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Overcoming Anxiety with Mindfulness Meditation

Anxiety is a very normal part of human existence. Whether you’re applying for a job or speaking in front of a group, chances are you’ve experienced some form of anxiety in your life. In mild cases you may experience an increase in heart rate and breathing, this is to direct the blood into your brain in order prepare you for the intense task at hand. However, in cases of severe anxiety, you will begin to feel dizzy and lightheaded which, if left to persist on its own, may wreck havoc on your mental and physical well-being.

Anxiety disorder – which is effecting more and more human beings each day – is when you experience excessive episodes of anxiety which can come between to you and your social, family, and work obligation and often lead to the onset of depression. This can be very debilitating to you and take a large toll on the health of your mind, body, and soul.

Then again, when it comes to the well-being for your mind, body, and soul, few can match the power to quiet the mind and relax the body the way meditation can. Meditation is an ancient and powerful tool that has been in practice for thousands of years in numerous cultures and religious traditions. There are also a myriad of scientific data to support the testimonies of modern practitioners and spiritual wise men alike on the benefits meditation can yield in your life. Meditation has been proven time and time again to aid in the reduction of stress, prevention of depression, calm the mind, and – of course – the alleviation of anxiety.

Morning cup of coffee with mountain background at sunrise

Mindfulness Meditation

Deeply rooted in Buddhist traditions, Mindfulness is the state of mind wherein one brings his or her attention into the present moment by means of meditation. This can be done (with a certain amount of practice) by meditating into a point of consciousness in which your mind becomes but an observer, regarding your own thoughts and emotions with calm understanding. To observe but not interact is what they call it. By allowing your thoughts and feelings to simply float by and not engaging them in such a way that they may begin to negatively affect you, you allow yourself some reprieve from the stresses of everyday modern living. You also give yourself the chance to sort out all the mental clutter that might have been competing for your attention.

Many large population-based studies have shown that routine Mindfulness Meditation can indeed reduce rumination or worry, stress and anxiety, combat the symptoms of depression, and is correlated with the improvement of one’s overall well-being. Mindfulness is know gaining much traction in the medical world and is experiencing greater usage by psychologists, hospitals, and medical centers respectively.

The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation:

  1.  Improves Your Cognitive Functions
    According to a 2003 study – published in Psychosomatic Medicine (1) – in which subjects undergo an 8-week meditation program, the effects of a regular meditative practice can help the development of the brain in so much that the results can be wide reaching. The practicing of Mindfulness has been shown to greatly increase activity in the Left Anterior region – which resides in the front left side of the brain. This region is associated with the resiliency towards stressful situations and negativity.

    Routine meditations can also cause a thickening of the cerebral cortex – located in the front of the brain – which deals with the processing of audio and visual stimuli, based on a 2005 study published in Neuroreport (2). This is connected to your in-the-moment awareness and the regulation of emotions thus, meditation can work wonders for improving your ability to focus and self-control.

  2. Helps to lower levels of Stress, Anxiety, and the prevention of Depression
    Researchers from the University of Oregon have discovered that the practice of mindfulness can in fact wire your brain to safeguard itself against mental illness (3). By increasing the signals toward the Axonal Density and raising production of the protective tissue Myelin – located in the brain’s Anterior Cingulate Region, meditation improves the brains protective functions.

    In a 2013 research – published in the journal Health Psychology (4) – Meditation has been also shown to give you a better grip on your pain and emotions by working at your Cortical Alpha Rhythms, as well as alleviate stress by reducing the hormone Cortisol.

    According to a 2000 and 2004 study published in the Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology (5), those who have been diagnosed with depression in the past are 50% less likely to relapse due to the affect meditation can have on lowering negative ruminative thought by way of repetitive reflection. In adopting the non-judgmental attitude required to execute Mindfulness Meditation, you attack the very heart of your anxiety since you will be able to perceive your fears and worries in a different light.

  3. Enhancing Your Immune System
    Also found in the 2003 study in which participants must complete an 8-week meditation program, Mindfulness Meditation can very well enhance the effectiveness of your immune system by increasing the production of antibodies (1). Antibodies are proteins produce with the specific purpose destroying viruses and other harmful elements. Stress and stressful situations impedes the production of antibodies in your body, so meditation’s ability to reduce stress will result in a bonus for your physical health as well.

  4. You become a Better Person
    The ability to review, one by one, the many thoughts that may have plagued your mind from a new point of view, you are given valuable insight into their true nature. Understanding yourself and your afflictions more will allow you to sympathize even more so with others who might be in similar situations. Your increased ability to remain calm, attentive, and then decide – the way you do during meditations – shall turn you into a valuable figure to those with whom you have shared your new found wisdom. You find yourself cultivating deeper, more meaningful relationships in turn.

    Being at peace with yourself (a kind of peace which only meditation can provide) is so rare in the hustle and bustle that was once known as life. The capability to view things in retrospect and realize the greater picture will afford you deeper interactions with other human beings. You are more compassionate now more than ever as a result of the time you spend with your inner self. At balance with your mind, body, and soul.

Mindfulness is a practice that will undoubtedly become an indispensable tool in your personal growth. Do not be afraid to take the step forward into true understanding. You must not become a slave to stress and anxiety. Learn how to meditate, be mindful, and take the time much needed to focus on yourself for a change.

Sources:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12883106

(3) http://uonews.uoregon.edu/archive/news-release/2012/6/chinese-meditation-ibmt-prompts-double-positive-punch-brain-white-matter

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23527522

(5) http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2000-05084-010

Further reading:

Let It Be: Using Mindfulness to Overcome Anxiety and Depression – Lucy Roleff at TinyBuddha

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