18 Meditation Techniques To Support Those Living With Anxiety Disorder

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder are statistically noted to be among some of the most common mental health conditions in the world, according to Mental Health America. However, alongside or independently of therapy or other related strategies, meditation has been suggested to be a helpful way for many to mitigate the symptoms one may experience with anxiety disorders. 

Below, we’ve listed 18 different techniques that may help you to enhance your experience as you move through the process of meditation.

Breathwork

Peer-reviewed studies have shown that deep breathing exercises can help you to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety — encouraging you to focus on the present moment. 

To practice breath awareness, consider sitting quietly in a comfortable position, taking slow, deep breaths and exhalations. You may choose to put your attention on the natural rhythm of your breaths, remaining mindful of the sensations that you experience. 

If you need assistance staying engaged, you may choose to count from 1 to 10, thinking of each number with each succeeding inhale.

Shikantaza

Shikantaza, for many, is a type of presence meditation. In this type of meditation for anxiety, you may not focus on anything at all. Rather, you may choose to clear your mind of conscious thought and remain mindful only to what you feel in the present moment, allowing it to pass by you. 

Vipassana

For many, the goal of Vipassana meditation is to gain insight and think more clearly. You may start with breath work, remaining mindful of the bodily sensations that can happen as you breathe. 

As you begin to notice other sounds and sensations, you may notice them as a secondary focus, moving back to your primary focus.

This practice can allow you to notice stimuli and remain mindful while decreasing excessive or cyclical thoughts.

Guided meditation

Guided meditation can consist of any type of meditation technique that someone guides you to do. You can get guided meditation recordings on CD, mp3, or internet podcasts. You may also choose to take part in guided meditation alongside another related class, such as yoga, led by an instructor for an in-person meditative experience.  

The instructor available via your mode of meditation (either virtual or in-person) can be a resource available to guide you through the meditative process.

Visualization

Visualization can be an effective form of meditation, which may involve picturing specific phenomena with a potential goal of symptom reduction or relief. 

An example of this can be visualizing a flowing stream, in which you may see your causes of anxiety floating away downriver from where you are. You can choose to imagine things vividly, allowing visualization to keep you mindful and in the present moment.

Mindfulness

The focus of mindfulness meditation, for many, is to attempt to remain in the present moment. 

This may be helpful for people who have anxiety about the future. 

As you practice mindfulness meditation, you may choose to maintain self-awareness and stay attuned to what is happening around you. 

You may not need to judge the sounds, thoughts, and sensations you experience. Instead, you may choose to simply observe them and let them pass without trying to hold onto them. 

According to a systematic review of studies on mindfulness meditation, the practice can decrease psychological distress for many as it did in the test group, and increase positive health outcomes.

Metta meditation

One of the goals for many using Metta meditation is to begin building feelings of loving-kindness for yourself. 

You may then choose to expand these thoughts towards a friend. 

As you practice, you may choose to think of loving thoughts toward someone you don't know. 

 As you continue, you can expand your circle until you've developed loving feelings for the entire universe, which can help you direct your energy outward rather than inward with symptoms of anxiety disorder.

Mantras

For many, a mantra is simply a word or syllable to focus on while practicing meditation. You may choose to use it separately from meditation (such as an affirmation), or alongside your meditative practice. 

Mantras have been associated with improvements in those with anxiety disorder in recent studies

To practice mantra meditation, you may choose to sit quietly and repeat the mantra, either as a thought or as a whispered sound.

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Living with anxiety disorder?



Transcendental meditation

Transcendental meditation has been suggested to be a sufficient strategy to address anxiety and somatisation. This form of meditation may combine breath work strategies with specific mantras, as well as mindfulness techniques.

You may choose not to be guided through this type of meditation, doing it yourself with a repeated, silent mantra. 

Trataka meditation

Trataka meditation can also be called "gazing." In this form of meditation, you may choose to fix your attention on an object outside yourself. It could be anything, from a candle flame to  a figurine or piece of art. 

To practice trataka meditation, you may choose to gaze intently at that object with your eyes open. Then, as you close your eyes, you can  continue to focus on your visual image of that object.

This practice has been suggested as a way to reduce instances of anxiety disorder-related symptoms and thoughts. 

