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Mindfulness Meditation Exercise

Try This Meditation to Ease Anxiety

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Updated November 01, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Photo Copyright Microsoft

Mindfulness meditation can help ease anxiety.

Photo © Microsoft

Practicing mindfulness meditation can be an easy and effective way to help manage your feelings of stress and anxiety. This type of mediation can also be used as a relaxation technique for panic disorder, helping you to slow down your racing thoughts, let go of negativity, relax your body, and release your worries.

Steps for Practicing Mindfulness Meditation

Duration: When you first begin meditating, you may be surprised at how challenging it can be to just sit in silence. It's recommended that those new to meditating only practice for about 3 to 5 minutes to start. Once you become more accustomed to this practice, you can begin to gradually increase the time you spend meditating.

Environment: Your environment can also play an important role in your meditation practice. Find an area of your home where you will not be distracted by your surroundings or interrupted by people, pets, or phones. Remove your shoes, any heavy jewelry, or restricting clothing. You want your environment to be as peaceful as possible.

Position: Most meditators prefer to sit on the floor with legs crossed and spine straight during their practice. However, you may favor sitting with one or both legs stretched forward, upright in a chair, or lying on your back. Find a position that feels comfortable enough that you will not be too distracted by your body, but not so at ease that you are completely unaware of your body—or so relaxed that you are at risk for falling asleep.

Bring Your Awareness to the Present: Once you're sitting comfortably in a quiet area, start focusing inward. Close your eyes and begin with a breathing exercise. Simply notice your breathing pattern, but don’t try to change it; this will help you bring your awareness to the present moment. If you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breath.

Acknowledging Your Thoughts: During your meditation practice, different thoughts will pop up, and anxious and negative thoughts may arise. Instead of trying to suppress these thoughts, acknowledge them and wait for them to pass. Learning to sit with uncomfortable thoughts can help you stop reacting to them. Over time, you may begin to feel less anxious and experience more inner peace.

Finishing Your Meditation: When your meditation feels complete, or you've reached your desired time, open your eyes. Gradually come out of your meditation by engaging in a few body stretches, and taking some time to reflect on your practice.

Additional Tips:

  • It's not uncommon for your mind to wander during your meditation practice. If you notice that your mind is focused on the past, or you start worrying about the future, try to bring your attention back to the present. Focusing again on your breathing, and counting each cycle of breath, can help.
  • At times, practicing meditation can increase your feelings of anxiety. Remember to acknowledge these thoughts, but don’t push them away. This will help you learn how to face adverse inner dialog without responding to it.

  • Mindfulness meditation can be done at any time of day. You may find that meditating when you wake up helps you reduce morning anxiety. 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.

  • It can be hard to keep track of time during meditation. If you are worried that you will go over your designated time, consider using an alarm or timer. This will keep your attention away from the clock and back on your practice.

  • Keep practicing. You may not notice the benefits at first, but through regular practice, you may see a decrease in anxiety and panic symptoms.

Sources:

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York: Bantam Dell.

Stahl, B., Goldstein, E., Santorelli, S. , & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2010). A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

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