Anxiety Treatment: 
Mindfulness Meditation

Introducing the practice of mindfulness meditation to your daily life

can have a profound impact on your anxiety treatment. Mindfulness, or mindfulness meditation, is being used to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia and chronic pain in mental health clinics, hospitals, and treatment centers throughout the world. Mindfulness research has shown positive effects on mood, the immune system, and brain functioning for improved emotional and physical health and well-being.

In essence, mindfulness is the cultivation

of one's ability to consciously connect to the present moment by learning to focus attention. By gently bringing one's attention back to the breath, an affirmation, or basic states of consciousness (feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations), we can learn to interrupt the constant mental chatter and anxiety-producing thoughts that get in our way and prevent us from living the life we want.

Mindfulness meditation can be done formally or informally,

and both are good and helpful. A formal practice involves sitting in meditation for a prescribed amount of time, usually 20 minutes or so once or twice a day. This does not have to be hard, and to make it easier I will pass on the advice of a meditation teacher that finally got this through my own resistant mind--starting out anywhere from one to 20 minutes will do.

To use the example of the affirmation, I AM Safe, noted on the Stress Management  page, a formal practice could be as simple as putting yourself in a comfortable chair, closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths, and repeating that affirmation to yourself ("I am safe . . . I am safe . . . I am safe") for one to 20 minutes. Whenever you notice that your mind is elsewhere, simply return your thoughts to the affirmation and continue. When you notice that you are thinking about the dog, or getting to work, or that this is a stupid waste of time, simply note that thought and return to the affirmation. Take a breath. One to 20 minutes.

Using the same example, an informal mindfulness meditation could be taking a breath and repeating the affirmation, "I AM safe," anytime during the day when you notice yourself feeling anxious. If you find yourself starting to feel anxious about whatever your mind is going on about, say to yourself, "Oh, I'm feeling anxious," and then consciously repeat "I am safe . . . I am safe . . . I am safe," a few times. Make the thought conscious ("Oh, Im feeling anxious"), and then direct your attention to a more productive thought ("I am safe"). Anytime throughout your day, as needed or just because you think of it. Simple. And powerful.

Mindfulness practice can start helping you feel better right away,

but its strength is in embracing a daily practice over time by making it a part of your lifestyle. In this way one can "retrain" the brain from the habit of unconscious, negative, unproductive thinking to conscious, life-affirming, productive thinking. The greatest benefit this practice provides is not just in the reduction of anxiety symptoms or chronic pain or insomnia; rather, by learning to be in conscious acceptance of the here and now instead of expending the constant energy used trying to suppress or avoid our fears, allows one to move more safely in the greater flow of life with comfort and ease despite the particulars of any given situation.

There are many books written on the subject, notably the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. Shinzen Young's website is a great resource for information and home practice classes to get you started.

Mindfulness is an important component of my own Soul-Focused Therapy

because it is effective, easy, and most importantly speaks to the essence of who we are. We are so much more than just our symptoms. Are you ready to begin a more peace-filled life? 

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