Mindfulness Meditation: Melt Your Anxiety

You heard a rumor of more layoffs at work, have not met your monthly quota, and are finishing up an important presentation at the last minute. You’re worried about having insurance for that darn dental work, being able to pay the mortgage (or rent), that the presentation stinks, and that you’re not spending enough time with friends (children or partner); and you should see a doctor about that rash. Whew.

Anxiety About Anxiety

Worry, fear, and apprehension are symptoms of anxiety. When sitting in a lobby waiting for a job interview, having some anxiety is normal. If anxiety is continuous and interferes with your ability to function and sleep, it’s time to worry about the anxiety.

Fortunately for the human race, mindfulness meditation can help relieve anxiety. We are also fortunate that mindfulness is easy to do, not that humans are lazy or anything.

Anxiety on Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment on purpose and without judgment. It can be practiced “formally” while sitting on an expensive cushion in a quiet room, or when you work, drive or take out the garbage.

The mindfulness will melt your anxiety because it prevents dwelling on apprehensions.

This is not only what many monks claim; it’s brain science. When we focus our attention purposefully and at the moment, activity in the attentive front part of our brain revs up. This focused attention filters out distractions, and the brain’s business shifts largely to its right side (as opposed to left).

The right brain is not where our verbal faculties lay so it stops analyzing, categorizing, and judging. Because there is less information entering and bouncing about our gray matter, it needs to make less adjustment to stimulation from the environment. The mind becomes quiet.

A quieted mind is less attuned to the self, time, space, and thinking (worded thought). Since anxiety depends on self-orientation and thinking about time (the future), it fades away.

The Body Relaxes, Too

When the brain has less incoming information to sort, the amygdala and hippocampus get some leisure time. Both structures are located in the lower central part of the brain and influence our moods. When the hippocampus and amygdala are calm, the midbrain chills-out as well. Our body responds to this by lowering blood pressure and heart rate, and the parasympathetic nervous system gets the cue to relax.

3 Simple Mindfulness Exercises

One: The Breath
If you are new to mindfulness meditation, you can start practicing by setting a timer (if you have one handy) for one minute. During that minute put your attention on your breathing. Feel the cool air entering your nostrils, notice the lungs filling, and the warm breath flowing out your nose.

You can either breathe normally or take slow deep breaths. Do this until the timer goes off, or the stoplight turns green, or your coffee break is over.

Two: Ants
When you have the time, find an ant colony, or an area busy with ants, and observe them. No thinking, or judging; just watch them heft crumbs of food or whatever antics they are up to. Notice everything about the ants without thinking about ants. Do this for five to ten minutes, or more.

Ants are fascinating to stare at, but you can do this exercise with any object (or bug). Try observing an orange, for example. See it, smell it, feel the skin, and if you have time put a slice in your mouth and be attentive to that. Simple objects work well too. Rocks, pens, coffee mugs, a marshmallow, or toilet brush; whatever is at hand.

Three: Behind the Wheel
How often do any of us give driving 100% of our attention? We can drive miles and not remember getting to where we’ve gotten. The next time you are behind the wheel, be fully attentive to the task of driving. No thoughts about what to cook for dinner, the idiot driver ahead of you, or the inbox no longer visible on your desk.

With all mindfulness practices, if (when) your mind wanders, no biggie. (You don’t want to get anxious about mindfulness.) Simply go back to being attentive. A quiet mind will relieve your anxiety.

Photo: Pexels

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