the body becomes accustomed to the environment, the attention may wander, but it should be gently refocused on the body.
The next part of mindful meditation for anxiety control is breathing. It is essential to concentrate on the air coming in and out of the body. Instead of focusing on a specific breathing method, it is important to keep things natural. Each person has a unique breathing pattern that is made to calm the body.
After breathing, it is time to work with the brain’s thoughts. It is common for thoughts to overlap with memories, plans, and other ideas. However, when these images overtake the mind, it is crucial to return the brain back to breathing. The entire process of meditation for anxiety relief should take between 15 and 30 minutes. It is not meant to make a person stop thinking. It is supposed to teach a person how to accept his or her inner self without any preconceived notions.
Additional Benefits of Meditation for Anxiety Relief
Many individuals who participate in mindful meditation experience a greater internal calmness as cortisol production decreases. This means that people with high blood pressure often enjoy levels that are more normal, which decreases the risks of developing heart attacks or strokes. As anxiety is reduced, people enjoy better sleep patterns and become less irritable as well.
Adding meditation to a regular lifestyle is not difficult, and the advantages may be infinite. The average person can experience a great deal of peace by taking a walk or finding a place to sit quietly to breathe. Mindful meditation for anxiety control focuses on sustaining attention and guiding thoughts. This technique has been proven to alter the brain’s structure so that a person feels less apprehensive. It is a valuable way to treat anxiety disorders without relying on drugs to get through everyday life.