8 Benefits of Using Meditation for Anxiety
From time to time, everyone struggles with feelings of worry and stress, whether it be about a job, relationship, health concern, etc. For many people, anxiety disorders rule their day-to-day lives. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder are the three most common types of anxiety disorders that can affect anyone and manifest at any given moment. While each of the anxiety disorders have their own unique symptoms, common symptoms among most anxiety disorders include feeling on the edge, panic attacks, difficulty relaxing at night or when trigger situations occur.
Doctors are uncertain why some individuals suffer from anxiety while others do not. Women and those who have family history of mental illnesses are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders as well as those with low self-esteem during childhood or have encountered a traumatic experience.
There is a variety of treatment options available for anxiety disorders such as psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. However, in recent years, studies show that adding meditation into your treatment plan for anxiety can be incredibly beneficial.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is an ancient practice. It was first practiced in India over five thousand year ago as a part of Hinduism. Today, the practice of meditation has spread to all corners of the globe.
Meditation is commonly used for religious and spiritual practices but is not limited to these two purposes. The main goal of most meditation techniques is to clear the mind off all thoughts, particularly negative thoughts, and focus on a relaxing mantra or even breathing.
Mindfulness meditation is quickly gaining popularity and can be beneficial for many different reasons. It most definitely has a place in helping to ease the effects of anxiety. In fact, studies show that those who use mindfulness meditation see a decrease in symptoms for anxiety and depression.
How to Start Practicing Meditation?
It is important to look into the different types of meditation to see what form of is best suited for your needs and lifestyle.
As mentioned earlier, mindful meditation is a popular type of meditation. It is a very simple technique that focuses on breathing. When the mind wanders to either stressful or happy thoughts, acknowledge them without judging and go back to focusing on your breathing. It is important to practice for ten to fifteen minutes and build up to longer periods of retaining a deep state of meditation.
Beginner Meditation Tips
As a beginner at meditation, do not attempt to take too long of a time period to practice meditation because it is possible that you will become frustrated and stressed. This may lead to the symptoms that you were trying to avoid in the first place.
There are other types of meditation may help with anxiety as well. Mantras can help you stay grounded and focused on other thoughts besides the stressful ones.
There are many different guided meditations that you can find online that can help you through your first couple of exercises. Yoga, when practiced in a certain way, can also be a form of meditation, and has the added bonus of increasing endorphins in the blood stream.
1. Meditation Can Help You Relax
Those who suffer from anxiety are in a constant state of hyperawareness due to various chemical signals constantly streaming throughout the body. Meditation can help calm feelings of stress and anxiety by helping you focus on something less stressful, relax your muscles, and bring down your heart rate. This is why it has been used for lessening physiological manifestations of PTSD in trauma patients as well. (1)
2. Meditation Can Help Ease Anxiety-Related Insomnia
People who suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression oftentimes have insomnia. Insomnia is a condition in which those affected have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. (2) Many people who suffer from insomnia report that racing thoughts and contemplating stressful situations keep them up at night.
Sleeping aids can help treat insomnia but these medications and supplements do not address the underlying condition that causes it in the first place. Furthermore sleeping aids may cause dependency.
Meditation can be used as a natural sleeping aid and is one of the best alternatives to prescription drugs or supplements that induce sleep. Meditation not only calms a racing mind but also helps to relax your muscles in order to fall asleep faster and induce deep sleep.
3. Meditation Lessens The Need For Anti-Anxiety Medication
Millions of people suffering from generalized anxiety and other anxiety disorders have found that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications can greatly help relieve their symptoms. However, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications have some nasty side effects.
Many people find that anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications may cause nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and many more side effects. There are also concerns about people who are taking stronger doses of these medications experiencing heart, liver, and kidney damage when they are using these medications for prolonged periods. Younger aged individuals who take these types of medications and are prone to suicidal thoughts have shown an increased risk of attempting or committing suicide. (3)
However, this is not to say there are not benefits of anti-anxiety medication. For particularly severe cases of anxiety, prescription medication is incredibly important as a treatment option. However with any medication it is important not to be on a higher dose than absolutely necessary. Meditation can help to lower the dosage or in some cases completely prevent the need for taking medication at all
4. Meditation Lessens The Effects of Anxiety Related Health Concerns
Stress and anxiety are not only unhealthy at the moment you experience it, but can have long term consequences as well. Anxiety keeps your body on high alert constantly, which releases cortisol and norepinephrine, which are two chemicals that the body releases to help keep you safe in dangerous situations.
