“Mindfulness Means Paying Attention In A Particular Way, On Purpose, In The Present Moment Non Judgementally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Over the past few years many studies have shown the positive effects of mindfulness meditation in anxiety alleviation. Relaxation exercises and mindfulness have also been found to be equally effective in reducing stress, without the side effects associated with drug therapy.
Anxiety can be described as a state of cognition linked with inability to manage emotional
responses to supposed dangers. Practicing mindfulness helps strengthen the cognitive ability to manage and regulate one’s emotions.
Mindfulness is based on sustenance of attention to the current moment and control of the reaction and response to daily feelings and thoughts. In other words, it is the practice of diverting attention to the present time/moment.
Mindfulness meditation can impart stronger thought clarity as well as peace during times of uncertainty and stress. A few positive effects include reduction in inflammation of body; rewiring of the anxious brain; lowering of cortisol stress hormone levels and balancing varied brain chemicals; building a bigger and healthier brain; and decreased brain inflammation.
Study on how mindfulness can lessen your anxiety levels
It has been known for centuries that mindfulness meditation can help decrease anxiety. However, the particular brain mechanisms linked to associated alleviation of anxiety were yet to be identified.
On 3rd June 2013, a study by experts at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center was published in the ‘Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience’ journal with the title being ‘Neural Correlates of Mindfulness Meditation-Related Anxiety Relief.’ It successfully identified the regions of brain which were activated by this daily practice.
The researchers at the medical center made use of pulsed arterial spin labeling MRI to isolate the mechanisms of the brain related to mindfulness training. Also to compare the outcome of disturbances in the form of ATB/Attending to the Breath prior to meditation training. And the practice of mindfulness meditation (post meditation training) on the level of anxiousness in test subjects.
The study involved 15 healthy subjects with normal anxiety levels and no past experience of meditation. They had to then undergo a 20 minute course to learn mindfulness meditation. It was found that anxiety significantly decreased with each session of meditation by the volunteers.
Brain imaging showed activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and anterior insula. These brain areas are responsible for management of worry and executive function. This practice activated these regions and thus helped ease anxiety levels.
- Mindfulness meditation involves increased focus on the body sensations (confronting approach to overcoming health anxiety) and the breath along with a non-judgmental evaluation of distracting emotions and thoughts. You may follow the steps listed below for maximum benefit:
- Find a quiet place and sit down with your eyes closed
- Breathe normally and observe only your breath
- You may say ‘breathe in’ and ‘breathe out’ to maintain focus and avoid distracting thoughts
- Occurrence of any thought can be labeled as just being a random thought. Then, attention must be brought back to the breathing.
- It’s not about having ‘no/nil’ thoughts, but about noticing them and pushing them aside when they occur
- Occurrence of thoughts during meditation does not mean that you have failed
- Yoga is a relaxing exercise that helps in practicing techniques of deep breathing and concurrently assists in finding clarity of emotions and thoughts.
- Reflective journaling (writing a journal) about your feelings, thoughts, etc. will help promote better self-evaluation, critical thinking, and understanding of varied life events.
Remember that practice makes perfect. The more you find yourself absorbed in the above practice, tha faster you can get to a place of non interest towards fearful thoughts, and sensations of anxiety.
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