Mindfulness can be described as an ability to be fully present and aware of the existing moment, without interpreting or judging it. Practiced through meditation, mindfulness exercise can help you become aware of your negative, self-critical thoughts. Moreover, mindfulness can increase your optimism, boost your mood and improve your self-image.
How can Mindfulness help you Overcome Anxiety?
It is completely normal to feel worried, nervous or afraid from time to time. Most of us experience these feelings daily. However, an anxiety disorder is quite different from normal feelings of apprehension or fear. Anxiety includes a non-specific feeling of discomfort that doesn’t have the real reason and is rather related to the perceived or future threat.
When you are lost in constant worry, it's easy to mistake your worries and fears for facts, instead of recognizing that they are just your thoughts. When your negative thoughts become SO real, they provoke an emotional and physical response, known as anxiety.
Anxiety affects the way we feel, think, and behave. It often manifests through real physical symptoms like an upset stomach, migraines, chest or back pain, among others. This condition can seriously impact the quality of your everyday life.
The good thing about anxiety is that it's treatable. And mindfulness meditation is believed to be one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety.
Both science and experience have proven the positive effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Mindfulness meditation can help us stop the automatic fight, flight or freeze reactions that often lead to anxiety. Bringing an awareness to our actual experience in the present moment, we can stay focused and utilize more conscious control over our behavior.
The Science of Mindfulness Reduced Anxiety
Research has proven that mindfulness exercises can actually rewire our brain to change our thoughts and behavior. Mindfulness has the power to reduce the activity in the part of our brain called the amygdala. This cluster of neurons in the limbic system of our brain plays a vital role in processing emotions. This is where our reactions to anxiety triggers takes place.
When emotional or environmental stressors convince your amygdala that you are in danger, the amygdala fires and prepares you for the flight or fight response. As a result, you feel anxious. Mindfulness activities, such as deep breathing or guided meditations, work to deactivate the fight or flight response by activating your body's calming responses, known as the parasympathetic nervous system.
Anxiety can often lead to depression and low self-esteem. By getting your anxiety under control with Mindfulness, you in turn can boost your self esteem and confidence.
Both of our therapists are trained in Mindfulness and use it daily in our practice. Lauren Arnau specializes in using Mindfulness to help worried kids. Dana Carretta-Stein uses Mindfulness as a multi-faceted approach to heal from trauma and anxiety.
About the Author
Dana Carretta-Stein is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, in Scarsdale, NY. She specializes in clinical psychotherapy to treat individuals with anxiety, behavior and trauma difficulties.