How Mindful Meditation Can Calm Anxiety

If you'll recall from our earlier posts, mindfulness meditation is a type of meditating practice that helps you to be present in the moment. It has some very specific benefits, as have been demonstrated in a number of studies. Researchers and scientists are starting to take the healing powers of meditation seriously, and it's becoming an accepted and popular practice across the globe. One very specific use of this type of meditation is the alleviation of anxiousness in those who suffer from this prevalent problem. Follow along with me as I share how mindful meditation can calm anxiety. You may be surprised at how effective this act can be.

Effects of Meditation on Anxiety

Meditation, in general, can be beneficial toward lessening the effects of anxiety. There is evidence that mindfulness mediation can be particularly effective in this area. That's good news because this form of meditation is actually quite easy to learn for beginners. It simply involves finding a quiet spot to sit and engaging in focused breathing, while keeping your mind on the present moment instead of letting it drift to other things. It will take practice to master the art of settling your mind, but it can be done and the benefits are immense. The reason this type of meditating works is due to the fact that the foundation of anxiety often lies in unproductive worries and thoughts. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to stop those harmful thoughts. With repetition, actual changes in the structure of your brain will occur in which the nagging worries are essentially short-circuited.

Changes in the Brain

It's true. The ways in which your brain functions are completely changed after engaging regularly in mindful meditation. Modern neuroimaging technology lets researchers make note of these changes to provide us with evidence of the occurrence. In one particularly thorough research investigation, Johns Hopkins University researchers sifted through the findings of approximately 18,000 earlier studies on mindfulness meditation in order to cull through the methodology and determine which were the most scientifically sound. They then determined that the evidence presented was enough to rule the benefits of this type of meditating were most significant on generalized anxiety disorder and related conditions such as panic attacks, agoraphobia and social anxiety.

Structural, Functional and Chemical Transformations

Without getting too technical, let's look at some of the specific alterations that happen within the brain due to repeated practice of mindful meditation. One of the main developments that can arise is actual “rewiring” of the brain in which new neural pathways are built. The ease of which the brain has the ability to undergo these changes is called “plasticity.” Meditating can lead such rewiring of the brain to become less anxious and more focused. You can train your brain in this manner to actually view your thoughts in a new light and to recognize when your thoughts are wandering in order to stop them with more immediacy and to let them go. Structural changes to the brain can also occur as a direct result of meditation. Physical differences of note include increased gray matter, along with noted changes in the thickness of the cortex and volume of the hippocampus. Perhaps more significantly, the fear center of the brain, known as the amygdala, actually decreases through exposure to meditation. Many connections within the brain are improved, and inflammation is reduced. Amazingly, these changes can happen in the span of several hours.

There you have it. There is actual scientific evidence that mindful meditation can calm anxiety. Hopefully, this information will increase your desire to take part in a regular meditation practice of your own.

The Long Term Benefits of Daily Meditation Practice

Meditation is increasing in popularity. Lots of folks engage in the practice for various reasons related to health and mind. We've already discussed some of the reasons you should consider giving meditation a shot. It will enhance your spiritual pursuits and provide you with a mindset that is open to a number of possibilities. There are also some physical and emotional benefits to be gained that have been proven by science. The meditating you do today can enhance your mind, body and spirit for years to come. Keep reading to explore the long-term benefits of daily meditation practice.

Quiets “Monkey Mind”

You've heard the term “monkey mind”, right? It refers to those racing thoughts that come out of nowhere and just won't quit, often when you're trying like mad to drift off to sleep. Meditation has been linked to a reduction in the mind's default mode network (DMN), the area of the brain that is responsible for allowing the mind to wander. This is great news when you're trying to get in touch with your spirituality. A focused mind lets you prioritize when pursuing your higher purpose goals.

Enhanced Focus and Concentration

Meditation has been shown to sharpen the mind and attune it more readily to what's known as “visual discrimination” tasks, allowing them to more readily notice small discrepancies those in the non-meditating control group were likely to miss. Other studies have demonstrated the ways in which meditation leads to improved cognitive skills and sustained attention span. These are long-term effects of meditation that can truly improve numerous facets of your life.

