The heart flutters, your hands shake, and you’re convinced the world’s about to end… All over a dentist appointment next Tuesday? This is anxiety at its finest, and it often has the audacity to crash your party uninvited.
There are several things that can help you on this merry-go-round. However, one effective method to ease your way into a new peace of mind is to use meditation for anxiety.
In a world that’s spinning faster than a DJ’s turntable, anxiety is becoming a constant companion for many of us. But as Dr. Caroline Leaf, cognitive neuroscientist and trainer of Mindvalley’s Calm Mind: A Scientific Method for Managing Anxiety and Depression Quest, says, “What your mind creates, only your mind can take away.”
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is when you feel nervous or scared. It’s normal to feel this way, especially when you’re stressed or in danger because it’s like your body’s alarm system telling you to be alert.
But sometimes, people feel scared or worried too much, and for a long time. This isn’t normal and is known as an anxiety disorder. It can make you feel restless, tired, distracted, and grumpy. It can also make it hard for you to sleep or cause you to worry too much.
In fact, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults every year. However, “depression and anxiety are not mental illnesses,” explains Dr. Leaf in her Quest. “They’re actually warning signs that something is going on in your life.”
Important: If your anxiety is making it hard for you to do things you usually do, it’s a good idea to talk to someone who can help, like a doctor or a counselor.
Why Do We Have Anxiety? 3 Main Causes
Anxiety is our body’s way of keeping us safe from harm. But when we get scared or worried too much and for no clear reason, it could be because of how our brain works, our genes, our personality, or things that have happened in our life.
Let’s consider the main causes of anxiety as a mix of elements, blending together just like ingredients in a complex recipe.
- First, we have our psychological makeup—our habitual thought patterns. Those of us prone to anxiety might magnify risks, seeing life as if through a set of binoculars, making small issues appear monumental.
Biologically, genetics and brain chemistry have their say. Anxiety, like a talent for piano or an affinity for puzzles, can pass through generations. Our “fight or flight” response, an evolutionary gift, can overreact to modern-day “threats,” like looming deadlines or social situations.
- Then, our environment steps in. Major life events, traumas, or even global events, like the COVID-19 pandemic, can stir up anxiety.
- Lastly, lifestyle choices—the food we eat, our sleep quality, and our exercise habits—can influence our anxiety levels. A restless night or a caffeine overload might have you feeling more on edge.
In essence, anxiety is handy when there’s danger, but not so great when set off by day-to-day stressors. The good news is, recognizing the alarm is the first step towards managing it.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a time-honored practice, with origins tracing back thousands of years, that can take many different forms. From mindfulness to transcendental, loving-kindness to Zen, there’s a flavor of meditation to suit every taste.
Look at it this way: You’re watching your favorite movie. You’re so immersed, so absorbed that the world outside ceases to exist.
Similarly, that’s how meditation works.
It’s not about emptying your mind (a common misconception); it’s about focusing on it. You could focus on your breath, like it’s the latest cliffhanger episode, or observe your thoughts and feelings like a curious spectator.
Meditation is like a workout that strengthens your attention muscles, fosters self-awareness, and promotes a sense of calm. And you can also explore upgraded versions of a meditation practice, such as The 6 Phase Meditation, created by Vishen, founder of Mindvalley.
You’ll see that this can be “a form of transcendent practice that allows you to go into your mind and optimize the very act of being human,” as he explains.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation offers lots of benefits, extending beyond just mental wellness. Think of it as your all-in-one wellness app, offering a variety of upgrades to your overall well-being, according to research done in the past few years.
- Better sleep. Like a lullaby for the mind, mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve sleep quality.
- Lower blood pressure. Just as a calming sea breeze soothes, meditation can reduce blood pressure.
- Reduced stress. Consider meditation as a stress ball for the mind. Mindfulness can trigger a relaxation response, countering the stress effect.
- Improved emotional well-being. Like a mood-enhancing filter on your favorite photo app, regular meditation can boost positivity and reduce depressive symptoms.
- Increased focus. Meditation can act like a concentration booster shot, as it enhances attention and focus.
- Improved memory. Think of meditation as a memory gym workout, helping you prevent memory decline.
How Does Meditation Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety?
