18 Meditation Techniques To Support Those Living With Anxiety Disorder
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.
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, 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
You may choose not to be guided through this type of meditation, doing it yourself with a repeated, silent mantra.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What are the five senses anxiety meditation?
The five senses meditation practice helps root you in the moment through focusing on what you are sensing. To begin, sit or lay in a comfortable position. This meditation can be done anywhere - in bed, in class or at work, in a chair, or even in the bath. While taking slow, deep breaths, note out loud or in your mind five things that you can see, four things that you can hear, three things that you can touch, two things that you can smell, and one that you can taste. Repeat the exercise as many times as needed to help reduce anxiety and anxious thoughts, as well as lower blood pressure.
How long should you meditate to get rid of anxiety?
There is no set time that you should meditate for anxiety. For some, benefits may be obtained after just a few moments, while others may prefer to remain in a meditative state for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even longer. Many meditation exercises, such as box breathing and visualization techniques, may take only a few minutes to help calm the body and mind. Try to practice some form of meditation daily to build the habit and help restructure neural pathways to reduce anxiety over time.
Can meditation cure anxiety and overthinking?
Anxiety is not currently considered to be “curable,” but strategies like meditation can help with managing and lessening anxiety and anxiety-inducing thoughts both in the short and long-term.
Is meditation better than antidepressants for anxiety?
While more research is needed comparing different meditation techniques and different medications, studies comparing meditation to the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) have had some interesting results. The findings indicate that meditation can be overall as effective as escitalopram for treating anxiety. However, while 15% of participants utilizing meditation experienced one or more side effects, 79% in the medication group had at least one negative side effect.
Overall, everyone is different and what works best to help one person with managing stress, anxiety, and negative emotions is likely to be different from what helps you.
What meditation calms you down?
Some of the best meditation techniques to manage depression, stress and anxiety, as discussed in the above article, include:
- Guided meditation
- Visualization (such as visualizing a favorite place of yours, a quiet stream, etc.)
- Mindfulness meditation
- Metta meditation to build feelings of self-love and kindness
- Mantras or positive affirmations
- Gong or music meditation
- Trataka meditation
- Transcendental meditation
- Body scanning
- Guided imagery meditation
- Qigong meditation that involves dynamic movements conducted in a mindful, meditative way
What is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique for anxiety?
This is the same as five sense anxiety meditation discussed above.
What is the 3 technique for anxiety?
The three technique for managing anxiety is as follows: first, notice three things that you can see. They can be your keys, a plant, chairs, anything. Next, focus on three things that you can hear. Finally, move three different body parts and take time to observe the sensations involved in doing so.
What are coping skills for anxiety?
Some tried and true, science-backed approaches to calming anxiety include:
- Slow, deep breathing exercises like box breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Meditation techniques for anxiety like the five senses meditation
- A regular meditation practice, like daily guided meditations
- Sometimes, drinking water or having a healthy snack can help
- Talking or spending time with a trusted loved one
- Exercise like swimming, walking, yoga, weightlifting, or running that encourages you to be in the present moment and helps expel anxious energy
- Doing things you enjoy, like painting, reading, or listening to music
- Taking a nap
- Petting or playing with a pet
- Spending time outdoors or anywhere that helps you to cultivate a sense of inner peace and reduce stress
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