Strengthens the Immune System

You know that meditation quiets the mind and helps you to focus, but you may be surprised to learn it also has a tremendously positive effect on your body as a whole. Studies have actually shown that those who engage in a regular meditation practice begin to produce more antibodies when compared to non-meditators. Researchers found that meditation actually has a direct influence on the manner in which the body functions.

Lessens Anxiety

Even those who don't suffer from a formal anxiety disorder can experience minor bouts of this uncomfortable emotion. They tend to come on without warning and can truly impede your daily functioning and well-being in clinical cases. Regular meditation can help to lessen anxiety and to promote an overall sense of calm. There's a specific form of meditating known as “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction”, or MBSR, that has the specific aim of lowering stress levels. It's actually been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety levels that can last well into the future. Mindfulness meditation, in general, can also reduce anxiety due to its impact on the earlier-reference DMN section of your brain.

This is just a partial list of the many long-term benefits of meditation. Getting into a routine of meditating will lead to actual changes in your brain's makeup in positive ways that will spread across various parts of your life.

The Benefits of Regular Meditation

Meditation is a practice that involves training your mind to focus, and it's becoming quite popular these days. You've probably read articles about it, heard about celebrities who swear by it or even know people in your everyday circles who sing its praises. It's used for a variety of reasons. Some feel it helps them to feel calmer when life is particularly hectic. Others just want to reduce their overall stress or to improve their sleep and feel meditation could help. You may have heard that meditating can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. All of these things are true. Let's examine them, along with other benefits of regular meditation, to see just what all the fuss is about and to help you determine whether meditation seems like a practice you may wish to incorporate into your life.

Stress Reduction

Reducing stress is one of the most sought-after benefits of meditation. In today's world, there's a lot to worry about. Sitting quietly to relax your mind and focus your thoughts seems like a worthwhile method for finding a calm moment, but science actually shows this practice works to lower stress levels. A hormone called cortisol is released into our bodies when we're physically and emotionally stressed, and it can wreak all kinds of havoc on us. The release of cortisol stimulates the production of chemicals known as cytokines that promote inflammation. They also contribute to higher blood pressure, increased fatigue and brain fog, along with added symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation leads to a reduction of these chemicals, in turn lessening overall feelings of stress in participants.

Better Emotional Well-Being

If you deal with anxiety or depression, meditation could be a tool to improve your overall sense of emotional health. One scientific study looked at the electrical activity in the brains of participants who practiced meditation and those who didn't.  The researchers discovered that there was a significant change in the areas of the brain responsible for optimism and positive thinking in those who meditated. In another study involving individuals suffering from depression, 18 people were asked to practice meditation for a three-year period. This work determined that the participants actually experienced decreases in their depression that proved to be long-lasting and significant.

Improved Sleep

Many of us struggle with restless sleep or insomnia. It's a chronic issue that affects you in so many ways. Lack of sleep makes us less alert, clouds our thinking and is detrimental to our physical health. In one research study, participants were placed in two groups. The first group was instructed to meditate, while the other was not. I bet you can guess which group ended up sleeping better and for longer periods. Yep, it was the one that practiced meditation. One of the reasons meditating helps you sleep better is because you learn to control those racing thoughts that keep so many of us awake for hours after our heads hit the pillow. It also aids in overall relaxation.

Decreased Blood Pressure

Meditation has been shown to reduce strain on the heart. Studies have shown that meditating can help to reduce tension in the blood vessels and relax the nerve signals that control heart function, leading to lowering of blood pressure. It also lessens the flight or fight response that is known to contribute to high stress levels and to have an effect on blood pressure.

These are just some of the many health and emotional benefits of meditation. There are numerous others. Engaging in a regular practice of meditating can help you to find specific advantages it can provide for you.

Make This for Holiday Smooth Sailing

We can all use a bit of “chill out” from time to time, especially during the holidays. Try this Chill Out Roller Blend, or gift it to your favorite hostess or coworker.

Chill Out Roller Blend

In a 10 ml roller bottle add:

3 drops Grapefruit essential oil
3 drops Orange essential oil
2 drops Lemon essential oil
1 drop Bergamot essential oil

Fill with favorite carrier oil and roll on when needed.

Don't have any oils? Start your journey at

(Recipe and graphic courtesy of Meredith Sears Brantley at The Mix.)

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