Unraveling the connection between meditation and its ability to mitigate stress and anxiety requires a peek into the workings of your mind and body. Meditation, in its various forms, acts as a calming balm applied to an overactive nervous system.
- In a stressful situation, your body instinctively switches on the fight-or-flight response. While this mechanism serves you well in situations of imminent danger, it’s less helpful when the source of your stress is a looming deadline or a challenging conversation. That’s when meditation works best for anxiety, offering a tool to tame this response.
- On a physiological level, meditation encourages the body towards a state of relaxation. It decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, fostering an overall sense of calm. Simultaneously, it increases alpha brain waves, which are associated with a relaxed and alert state of mind.
- But the power of meditation extends beyond immediate stress relief. It’s a long-term investment in personal well-being. Regular practice encourages healthier lifestyle choices and builds resilience against future stressors.
Scientific research agrees with this, too. A study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychiatry suggests that mindfulness-based stress reduction—a meditation technique for anxiety—significantly reduces anxiety symptoms and enhances the overall quality of life.
How long does it take for meditation to work for anxiety?
Simply put, just as every body responds differently to exercise, every mind responds differently to meditation.
The benefits of meditation don’t typically appear overnight. It’s a gradual process that requires consistent practice, much like cultivating a garden.
It’s about developing a habit—a mental muscle that helps manage stress and anxiety over time.
Scientifically, it varies greatly from person to person. However, studies have shown promising results in as little as eight weeks of consistent practice. One particular research study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine revealed significant improvements in anxiety symptoms after an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
So, the bottom line? Start meditating today, be consistent, and have a little patience. The blossoms of tranquility are worth the wait.
Recommended Meditations for Anxiety
When starting your journey to soothe the internal stress you may feel in your life, you might ask yourself how to do meditation for anxiety.
Here are some Mindvalley guided meditations to help you get started:
1. Stress release meditation | Emily Fletcher
This audio session is a powerful and introspective breathing meditation where you’ll ask yourself some existential questions to remind you of the power of now. Emily Fletcher, a leading meditation expert and the trainer of Mindvalley’s The M Word Quest, guides you through a deep release of emotional burdens that may cause you excess stress.
2. Powerful morning meditation for a beautiful stress-free day | Sonia Choquette
Sonia Choquette, intuition expert and trainer of Mindvalley’s Sixth Sense Superpower Quest, designed this morning meditation to gently awaken your body, mind, and spirit as you step into a brand new day filled with possibilities. Experience a deep sense of peace and relaxation as you breathe into your heart and invite your spirit to guide your day.
3. The 6 Phase Meditation | Vishen
This meditation not only greatly enhances your brain power and emotional state but also completely transforms you—both consciously and unconsciously. It isn’t about clearing your mind; it’s about engaging your mind and manifesting abundance in every aspect of your life while letting go of what no longer serves you.
4. Free yourself from depression and anxiety meditation | Marisa Peer
Marisa Peer, famous hypnotherapist and trainer of Mindvalley’s Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest, helps you unravel peace from within to transform your inner world. You can unlock abundance and live a stress-free life by building a daily habit of meditation.
5. Meditation for reducing anxiety | Bradley Morris
This is a calming meditation by Bradley Morris, founder of Majik Media, designed to bring you back into your body and connect to your center. You may find that there is still space within, free of stress, worry, and anxiety.
Find Peace From Within
If your life has been ruled by the overwhelming spiral of anxiety, you can slowly ease out of your mind’s patterns and stress responses. And one safe way to do so is by engaging in stress-releasing habits such as meditation.
However, you don’t have to be alone on your journey to finding inner peace. If you need some guidance along the way, Mindvalley is the place for you.
With transformational quests and a variety of specially curated daily meditations, you can say goodbye to a life filled with worry and stress. And here’s what may help you on your path to releasing anxiety:
- Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Calm Mind: A Scientific Method for Managing Anxiety and Depression Quest
- Vishen’s 6 Phase Meditation Quest
- Emily Fletcher’s The M Word Quest
- Sonia Choquette’s Sixth Sense Superpower Quest
- Marisa Peer’s Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest
By claiming your free access today, you can sample classes from these programs and many others. Don’t be afraid to unlock a lifetime of peace and joy.
Images generated on Midjourney.