Mindfulness Exercises For Anxiety & Stress

Reduce anxiety, stress, depression, trauma and chronic pain with these free mindfulness exercises, guided meditations, mindfulness worksheets and more.

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Stress Isochronic Tones For Deep Tranquil Sleep

Music For Stress: Isochronic Tones For Deep Tranquil Sleep

Some beautiful tranquil relaxing music to help with stress and anxiety. Music for stress Isochronic tones also helps to soothe ...
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Gratitude

Gratitude

Sean Fargo leads a guided meditation about Gratitude. The feeling of deep appreciation and gratitude promotes mindful awareness and goodwill ...
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Guided meditation

Guided Meditation

Jack Kornfield leads a Guided Meditation for the Monday Night seating group. He introduces Spirit Rock's programs like loving kindness ...
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mindfulness exercises

Nature: Babbling Brook

Nature Sounds: Babbling Brook. Tired and weary walking on a trail, you seek to rest on a babbling brook nearby ...
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Mindfulness for holiday stress

On Death – Questions and Answers

This audible is a recording of the questions and answers about the topic of death. Ajahn gives answers in the ...
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Being Positive

Being Positive

Being positive in your life with mindfulness exercises can help you to increase the ability to distinguish between positive or ...
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Gratitude Rock

Gratitude Rock

This Gratitude Rock is a Mindfulness Exercise designed to help you remember the things you are grateful for just by ...
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the shaping principle

The Shaping Principle

To begin this Mindfulness Exercise on The Shaping Principle, please bring kind awareness to- why you chose this topic- how your ...
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Larry-Yang

Guided Metta: All Beings [Audio]

Guided Metta: All Beings, by Larry Yang:About Larry Yang:Larry Yang, a longtime meditator, trained as a psychotherapist, has taught meditation ...
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Twenty Minute Meditation

Twenty Minute Meditation – With Just Bells

Available for download, audible media of 20-minute meditation with just bells. Good for 20-minute meditations for invoking sleep ...
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David Richo - When Love Meets Fear

When Love Meets Fear [Audio]

When Love Meets Fear is an essential aspect of the spiritual path. Mindfulness books can increase one' ability to feel ...
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Why It Is So Hard to Live In The Present

Why It Is So Hard to Live In The Present

Why it is so hard for us to live in the present. Why do we have the inability to properly ...
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Relieving Stress

What Makes Life Precious

Sylvia Boorstein talks about What Makes Life Precious. She starts with a story about what's in the news and highlights ...
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Meditation: Space of Awareness

Meditation: Space of Awareness

Tara Brach leads a guided meditation on Meditation: Space of Awareness. Perceive distant sounds, happening in silence. The mind is ...
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Small Boat Great Mountain

Small Boat, Great Mountain

Small Boat, Great Mountain by Amaro Bhikkhu contains Theravadan Reflections on the Natural Great Perfection. It has references to Ajahn ...
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Get in the Flow State What Jazz Can Teach You About Collaboration

What Jazz Can Teach You About Collaboration

The flow state helps us become better collaborators in an organization. The jazz band offers lessons on how to get ...
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Guided Meditation with Sam Harris [Video]

Guided Meditation with Sam Harris [Video]

Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, philosopher, & proponent of mindfulness & spirituality. In this guided meditation, he’ll help improve mindfulness ...
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Could You Elaborate On Ego Versus Healthy Self-Esteem

Could You Elaborate On Ego Versus Healthy Self-Esteem?

How well can you differentiate your ego and self-esteem? Learn to incorporate mindfulness on elaborating ego versus healthy self-esteem ...
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Reflecting on a Positive Future

Reflecting On A Positive Future

Reflecting On A Positive Future. This script encourages the listener to visualize a positive future, deepening the self-inquiry with meaningful ...
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Donald-Rothberg

Right Livelihood And Vocation [Audio]

Right Livelihood And Vocation, by Donald Rothberg: About Donald Rothberg:Donald Rothberg, PhD, has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976, and has ...
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Perspectives That Make Smart People [Video]

Perspectives That Make Smart People [Video]

