Did you know that you can change the way your brain operates which would have a direct impact on the anxiety you experience in your life? In my last post, Meditation For Anxiety and Depression- Is it the Answer? I weighed in on my thoughts about the role of meditation and medication in dealing with anxiety and depression. In this article, I’ll explain what is happening to the anxious brain on meditation and a simple technique that you can use to tame that anxious brain.
Do you have an anxious brain? Ask yourself these few questions:
Do you find your mind races and jumps around a lot? Do you have a hard time relaxing? Do you have difficulty falling asleep because your mind is going? Do you feel stressed? Do you feel like at times you’re going to “snap”?
The truth of the matter is that many people go around feeling these things all of the time, and in our fast-paced world with so many opportunities to be “plugged” in, it’s no surprise. Did you know, that if you asked a person who meditates regularly the same questions, they would likely provide a different answer. Does that mean that mediators don’t have life stressors and reasons to have an anxious brain? No, it just means they have learned to train their brains to be more resistant and resilient to life’s daily struggles.
What exactly is anxiety? Anxiety is a state of mind that is connected to an inability to regulate emotional responses to perceived threats. In other words, there is a direct relationship between how our mind views a situation and how our brain responds.
Meditators have known for thousands of years that the practice results in feeling less anxious. Research and technology have evolved to the point that researchers can actually observe how meditation alters the brain to reduce anxiety. A study published in the Journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that even a small amount of meditation training reduced anxiety by 39% in participants. Meditation activates specific regions in the brain that has been directly linked to anxiety relief and decreased worry.
It has also been found that when we meditate, we weaken neural connections in the brain which means we’re less reactive to stressful situations. That’s great news for people that tend to fly off the handle! While we’re less likely to “snap” we’re strengthening the part of our brain responsible for reasoning, which helps us to look at a situation more rationally.
Did you know that by NOT training your brain, you are actually shaping your brain to be an anxious brain? The anxious brain is always ready to react, always on and waiting for something to happen. It becomes a vicious cycle because an anxious brain which is always on and ready to react feeds the further anxiousness. When does it end?
Does all this mean you need to sit in meditation for long periods every day to tame the anxious mind? Studies have shown that in as little as 5 minutes a day, over several weeks, you can significantly calm the mind. It’s more important to commit to a daily practice for shorter periods of time, than to longer sitting practices more sporadically.
How do I start? Pick a time that you can stick with, whether it be 2 minutes or 5 minutes. Set a timer, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Pick a focus for your meditation. The breath is always a good focus, because it’s always with you. Gently focus on your breath for the period of time you have set. When your mind wanders (because it will), notice it wandering and then GENTLY bring your attention back to your breath. Wait for your timer and when it goes off, take your time getting back into action and then carry on with your day. As you begin to feel comfortable sitting for this length of time, you can slowly increase it. It’s really that simple. Do that every day and you’ll begin to transform your brain from an anxious brain to a calm brain.
If you have an anxious mind I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any questions or comments? I’d also love to hear from you if you’ve found that meditation has helped your anxious mind.