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.