The development of your wisdom and your compassion is cognitive development. Learn the five essential perspectives you need to put ...
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Starting Where You Are [Audio]

Starting Where You Are [Audio]

Dharma, the fourth foundation of mindfulness, consists of the five aggregates. This emphasizes the importance of staying embodied in meditation ...
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Making an Effective Request

Making an Effective Request

Sometimes, it may prove difficult to request from people in your workplace. Learn how to make an effective request to ...
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Knowing that Attention is Present

Knowing that Attention is Present

Phillip Moffitt leads a meditation to attention mindfulness awareness, to be mindfully aware of the occurring, to know the occurrence ...
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Mindfulness Self-Compassion PTSD Symptoms

Mindfulness, Self-Compassion & PTSD Symptoms

This study suggests that increasing mindfulness and self-compassion could decrease functional disability in returning war veterans with PTSD symptoms ...
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EXHALE A Visual Meditation

EXHALE – A Visual Meditation

Taste the fresh air by watching. This short visual meditation with soothing music by Loy Wesselburg might be just what ...
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Warm Hands Visualization

Warm Hands Visualization

In this mindfulness exercise on Warm Hands Visualization, you will imagine warming up your hands and feet as a relaxation ...
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Being A Good Listener

Being A Good Listener

A good listener has four traits: they egg us on, urge clarification, don't moralize, and are able to separate disagreement ...
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Mindfulness exercise

Gratitude

Rick Hanson talks about Gratitude. It's a sort of a catchword for gladness, satisfaction, and fulfillment. These feelings are the ...
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Bedtime Mindfulness Guided Meditation Script

Bedtime Mindfulness

This bedtime mindfulness guided meditation script is short and best done very slowly. While mindful breathing, calm your mind and ...
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Tibetan Singing Bowl Music

Tibetan Singing Bowl Music

Guided meditation & massage ASMR to promote relaxation with the use of soothing Tibetan singing bowl music that will help ...
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How To Communicate Like A Leader [Video]

How To Communicate Like A Leader [Video]

Find out in this video how a leader-manager can elicit internal commitment from his team through conscious communication. A true ...
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Mindful Self Analysis

Mindful Self-Analysis

To begin this Mindfulness Exercise on Self-Analysis, please bring kind awareness to- why you chose this topic- how your belly, chest, ...
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Identify and Eliminate the Sources of Conflict [Video]

Identify and Eliminate the Sources of Conflict [Video]

Explore the essential ideas of Constructive Collaboration and why it is important to identify the core elements of conflict & ...
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Beginning Our Day

Beginning Our Day, Volume 1

A free mindfulness ebook on teachings that one can reflect on daily to achieve a better sense of reflection and ...
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Visualizing a Fountain for Healing

Visualizing A Fountain For Healing

Visualizing A Fountain For Healing is a short guided meditation script. It makes use of fountain imagery to bring relaxation, ...
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increasing your connection with others

Increasing Your Connection With Others

To begin this Mindfulness Exercise on Increasing Connection, please bring kind awareness to- why you chose this topic- how your belly, ...
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Wisdom to Dance

Wisdom to Dance

Qoya is based on the idea through movement, we remember. We remember our essence is wise, wild and free. Using ...
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Do You Cry Is It Normal To Cry

Do You Cry? Is It Normal To Cry?

Eckhart Tolle says it’s normal to cry and talks about some of the things that make him cry. He also ...
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How to Bring Wisdom and Compassion to the Business World [Video]

How to Bring Wisdom and Compassion to the Business World [Video]

In this video, Fred Kofman talks about how to bring wisdom and compassion to the business world. He hopes that ...
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Mindfulness meditation

History is Ending Today

Matthew Brensilver talks about History is Ending Today. The mind can easily assume permanence or continuity of things. But then ...
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When Things Are Not Working [Video]

When Things Are Not Working [Video]

Are things not working out for you? Learn how to convert it into positive thinking by reading on how to ...
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Barbara Fredrickson Positive Emotions Open Our Mind

Barbara Fredrickson: Positive Emotions Open Mind

This video discusses how positive emotions broaden our awareness of the world, allowing us to become more in tune with ...
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Tony-Bernhard