Gong or music meditation

Gong meditation, which may also be called a gong bath, is a type of meditation in which you can focus on the sounds of a gong or gongs. You can lie on your back on a yoga mat or towel, close your eyes, and try to relax. 

Science has shown that certain types of meditative music (such as the vibrations of the gongs) can be associated with less overall anxiety disorder-related symptoms in the test group(s).

Meditation apps

Meditation apps can be a resource for mindfulness on the go. Recent research is still ongoing, but a study referenced by Berkeley University has found that regular use of popular meditation apps for meditation can be associated with more positive outcomes. 

Pranayama meditation

Pranayama isn't generally designated as meditation itself, but it is a commonly used as a preparation for meditation for many. The practice consists of focusing the mind through controlled breathing. 

Pranayama strategies have been scientifically suggested as a potential supportive strategy for those with anxiety disorder and depression in recent studies.

Qigong meditation

Qigong meditation is closely associated with the martial arts. The practice typically consists of dynamic movements done in a meditative way, which may cause you to focus on specific movements and mindfulness instead of anxiety disorder-related symptoms. 

You can also practice qigong by sitting or standing with no movement at all. There is current scientific support across a number of studies that shows qigong’s effectiveness as a supportive strategy for those living with anxiety disorder, showing improvement in test groups. 

Contemplative prayer

This may look different across religions and users. However, contemplative prayer may involve repeating sacred words while focusing on devotion to a higher power.

There is currently scientific support showing that contemplative prayer across quantitative studies was correlated with lower overall symptoms of anxiety disorder. However, many researchers have stated there is more research to be done, as those with anxiety disorder may turn to prayer more frequently when anxious as a personal coping mechanism. 

Body scans

For many, the purpose of a body scan is to relax your body and bring you to a more mindful state. 

The meditative process looks different for everyone. You may choose to start with quiet instrumental music, sat or stood in a comfortable position. You may then be requested to feel or focus on each part of your body, separately relaxing it as much as possible. 

This form of mindfulness has been suggested to be effective in reducing anxiety disorder-related symptoms when done both in-person and virtually, with a group leader. 

Binaural beats

In this form of meditative practice, two different frequencies of beats may be played into a patient's ears. 

As the brain attempts to reconcile the beats, you may move to a state of mindfulness and directed focus, which can reduce the rumination-based thinking associated with anxiety disorder symptoms for many. Scientific studies suggest that binaural beats in the delta/theta range may be an effective support strategy for those with anxiety disorder.

Guided imagery

One type of guided meditation for anxiety can be use of guided imagery. 

For many, the goal of guided imagery is to reach a higher level of relaxation. When you meditate using guided imagery, a teacher or counselor may guide you in imagining and visualizing a scene, object, person, or journey to create a more positive emotional experience and redirect your focus. You may also choose to guide yourself. 

Scientific research has suggested that guided imagery is an effective strategy for those with anxiety disorder, and can be most effective when done with nature-based prompts.

Living with anxiety disorder?

How can online therapy help those with anxiety disorder? 

Individuals with anxiety disorder may experience feelings of overwhelm in new or unfamiliar environments, such as a new therapeutic setting or clinician’s office. This may be a possible barrier to treatment, limiting the potential quality of life that those with anxiety disorder can experience. However, online therapy may be a more suitable option, allowing patients who live with anxiety disorder to participate from a comfortable and known location. They may also use in-app messaging to directly connect with a therapist for additional support, should they need it. 

Is online therapy effective for anxiety disorder? 

Online therapy for anxiety disorders, such as psychotherapy or CBT, has been scientifically suggested to be comparably effective to in-person therapy for those who live with anxiety disorders. In a recent study published in Depression and Anxiety, a systemic literature review consistently showed comparable results between either treatment modality, highlighting improvements in the treated groups across twenty or more previous studies. 

Takeaway

Anxiety disorder symptoms may feel overwhelming to those who experience anxiety disorder. However, different forms of meditation have been scientifically studied and suggested as possible mitigation strategies for a higher overall quality of life. Online therapy can also be effective in addressing the symptoms of anxiety disorder for many.

Regulate anxiety in a compassionate environment

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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