These chemicals raise your heartbeat to bring more blood to the muscles in order to get you way from the threat. However, when your body never turns off these responses, damage to your cardiovascular system can occur. Anxiety can also compromise the immune system and cause problems in the digestive system, be that diarrhea, constipation, or nausea and vomiting.
5. The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation Can Be Accessed Throughout the Day
Mindfulness meditation is fast growing and popular for a reason: the benefits can be accessed throughout the entire day. While maximum benefits can be achieved by regular practice every day, quickly closing your eyes when confronted with a stressful situation or when you feel a panic attack coming on, following your breath, and letting yourself relax, you can quickly relieve the feelings of stress much more quickly than any medication prescribed by a doctor.
6. Meditation Can Help With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a phrase that is thrown around colloquially to describe oneself as being particular or picky about the way something is done. In reality, those who truly suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which falls under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, do not think that it’s a funny thing to joke about, as it is a disorder that can truly take over their lives.
Sufferers have obsessions, which can be the popularly portrayed need to have things in a certain order or being afraid of germs, but can also be pervasive, unwanted thoughts.
Compulsions include handwashing or cleaning, checking on things repeatedly, or repeated counting. While many people have routines or habits that they complete every day, people suffering from OCD are unable to prevent themselves from these actions and do not receive any gratification from the completion, but may be relieved of the anxiety that accompanies this disorder. (5)
While there are a couple of different ways that OCD can be treated, in the past traditionally through psychotherapy and prescription medications, there is new research showing that meditation is a great way to relax, but may actually help to rewire the brain to prevent these thoughts from occurring in the first place.
7. Meditation Can Help With Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a disorder that primarily affects children and teens, and occurs after the stage that is common for a child to be clingy or overly attached to a certain parent or caregiver, which usually ends at the age of six. While it is not entirely clear why some children develop separation anxiety, it can be caused by a long separation from the parent prior to the anxiety occurring, a death in the family, or a sudden change in environment.
While sometimes this is a disorder that needs medication for treatment, most of time therapy and relaxation techniques are enough to help the child feel relief. By teaching your child relaxation techniques from a young age, you are instilling in them healthy practices for stress relief and relaxation for the rest of their lives.
8. Meditation Can Help With Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia is the fear of a certain place or situation, and sufferers experience incredibly stress if they are not able to remove themselves from the stressful situation, and is one of the lesser common disorders occurring under the umbrella of anxiety. In extreme cases, sufferers are unable to even leave the house as the outside world presents such a fear and going outside gives them such strong anxiety.
Others are able to live their lives successfully in the outside world, certain situations and places are highly avoided in order to prevent panic attacks. There are some thoughts about why some people develop agoraphobia, many who suffer from this disorder have another anxiety disorder, or have experienced an incredibly stressful, dangerous, or shocking event.
Some sufferers have found that utilizing mindfulness meditation and being mindful throughout their days is essential to treatment of their agoraphobia. By focusing on something relaxing, such as following your breath, the anxiety and panic attacks that occur alongside the fear of certain situations can be much more manageable.
Mental illnesses, in particular anxiety and depression, have gained much more attention in recent years. Mental illnesses are invisible illnesses, but can be crippling in the same way as any type of physical illness. While there have been massive strides made in the past century about understanding and accepting mental illnesses, there are still many things to learn about causes, risk factors, and treatments.
Meditation, on the other hand, has been popular and important for many different cultures for thousands of years. Meditation has many remarkable qualities for all over bodily health, but have many fantastic benefits for those who are suffering from anxiety and other anxiety disorders. While you should always talk with your primary physician, psychologist, or therapist before making any major changes to your treatment plan, meditation is a huge part in many sufferers treatment plan.