Use Mindfulness Meditation to Ease Anxiety

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Practicing mindfulness meditation can be an effective way to manage feelings of stress and anxiety, and can even be used as a relaxation technique for panic disorder. This meditation technique can help you slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body.

Research across age groups, gender, and geographical borders has shown how powerful a practice it can be. A 2015 study, for example, demonstrated a significant drop in anxiety and stress among nursing students practicing mindfulness meditation techniques. There were similar findings among adolescents in the U.S. diagnosed with anxiety in a 2019 study. The common thread among these and other studies is the way mindfulness meditation helps people—particularly those with anxiety who often worry about the past or future—focus on the present moment.

How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation

When you first begin meditating, you may be surprised at how challenging it can be to sit in silence. In fact, the act of sitting still may put your thoughts in turbo drive. To get started with the practice, ease in with sessions of only a few minutes. Once you develop a more regular, familiar practice, you can gradually increase your time.

It's also important to meditate in an area where you won't be distracted by your surroundings or interrupted by people, pets, or phones. Remove your shoes, any heavy jewelry, or restricting clothing. The goal is to meditate in a space that's as peaceful as possible. Once you establish a time and place, begin building a foundation for your meditation exercise with these four steps.

  1. Find a comfortable position. Many people like to sit on the floor with legs crossed and spine straight. But you may favor sitting with one or both legs stretched forward, upright in a chair, or lying on your back. Find a position that feels comfortable enough that you won't be too distracted by your body, but not so at ease that you're unaware of your body—or might fall asleep.
  2. Bring your awareness to the present. Once you're sitting comfortably in a quiet area, start focusing inward. Close your eyes and begin with a breathing exercise. Simply notice your breathing pattern, but don’t try to change it; this exercise will help you bring your awareness to the present moment. If you notice your mind wandering, bring attention back to your breath.
  3. Acknowledge your thoughts. Initially, practicing meditation can increase feelings of anxiety or self-judgment. Am I doing this right? What should I be doing? I'm not doing this right! Rather than trying to suppress that inner dialogue, simply recognize it and wait for these thoughts to pass. This practice will help you learn how to sit with uncomfortable thoughts without responding. Over time, you may begin to feel less anxious and experience more inner peace.
  4. Finish your meditation. When your meditation feels complete or you've reached your desired time, open your eyes. Gradually come out of your meditation by engaging in a few body stretches and taking some time to reflect on your practice.

Tips to Improve Your Meditation Exercise

Once you've built a foundation, you may notice previous signs of anxiety—like ruminating on past events or insomnia—greatly reduced. But like any new modality, it may take some practice. Here are some ways to ensure a smooth start:

  • Mindfulness meditation can be done at any time of day. You may find that meditating when you wake up helps you reduce morning anxiety. Perhaps you find that meditating in the evening allows you to get a better night’s rest. Try different times of day to determine what suits you best.
  • It can be hard to keep track of time during meditation. If you're worried that you will go over your designated time, consider using an alarm or timer. This will keep your attention away from the clock and back on your practice.
  • Find the meditation technique that's right for you. Mindfulness meditation doesn't have to mean sitting in silence. You can practice it in your daily life during seemingly ordinary activities, like walking, eating, or spending time with your kids.

A Word From Verywell

Starting a meditation practice can be challenging, from finding the time and space in a busy schedule to facing fearful, judgmental thoughts that can cause anxiety. With consistency—even just a few minutes each day—you can find the practice that's right for you and see a decrease in anxiety and panic symptoms.

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