30 Meditation Techniques for Anxiety
Updated December 21, 2018
Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
Anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health problems in the world. It can shrink your world as you avoid anything that might make you feel stressed or panicked. There is hope. In addition to medication and traditional therapy, meditation can help alleviate your anxiety symptoms. Here are 30 different techniques you can use.
- FocusOn Breathing
One of the simplest meditation techniques for anxiety is focusing on breathing. To do this, you sit quietly and breathe slowly in and out. Put all your attention on the movement of air going in and out of your body, noticing the sensations that happen as you inhale and exhale. Count from 1 to 10, thinking of each number with each succeeding inhale.
Shikantaza is a type of effortless presence meditation. In this type of meditation for anxiety, you don't focus on anything at all. In fact, the goal is to let thoughts and sensations pass without dwelling on them. You notice what's going within you and outside of you but you don't dwell on what you notice.
The goal of Vipassana meditation is to gain insight and think more clearly. It typically starts with breathwork. Next, you notice the bodily sensations that happen as you breathe. As you begin to notice other sounds and sensations, you notice them as a secondary focus and then move back to your primary focus, which is your breath. You notice these things without feeling an attachment to them.
- 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 don't have to know anything about meditation to do them. Just listen and do as the narrator instructs.
The traditional form of visualization meditation involves focusing on the cosmos and the way you relate to it. However, you can use a more modern form of visualization meditation in which you imagine the best things that could happen to you in vivid detail.
The focus of mindfulness meditation is the present moment. This is particularly helpful for people who have anxiety about the future. To practice mindfulness, you pay attention to the movement of your breath. At the same time, you remain aware of what is happening. You don't judge the sounds, thoughts, and sensations you experience. Instead, you are simply aware of them and let them pass without trying to hold onto them.
- Metta Meditation
Metta meditation is translated as loving-kindness meditation. You begin the meditation by building loving kindness for yourself. Next, you develop thoughts of kindness towards a friend. Then, you think of loving thoughts toward someone you don't know. You keep expanding your circle until you've developed loving feelings for the entire universe. This can be very difficult for someone with intense anxiety, because it forces them to look beyond themselves, at people and situations that might be frightening to them. Some experts suggest Metta meditation would be best for them after people had already learned other forms of meditation.
When most people think of meditation, they think of mantras, especially of the mantra "om." A mantra is simply a word or syllable to focus on during meditation. It can be any word or syllable, although many meditation experts suggest that it's very important to choose a mantra with the right meaning and vibrational quality. To do this meditation, you sit quietly and repeat the mantra, either as a thought or as a lightly-whispered sound.
- Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation can be expensive to learn. It combines breathwork with mantras that are the names of Hindu deities, as well as initiation and yogic flying.
Chakra meditation focuses on one of the seven centers of energy in the body. These are:
- Root chakra at the base of the spine
- Sacral chakra below the navel
- Solar plexus chakra in the stomach area
- Heart chakra at the center of the chest
- Throat chakra at the base of the throat
- Third Eye chakra in the forehead, just above the area between the eyes
- Crown chakra at the top of the head
As you think of a certain chakra, you may use a specific mantra associated with that chakra or think of a color that is associated with it.
- Third Eye Meditation
Third Eye meditation focuses only on the third eye chakra. Teachers of this type of meditation typically instruct you to look upward toward the area above and between your eyes. During the meditation, you keep directing your attention back to the Third Eye. As you do, you go longer and longer without actively thinking of anything else.
- Trataka Meditation
Trataka meditation can also be called "gazing." You fix your attention on an object outside yourself. It could be a candle flame or a figurine, anything you can look at. You gaze intently at that object with your eyes open. Then, you close your eyes as you continue to focus on your visual image of that object.
- Kriya Yoga Meditation
Kriya yoga meditation is a specific type of meditation taught by ParamahamsaYogananda. It is a devotional type of meditation and best suited for people who are more spiritually-minded.
- Gong or Music Meditation
Gong meditation, also called a gong bath, is a type of meditation in which you focus on the sounds of a gong or gongs. You lie on your back on a yoga mat or towel, close your eyes, and relax. It is the vibrations of the gongs that are used to promote inner healing. You can go to a gong meditation class or presentation, or you can purchase gong meditation CDs to use on your own at home. Music meditations are similar and can use many different musical instruments, most often flutes or recorders.
- Meditation Apps
In the midst of the rush of everyday life, it can be hard to find time for meditation. However, a meditation app can remind you when to meditate, provide guided meditations, and give you tips on meditation techniques.
