You may have heard or read that meditation aids with anxiety. Most people misunderstand that meditation is not like a magic elixir that reduces their stress and anxiety effortlessly. Yet meditation’s primary purpose is not to dissolve anxiety.
According to a recent review, regular practice in mindfulness will help you relax your mind and move past negative emotions. A study in 2013 showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was associated with significantly greater anxiety reduction and improved positive self-statements. In fact, a meta-analysis in 2012 suggested strong support for anxiety sensitivity meditation. A 2015 report in The Lancet indicated that incorporating a tapering off of treatment with MBCT is as effective as consistent prescription dosages.
1. Focus on the present
The primary purpose of meditation is to help you become more present now. The anxiety reduction is just a satisfying side effect. We are often nervous because we are focused on the past or the future. However, you become deliberately focused on the here and now when you’re meditating.
2. Quiet overactive thoughts
Sometimes it feels as though the mind is on constant overdrive for someone with anxiety— thoughts are scattered but not getting anywhere. We are anxious because we give into our thoughts and feelings. We take them and get confused at face value. Yet this undivided focus is not justified by our feelings.
Meditation helps us to avoid overactive thoughts and feelings, helping us to silence the mind, relax our bodies, and gain some clarity.
3. Cultivate an attitude of nonjudgmental acceptance
The aim is not to get to a point where your life is trouble-free — this is not realistic — but rather to be able to acknowledge the presence of these problems without overvaluing them. You can empower and support your meditation practice by being mindful. Just as a well-tended garden grows flowers and trees, mindfulness will help nurture all attitudes of mindfulness. A famous Shakespeare’s quote from Hamlet encapsulates this: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
Patience and dedication are the keys to meditation. Meditation requires patience because it takes commitment and when so many things fight for your time, it’s easy to quit.
Although meditation is not a cure-all for anxiety, it is still extremely helpful. Eventually, meditation helps one slow down, gain perspective, and think more critically, with less reactivity. Thus, we can become less anxious in our lives.