The Simplicity of Karma [Audio]

The Simplicity of Karma, by Tony Bernhard: About Tony Bernhard:Tony Bernhard first encountered the dharma in 1965 and became one ...
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Ways to Overcome Adversity

5 Ways to Overcome Adversity

Brendon Burchard shares 5 great ideas that will help a lot if you need to overcome adversity in life so ...
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Anxiety and Stress Reduction Through Mindfulness Practice

The Prevalence of Anxiety and Stress in Modern Times

The sources of stress in modern day life are seemingly infinite. From small everyday situations to major life events, it can feel as if there is no escaping the constant pressure of the world around us. Since the dawn of the digital age, a time when it was believed that computers would make our lives easier, life has, in fact, become busier. Perpetual distractions live just a click away, making it challenging for us to find stillness and a sense of inner peace. Even when we are doing seemingly nothing, we are still doing something – surfing the web, making appointments, and taking care of all sorts of business. There is plenty of action in our lives and very little meaningful restoration.

Along with this persistent experience of stress has come the prevalence of anxiety. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is in fact a subtle difference.

Stress is what arises when an interrupting factor enters the picture, upsetting the normal balance of ones life. It is the body’s response – physical, mental, and/or emotional – to any uprising that requires some type of change or action. It can be acute, being a response to a single circumstance, or chronic, being a response to prolonged pressure. These days, the chronic variety of stress is on the rise.

The signs of stress vary from individual to individual, including but not limited to:

  • Physical signs – chest pain, headache, sweating, increased heart rate, fatigue, upset stomach, digestive issues, and sleep disturbance
  • Emotional signs – anxiety, lack of motivation, irritability, depression, emotional withdrawal, and feelings of overwhelm
  • Behavioral signs – changes in appetite, substance use or abuse, overuse of technology, increased emotional upset, and poor communication leading to relational struggles

Anxiety, on the other hand is the experience of fear, nervousness, or apprehension. It is often the result of stress. It can be mild or severe, varying in the impact and control it has over ones life. Often, it is not clear what has triggered the anxious feelings, but the experience is strongly felt nonetheless. Sometimes, this lack of understanding the cause perpetuates the feelings.

There are numerous signs that point towards anxiety, including but not limited to:

  • Feelings of nervousness, fear, or worry
  • Feelings of panic or impending doom
  • Difficulty concentrating on the present moment
  • Fixation on or rumination over the past or future
  • Feelings of agitation or irritability
  • Difficulty regulating emotion
  • Difficulty falling asleep, or waking in the middle of the night with a racing mind
  • Withdrawal from support systems or the outside world at large
  • Physical symptoms of stress (i.e. digestive issues, sweating, and fatigue)

Both of these experiences, and the collection of symptoms they nurture, are widespread in our modern day cultures. While there may be numerous approaches to handling stress and anxiety, mindfulness practice is often the most undervalued and infrequently practiced remedy of them all. However, the use of mindfulness is growing as many of us are looking to get right to the root of our experience. As we become familiar with the ways that mindfulness can help us to manage our experiences of anxiety and stress, we find ourselves inspired to practice (and perhaps even come to teach) these invaluable skills.

How Mindfulness Helps to Manage Anxiety and Stress

When stress and anxiety arise within the body and mind, mindfulness techniques can help to reduce the perceived control that these responses hold over our thoughts and our actions. By drawing our awareness back to the present moment while maintaining compassion and curiosity towards our experience, we begin to disentangle the thoughts that bind us to our perception of whatever has arisen. Mindfulness techniques empower us to take a closer look at the present moment, disempowering our experience of fear at the same time.

Mindfulness as it applies to stress reduction has been well researched and well respected since the late seventies. In 1979, Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) at the University of Massachussets Medical Center. As a complementary approach to traditional medical treatments, the eight-week program helps to address a variety of conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Grief and depression
  • Digestive distress
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic illness and pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Sleep issues

One related study aimed to examine the effects of an 8-week mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction course. Results showed that the program significantly reduced stress-related psychological symptoms and increased participants’ sense of control over their lives. It was concluded that mindfulness meditation techniques could be a powerful coping strategy, holding power to transform the way that we respond to life stressors. Another body of research discovered that MBSR training has the potential to reduce emotional reactivity in individuals with social anxiety disorder, while also promoting emotional regulation.