- Kundalini Meditation
Kundalini meditation is a complex practice that some say is dangerous without the help of a qualified yogi. It uses energization, breathwork, and other meditation techniques to gain awareness of the "kundalini energy" and move toward enlightenment. Although kundalini meditation typically increases a feeling of calm, it isn't a quick fix for debilitating anxiety.
- Tantra Meditation
Tantric practices are often associated with ritualized sex, but tantra meditation is more about developing inner stillness and control. There are many different techniques within tantra meditation. The best way to learn is to find a yogi who can guide you individually or in a group situation.
- Pranayama Meditation
Pranayama isn't exactly meditation, but it's most commonly used as a preparation for meditation. It consists of focusing the mind through regulated breathing. The most common pranayama technique is to breathe into a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breathe out to a count of 4, and hold empty for a count of 4. This is a great meditation technique for anxiety by itself or as a lead-in to another type of meditation for anxiety.
- I Am Meditation
People may know who they think they are, but they usually relate that self to the way they think, behave, or experience life. When they think of who they are, they think of their body or their mind. The self is more than any of these things. In I Am meditation, you ask yourself "Who am I?" while pushing away any verbal answers. Instead, you maintain focus on the subjective feeling of being who you are.
- Emptiness Meditation
Emptiness meditation is based on a Taoist form of meditation. To do it, you sit quietly and empty yourself of all mental images, thoughts, and feelings. Those images, thoughts, and feelings will come, but you don't engage with them or invite them to stay. If you are someone who deals with constant anxiety, this emptying of the mind can come as a great relief.
- Inner Vision Meditation
Inner vision meditation gets you in touch with the inner workings of your body. You turn your attention inwards, noticing the thoughts, sensations, and energy that lie within your mind and body. The goal is to get in touch with the wisdom of your physical nature.
- Internal Alchemy Meditation
Internal alchemy meditation is a complex practice that is best taught by a yogi. It uses breathwork, visualization, movement, and focused attention.
- Qigong Meditation
Qigong meditation is closely associated with the martial arts. It often consists of dynamic movements done in a meditative way. However, it can also be done sitting or standing with no movement at all. It also uses breathwork, relaxation and calming the mind before you focus your energy on the center of gravity in your body and feeling the qi energy moving within your body.
- Contemplative Prayer
Christianity and other religions often use prayer as a meditation technique. Contemplative prayer usually involves repeating sacred words while focusing on devotion to a higher power.
- Contemplation of Religious Teachings
Another meditation practice related to religion is contemplating religious teachings, usually those that come from sacred texts. Typically, the meditation starts with a reading of the Bible or other religious text. Then, the person sits in silence, contemplating the meaning of the teaching.
- Body Scans
The purpose of a body scan is to relax your body and calm your mind. Usually, the meditation opens with quiet instrumental music. Then, the teacher guides you in thinking of each part of your body and relaxing it.
- Binaural Beats
In 1839, a scientist discovered the effects of binaural beats, which are beats of two different frequencies. Two different frequencies of beats are each played into one of a person's ears. The brain attempts to reconcile the beats, and alpha waves are created. These alpha waves promote the calmness necessary for effective meditation.
You can use positive affirmations in your meditation for anxiety. It's particularly helpful for anxiety because affirmations remind you that you are a good person, deserving of love and acceptance. Also, it brings you to a more positive view of others and the world. You can use breathwork and stillness along with affirmations about yourself, others, and the world to increase your positive feelings and decrease your feelings of mistrust and uncertainty.
- Guided Imagery
One type of guided meditation for anxiety is guided imagery. Guided imagery can be used for emotional healing and relaxation. A teacher or counselor guides you in imagining and visualizing a scene, object, person, or journey to create a more positive emotional experience.
- Nature Sounds
Many people use nature sounds as mediation for sleep and anxiety. You can get sound recordings of the ocean, the forest, or other natural settings. Or, you can take a trip to a remote place where there are many natural sounds to enjoy. You lie quietly, listening to the sounds as you relax.
How to Learn Meditation Techniques for Anxiety
There are many different ways to learn meditation techniques. You can learn them in a yoga or meditation class or group. You can get a book on meditation or even watch a video to see how it's done. For the more complex forms of meditation, it's important to work with a yogi or other meditation expert to make sure you are doing them correctly.
Another option is to work with a therapist who is familiar with meditation. This is especially helpful for people with anxiety because a therapist can help you with your anxiety in other ways as well. They can teach you how to change your anxious thoughts and deal with your anxiety through cognitive behavioral therapy, for example.
You can talk to a licensed counselor for this and other mental health help at BetterHelp.com. Convenient online therapy on your schedule can change the way you react to stress and decrease your anxiety symptoms. You can become a stronger, more relaxed you and have a more peaceful, fulfilling life.