May is national meditation month! There is no time like the present to begin a mediation practice. You may be saying but Celine, why should I meditate? My guess is that you decided to check out this article because you have been struggling with anxiety. Let’s explore how using mindfulness and meditation can ease anxiety and help you to feel calm and easy:
1) Helps to rewire the brain
A lot of the time anxiety is caused by worry of future events and not being able to control them. Meditation and mindfulness teaches us how to be aware and present in the moment. This gets you out of your head and into your body. In mindfulness and meditation one uses their breath and their five senses to help them to ground in present. A study in 2010 done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that our brains can change with as little as 11 hours of meditation. That isn’t even a full 24 hr day!!! It affects the white matter in the brain that connects the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC helps us to regulate our emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Doesn’t it seem worth it to take 10- 30 minutes to help us to become more aware and less anxious?
It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process. ― Osho
2) Teaches you to Breathe deeply
The basic practice of meditation is to focus on and become aware of your breath and use it as an anchor for the present moment. In previous articles I have discussed the importance of breathing. Since 80 percent of Americans only breathe thoracically, it is a serious problem, breathing this way causes stress and anxiety. So if you are spending at least a 5 minutes where you are being actively conscious of your breath, you are on your way to making it a habit when you are not meditating. The more you practice meditating and using your breath as your point of awareness, the more you will notice in your normal life that you are not breathing fully, and deeply.
Now lets try this exercise: Focus on your breath, this helps you to stay present in your body and not in your mind. Practice it right now, notice how deep you are breathing. Once you notice where your breath is, see if you can bring your breath an inch lower, then another inch lower and so on until you reach the bottom of your pelvis. Take your time with each step. The goal is to soften your belly so your lungs and diaphragm can expand. When your belly is soft and you can breath all the way to the bottom of your belly, then you are eliciting the relaxation response.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” ― Amit Ray
3) It teaches you that you are not your thoughts
With the practice of meditation it is possible to just witness our thoughts passing in our mind with out engaging in them. One begins to learn that they are not their thoughts. Our minds just have thoughts, we can notice them and observe them instead of believe all of them. We all have millions thoughts a day. Our brains are doing what they are designed to. Meditation teaches you that you do not have to believe all of your thoughts. The goals is to learn to observe the thoughts, acknowledge, care for them and then let them go. When we do this we learn self compassion and patience with ourselves and our brains.
4) Teaches Self Compassion and patience
When difficult feelings, thoughts or sensations arise in meditation instead of turning away from them, we can learn to face them with patience and compassion. Sometimes when we sit it is hard to sit still, our body aches, uncomfortable feelings arise: Anger, sadness, grief. It is at these times we must talk those parts of oneself and say,” I see you, I sit here with you, tell me what you need.” When we are present for and breath through these hard times we can learn how to be patient with our mind, body and spirt. We learn that we are human having a human experience and that all we all want is someone to acknowledge our experience. So why not give this gift to ourselves? Breathing through uncomfortability takes courage, strength and compassion. I challenge you to show up for yourself today. Because if you don’t, who will? Be kind and loving to yourself, it will change your life and those around you.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
What techniques do you use to reduce your anxiety? What are your favorite meditations to help soothe you? Please comment below and share this article with anyone that you think may benefit from this article. Are you interested in learning how to be more mindful and calm toward your difficult emotions? You can schedule a 15 minute initial consultation with Celine to learn more. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a blessed week!