Anxiety can mentally exhaust you and have real impacts on your body. But before you get anxious about being anxious, know that research has shown you can reduce your anxiety and stress with a simple mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is about paying attention to daily life and the things we typically rush through. It’s about turning down the volume in your mind by coming back to the body.
Practicing mindfulness meditation for anxiety and stress can be an effective way to manage your feelings, and can even be used as a relaxation technique for panic disorder. This meditation technique can help you slow down racing thoughts, decrease 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.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation for Anxiety and Stress
Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend an hour’s pay on a class or contort your body into difficult positions. You likely already have all the tools you need to practice mindfulness. Use these tricks to add little bursts of mindfulness throughout the day to ease anxiety and calm your mind.
When you first begin meditating, you may be surprised at how challenging it can be to sit in silence. Believe it or not, part of the practice of mindfulness is becoming aware of how the act of sitting still may put your thoughts in turbo drive. The key is not to judge the mind but to instead simply observe it. 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. Then, the mindfulness meditation for anxiety and stress will take effect on you gradually.
1. Find a Comfortable Position
Many people sit on the floor with legs crossed and spine tall. You may prefer sitting with legs outstretched, upright in a chair, or lying on your back. Find a position that feels comfortable enough that you won’t be distracted by your body, but not so at ease that you’re unaware of your body—or might fall asleep. Know that you can change your position any time should you become uncomfortable or develop muscle cramps.
2. Bring Your Awareness to the Present
Once you’re sitting comfortably in a quiet area, start focusing your attention inward. Close your eyes and begin with breathing. If you notice your mind wandering, bring attention back to your breath. Once you have observed the natural rhythm of your breath, allow it to grow deeper to support relaxation.
3. Acknowledge Your Thoughts
Initially, practicing meditation can increase feelings of anxiety or self-judgment. Rather than trying to suppress the inner self-doubt dialogue, recognize it and wait for it to pass. This will help you learn how to sit with uncomfortable thoughts without responding. Over time, you may 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 with some gentle stretches. Take some time to reflect on your practice. Feel the effects of your mindfulness meditation on anxiety and stress.
Improve Your Meditation Practice
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. Experiment with your practice to find what works best for you.
Mindfulness meditation for anxiety and stress can be done at any time of day. You may find that meditating when you wake up helps you reduce morning anxiety. Or 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.
Every little bit of mindfulness helps. What matters most is that you are consistent with your mindfulness meditation practice. Practicing mindfulness regularly can help you calm your mind and move past negative emotions, according to a recent review. Try to take at least five minutes each day to check-in and do a meditation or mindfulness exercise that you enjoy.