Written By: Gary Hayre, MCP, Registered Clinical Counsellor
Do you ever feel anxious and want immediate relief? Have you tried to distract yourself to stop feeling anxious, but it didn’t work?
Mindfulness-based meditation can quickly reduce anxiety levels, as it allows you to confront and process your strong emotions without having to avoid or push them down.
We are living in high-paced environments with busy schedules. Thus, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and store tension in our bodies. When not in check, these strong emotions can come out in harmful ways, such as taking it out on others or yourself.
Mindfulness-based meditation helps these feelings release in a healthier way that allows you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your anxiety.
This practice is about bringing awareness to your body and to yourself in the present moment.
You may often find yourself dwelling on the past or feeling anxious about the future. Mindfulness is about connecting the mind to the body through breath, which bridges the gap between the two. It is about being present with yourself and being open to what arises within.
Integrating mindfulness-based meditation into your everyday life can be beneficial to your mental and physical health.
Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Meditation
Research shows that the benefits of mindfulness-based meditation include emotional regulation, decreased reactivity and increased flexibility. This reduced tension can prevent you from developing physical or mental illnesses (Felder & Robbins, 2016).
Mindfulness-based meditation can also help you tune into your values, so you trust your intuition and stop doubting yourself. Overall, mindfulness-based meditation carries numerous benefits that can have a positive impact on your relationships, your environments, and yourself.
It can help bring a sense of clarity, reduce overthinking by getting you out of your head and into your body, and help you get in tune with your authentic self.
When you are more present within yourself, you can be more present with others. You may not feel the need to argue or be defensive, but instead can tune into your experience and express your emotions in a healthier manner.
Additionally, concentrating on breathing and your body’s movement in the present makes it hard for your mind to ruminate on intruding thoughts about the past or future.
The workload and stressors you experience may not fully go away, but your capacity to better deal with and manage the stress that comes with them is sure to increase with these types of practices.
Mindfulness-Based Meditation Practices
1. Focus on Your Breathing
The first step to mindfulness-based meditation is to make sure you are breathing correctly.
The most common form of breathing is chest breathing, which you may not realize that it causes you to become more anxious. This type of breathing activates the “fight-or-flight” response in your sympathetic nervous system and tells your body you need to be alert and in survival mode.
On the other hand, breathing into your belly (belly breathing) activates the “rest-and-digest” response in your parasympathetic nervous system. This signals to your body that you are safe and can enter relaxation mode.
Take a moment to practice belly breathing by putting one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Tilt your chin slightly upwards, breathe in through your nose, and expand your belly while you inhale.
Exhale with a deep sigh, pushing your belly button towards your spine. You will know that you are doing it correctly when the hand on your belly is moving up and down and the hand on your chest is not moving at all. If you find this challenging, be patient. You will get better at this.
Because breathing with your belly not your instinctual way of breathing, it can take some time to get used to. Belly breathing activates your relaxation response, which then reduces your heart rate, blood pressure, and lowers stress levels.
It is a way for you to send a signal to your bodies to let it know that you are safe. The anxiety will naturally start to dissipate as you begin to feel a sense of safety.
2. Start Walking
Walking meditation involves very deliberating thinking about and doing a series of actions that you normally do automatically. Breaking down these actions into small steps may feel awkward, even silly, but by doing so you are tuning into the natural rhythm of your body.
When you focus on each of these components individually and how they work together, you are becoming more aware of the present moment and more receptive to the messages your body is sending you.
As you do this, notice how your anxiety is changing and moving throughout the different regions of your body. Track the sensations and bring awareness to them without trying to analyze or question why you may be feeling such ways.
There are four basic components to each step we take:
- a) the lifting of one foot;
b) the moving of the foot a bit forward from where you’re standing;
c) the placing of the foot on the floor, heel first;
d) the shifting of the weight of the body onto the forward leg as the back heel lifts, while the toes of that foot remain touching the floor or the ground.
Then the cycle continues, as you:
- lift your back foot totally off the ground;
b) observe the back foot as it swings forward and lowers;
c) observe the back foot as it makes contact with the ground, heel first;
d) feel the weight shift onto that foot as the body moves forward.
3. Activate Your 5 Senses
When you feel comfortable with walking meditation, you can also increase your sense of presence by trying to focus individually on each of your five senses.
Sight: What do you see around you?
Observe and identify the different objects, places, and people you come across during your walk.
Sound: What do you hear?
Focus on the sounds made by each walking step. Observe the other sounds around you. Can you hear the natural world, like birds chirping or the wind blowing? Can you hear the built world, like people’s voices, traffic, or construction?
Smell: What do you smell?
Focus on what your nose is experiencing. Does it smell fresh cut grass or car fumes? Maybe there’s some food being cooked nearby, what does it smell like?
Touch: What do you feel against your body?
Can you feel everything your body is making contact with? The clothes you’re wearing, the ground you’re walking on, the temperature of the air. Do you feel rain on your skin or the heat from the sun?
Taste: What do you taste?
Focus on your mouth. Can you taste the last meal you ate? Are you eating something right now? How would you describe it?
Tapping into all 5 of your senses can help remind you physically and psychologically where you are.
It takes you out of your racing thoughts and into a quieter place with less anxiety. It can sometimes be difficult to focus on all five senses but do your best to utilize the ones that are most easily accessible in the moment. This is an effective way of overriding your fight or flight response and can help you feel more present and grounded.
Contact Brentwood Counselling Centre today to learn more on how to decrease your anxiety with mindfulness-based meditation.