Meditation is an ancient practice that in today’s world can mean many different things to people.
For some people, the image of an a loin clad yogi sitting in the traditional 3-point, cross-legged posture is what they think of. Or perhaps brightly clad Buddhist monks come to mind.
Meditation though has entered the mainstream world, and everyday people use it to create an oasis of peace and calm in their lives.
This section is a high-level introduction to meditation, the various types of meditations, and its uses for anxiety. It covers the best kind of meditation for anxiety, and gives you some ideas of other guided meditation subjects that you may find helpful.
Links are provided to the more detailed discussions and instructions available on this site.
Since the term meditation can be used to mean different things, the definition used here is from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
Because the term ‘guided meditations’ has been used by to also describe methods and procedures that induce a hypnotic state rather than a meditative one, a brief description of hypnosis and how it differs from meditation is also included.
Introduction to Meditation
Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.
There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common:
- a quiet location with as few distractions as possible;
- a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions);
- a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath);
- and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).”
Source: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health [bullets added by site editor]
There are a variety of ways to clear and calm your mind including:
- Sitting or Seated Meditation
- Walking Meditation
- Relaxation Meditation
- Guided Meditation
- Quick and Easy Meditation Practices
You can teach yourself to meditate, and there are meditation teachers and groups, both religious and nonreligious, from whom you can learn and practice with. There are audio and video instructions available from many sources that can teach you how to meditate.
The major health benefit of a regular meditation practice is the reduction of stress, which is a major contributor to many diseases and disorders, both physical and mental.
Meditation can also help you regulate your moods. According to WebMD, a study of people who meditated regularly for six weeks showed they could handle stressful situations with fewer or no emotional upsets.
Meditation and Anxiety
Because a meditation practice helps reduce stress, it’s beneficial when you’re challenged with anxiety.
In order for meditation to help with your anxiety, you need to meditate on a regular basis. What does it mean to meditate on a regular basis?
That does not mean you have to meditate for hours at a time. All you need to do is set aside time each day to meditate for 10 to 15 minutes.
Thay Hue Tam, the abbot of the Hai An Pagoda Buddhist Temple in Connecticut, recommends meditating both first thing in the morning and last thing before you go to bed.
Of course, more important than the time you meditate is that you do it daily.
Scheduling a time to clear and calm your mind at the same time each day will help make it part of your regular routine.
The Best Kind of Meditation for Anxiety
Here’s a little more information about each of them with links to the instructions page.
While sitting or seated meditation with legs crossed so the knees are touching the floor is the posture seen most, you can also sit on a chair. This type of meditation has you focusing on your breath.
Walking meditation is a very slow form of walking where your focus is on both your breathing and what your feet are doing.
Relaxation meditation is a meditation where you simply focus on relaxing, or focus on relaxing each part of your body.
Guided meditations take many forms. Some assist you in meditating and calming your mind by helping your focus on your breath or breathing in a particular fashion.
Others seek to help you with your practice to improve relationships, be happier, learn to forgive etc.
There are also Buddhist meditations whose purpose is for helping you realize and spread Loving Kindness, Compassion. etc.
Quick and Easy meditation practices are those that take anywhere from a minute to 2 or 3 minutes. They can be done almost anywhere. Some of them can be done while standing in a check-out line.
Can Meditation Cure My Anxiety?
Meditation is not a cure for anything. It’s simply a practice that provides general health benefits.
People have developed guided meditations that address anxiety. While they may provided similar health benefits to the meditation that is used to clear and calm your mind, they are different.
These are focused meditations that were developed with the intention of helping you practice making positive changes in your life.
It’s been my experience that these types of meditations address the type anxiety as described for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
People with GAD “are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly.” Source: National Institute of Mental Health
The anxiety meditations focus on your thinking and help you practice releasing or exchanging your worrisome thoughts for more positive ones.
Anxiety and panic, such as mine that have their roots in past trauma, are difficult to address in meditations that many people can use. That’s because most things about them are specific to the individual.
That does not mean, a guided meditation for anxiety that focuses on resolving worrying thoughts won’t be helpful.
The only way to determine that is to do your own research and testing.
Are There Any Specific Meditations That Can Help With My Anxiety?
Your anxiety, how it shows up in your life, what you think or feel is causing it, and how it affects you is specific to you. Yes, you may shared certain characteristics with other people, but in a world full of people you are still a unique individual.
You may need to focus on the types of situations that elevate your anxiety such as speaking in public or social gatherings.
Perhaps some of your anxiety is because you feel you lack confidence, are undeserving, or feel unworthy.
Doing guided meditations or similar practices whose purpose is to help your practice of being more confident, etc. may be beneficial.
Meditations that address worrisome thoughts or have other approaches to helping reduce anxiety may be helpful as well.
Again, the only way to determine that is to do your own research and testing.
What’s the Difference Between Meditation and Hypnosis?
As defined in the Introduction to Meditation, “Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
Meditation does not use hypnotic induction processes where you are directed to alter your state of consciousness for the purposes of receiving suggestions from another person.
Guided meditations can help you with specific practices to clear and calm your mind, or help you with practices you wish to pursue such as reducing your anxiety, sleeping better at night, feeling good about yourself, etc.
They are not designed to bring about a specific behavior or change in a specific behavior such as stopping smoking.
Any guided meditations that use hypnosis should be labeled as doing so.
Definition of Hypnosis
1: a trancelike state of altered consciousness that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject Source: Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary
According to WebMD
Hypnosis is usually considered an aid to psychotherapy (counseling or therapy), because the hypnotic state allows people to explore painful thoughts, feelings, and memories they might have hidden from their conscious minds. In addition, hypnosis enables people to perceive some things differently, such as blocking an awareness of pain.
Hypnosis can be used in two ways, as suggestion therapy or for patient analysis.
Suggestion therapy: The hypnotic state makes the person better able to respond to suggestions. Therefore, hypnotherapy can help some people change certain behaviors, such as stopping smoking or nail biting. It can also help people change perceptions and sensations, and is particularly useful in treating pain.
Analysis: This approach uses the relaxed state to explore a possible psychological root cause of a disorder or symptom, such as a traumatic past event that a person has hidden in his or her unconscious memory. Once the trauma is revealed, it can be addressed in psychotherapy.
Before attempting a guided hypnosis process from someone you don’t know, review the recorded session. Once you get past the relaxation and induction phases which generally take you down a set of stairs, an elevator or similar downward progression, you’ll get to the suggestions that will be delivered to your relaxed mind.
That way you can determine if what the session covers meet your needs.
If you have any concerns or are under the care of a mental health professional be sure to check with your practitioner before proceeding.
If you’d like more information on hypnosis and its use today please see this video series Tranceformation: Hypnosis in Brain and Body David Spiegel, M.D. at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health site. Note: you do not need to login in order to view the video.
Meditation has been practiced by individuals for thousands of years. It has been proven to provide both physical, mental and emotional benefits – provided you maintain a regular practice.
The good news is that doing brief, mindful pauses throughout your day can be beneficial if it’s difficult to maintain a regular meditation process. You can find Quick and Easy Meditation practices on this site.
Additionally, my 10 Tips to Outsmart Anxiety (Whatever the Situation) contains grounding techniques that can be used quickly and easily as well. To get your copy, click here.
As always, use your best judgment in deciding to take a particular course of action.