The Role of the Breath

In many mindfulness techniques, the breath plays a central role. As a continual stream of life force flowing into and out of the body, the breath acts as an anchor to help root us more deeply into the present moment. As we come into the present, the mind softens and our attachment to anxious thoughts subsides.

When we find ourselves up against a stressor, whether real or perceived, the body engages its fight-or-flight response. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in, releasing a variety of stress hormones to combat whatever we are up against. The heart speeds up, the digestive system slows, perspiration begins, and the breath becomes shallow. While all of these responses are natural defensive mechanisms of the body, they do not serve us in times when the stress lives predominantly in our minds – in those quiet hours of rumination, worry, and fear.

As we become more mindful of the body, specifically in moments of mental stress, we start to observe these physiological reactions. When we notice them, we are in a better position to counteract them. One way to overcome the fight-or-flight response is to consciously observe the breath and to then guide it deeper into the belly. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing, a technique that initiates the relaxation response.

This response, a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson that helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, helps to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Slow the heart rate
  • Improve digestion
  • Release anxiety and depression
  • Ease mental chatter
  • Harness one’s capacity for focus and clarity
  • Relax the body’s muscles
  • Restore hormonal balance
  • Improve circulation

All of these physiological movements work to restore our sense of balance, in both body and mind. It can be said then that our breath is a powerful tool for alleviating stress and anxiety. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

Mindfulness Techniques to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

There are numerous techniques we can start practicing in order to help alleviate the stress and anxiety that is present in our lives. The three following exercises can be explored to help better understand these challenging feelings and to help overcome them. There are also a multitude of online resources available to help assist with this discovery. In any moment, choose which approach or recording feels right for you.

For these practices, come into a comfortable seated position with your back straight. You may sit on the floor, on a cushion, or in a straight-backed chair – whichever position best suits your present needs. Relax your shoulders and rest your hands on your thighs or in your lap. Gently close your eyes.   

Observing Your Thoughts

  • Take a few breaths to ground yourself into the present moment, observing any sensations as you inhale and as you exhale.
  • Continue to breathe mindfully as you expand your awareness to note the surface beneath you and the air around you. Without judgment, simply become aware of what you observe, using your senses to draw your mind into the body.
  • As thoughts arise, begin to view them as if you are an outside observer. There is no need to condemn or criticize your thoughts; simply open your awareness to them, detaching yourself from the stories they attempt to weave.
  • Whenever a thought arises, observe what is moving by noting its associated action. For instance, you might note, “planning,” “thinking,” “fearing,” or “rejecting.” Keep these notes action-based, refraining from attaching any sense of the I-self to them
  • Notice the body and mind beginning to relax as you practice. Continue this for as long as is necessary to bring yourself into a greater sense of peace and comfort.

Mindful Breathing

  • Draw your awareness to your breath, beginning to observe its present depth, rhythm, and flow. Do not try to change it in anyway; simply observe the way it moves and any way that it might change as you focus on it.
  • You may notice that the breath naturally deepens within a minute or two. If it remains shallow, shift your attention to your belly, observing its rise and fall. Notice if the breath moves alongside this shift in attention, filling your lungs to their full capacity and pushing into your abdomen.
  • Allow the chest space to soften, opening a little bit wider if the deepening process proves challenging. In any case, continue to focus on your breathing, allowing it to bring your attention away from your thoughts and into the life force that nourishes your body.
  • Continue to breathe mindfully for a minimum of five to ten minutes.

Sound Meditation

  • Explore the power of sound by listening to an online audio recording designed for meditation, such as a binaural beats track. These tracks are best listened to through headphones.
  • Come to a comfortable position, perhaps lying down in this case for maximum relaxation. Press play and draw your awareness to your breath for a minute or two to ground yourself.
  • Continue to breathe mindfully as you open up your sense of sound. Open your heart and mind to the transformative power of this form of music.
  • Listen for 20 to 30 minutes, allowing sound to be your primary focus for this meditation.

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