Anxiety is the most common mental health problem worldwide, and together with depression, affects roughly 10% of the population. Apart from being common, it is still under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated.
Diagnosing and treating anxiety requires dedication both from medical staff, and mostly from the individual and with the support from the whole family. The treatment for anxiety usually lasts for a long period and includes self-help or group therapy, medications, and psychological support. However, medications alone have a very limited effects on some of the symptoms in anxiety, and researchers are looking for new ways to help people cope with anxiety. Living with anxiety can interfere with your everyday tasks, and often take control over your daily activities. Even though the standard treatment includes medications, usually in the form of tranquilizers and talk therapy, there are many things you can do to help yourself in battling with anxiety and meditation is one of them.
Meditation might be the key to self-help on the road to recovery from anxiety for many, a recent research shows. As little as three 20-minute sessions in mindfulness meditation can help reduce pain and everyday anxiety in healthy individuals, who have never tried meditation before. People enrolled in the study reported a decrease in the everyday anxiety of as much as 39 percent after practicing meditation. These subjective reports were confirmed with brain scans that showed increased activity in areas of the cortex associated with regulating thinking, emotions, and worrying.
The same study also examined the effect of meditation to the response to pain. The participants who meditated, rated the pain as 40 percent less intense and 57 percent less unpleasant than the participants who simply rested with their eyes closed, and these findings were in line with the findings on their brain scans.
Meditation can be the key to overcoming anxiety simply because it helps quieting an overactive brain. In people living with anxiety, very often everything is of great importance and they get overwhelmed by many thoughts and feelings. Meditating helps us stop over attending to our thoughts and feelings and allow us to slow down and focus on what is important, and while we cannot really live a life free of problems, we can learn how to accept and solve them, without putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves.
Meditation is all about commitment and focus. The elementary meditation practice, which is the basis of all different techniques is focusing on breathing. While you are focusing on your breath, it means that you’re paying attention to the present instead of paying attention to the chatter and noise in your mind, and all of the worries aiming to distort your balance and push into insecurity and panic. This involves remaining centered, and if a thought or outside trigger pulls you out of your center, your meditation practice allows you to return there again. As a result, you will get better at diminishing the thoughts which aim to scatter your thoughts and concentration.
There are a number of potential benefits to learning and practicing meditation, and related not only with calming your thoughts, but also calming your whole body. Studies show that during meditation, as well as during relaxation, the heart rate and respiration rate slow down and blood pressure diminishes. This is very important since these vitals are usually slightly higher in anxious people and contribute to the whole alertness feeling.
Meditation is for anyone, and being on medications is not a block to medication. Usually, the first sessions are short, and there are people guiding you through meditation. And as with any other treatment, the key to success is to be patient and committed. Meditation requires patience, and the results will be evident weeks after. Once you decide to commit to meditation, you can either find meditation groups led by instructors near you, or you can download one of the many guides available on the internet and start meditating in the comfort of your own home.
There are many different types of meditation. Both mindfulness meditation, in which you focus on sustaining attention and guiding thoughts; and loving-kindness meditation, in which you focus on compassionate thoughts towards yourself and others, are usually studied by scientists and both types of meditation have been proven to change brain structure and have dramatic physical and psychological benefits.
While meditation isn’t a panacea for anxiety, it’s still incredibly helpful. Apart from meditation, introducing few more changes in your everyday life routines can help you reduce the stress upon your body and reduce the feelings of anxiety. By changing what we eat, how we sleep and introducing regular physical activity we can determine how everyday events affect us and our emotions.