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If you’re experiencing anxiety, you’re not alone. Statistics show that anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States each year. That’s about 18.1% of the population. Each one of us will take a different approach to managing the anxiety we experience, but if you’ve found yourself here, you might be wondering:

Will mindfulness help my anxiety?

Will Mindfulness Help My Anxiety?

Mindfulness and meditation have become household names in recent decades – and for good reason. Science has started to reveal their efficacy in reducing expressions of various health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, and stress. Some of the specific studies that have shown this include:

  • One meta-analysis looking at 39 studies found that mindfulness-based interventions showed promise in treating anxiety and mood issues in those studied, findings that were maintained over follow-up.
  • A study looking at the efficacy of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in social anxiety disorder found that compared with baseline, MBSR participants showed improvement in anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as self-esteem.
  • Another meta-analysis revealed that mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions (MABIs) were correlated with a strong reduction in anxiety and associated depressive symptoms in participants.
  • A small 6-week trial study found that mindfulness holds promise as effective an intervention for children with anxiety. 

These are just some of the many findings that help to measure the impact that mindfulness-based interventions have on our anxious experiences. How mindfulness practices help with anxiety is another question to which there are a few different explanations.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh -

9 Meditation Scripts for Anxiety

How Mindfulness Helps Anxiety

As science continues to evolve, new explanations are coming to light that help to explain how mindfulness helps anxiety symptoms. From moderating our nervous systems response to altering brain function, this is some of what we now know:

  • Mindfulness helps to shift our attention away from worried thoughts and concerns by guiding our awareness back to the here and now. Simple techniques such as breath awareness slowly help to ease the mind. Yes, we might get distracted and become entranced by thoughts and emotions from time to time, but through practice, we enhance our ability to continually come back – again and again – to the ease and simplicity of the breath.
  • Mindfulness practices can help to initiate the body’s relaxation response. As we breathe slowly and deeply, the fight-or-flight response begins to lessen and we move towards a state of greater ease – both physically and mentally.
  • These practices also help to shift our relationship to our thoughts and feelings. Worried thoughts will continue to arise so long as we are human, but what changes is how we interact with them. For example, when a fearful or anxious thought comes up for us, mindfulness invites us to become curious, open, and compassionate towards that experience. This helps to ease the weight that anxiety carries.
  • Furthermore, through neuroimaging, we are beginning to understand how mindfulness and meditation impact the brain. One such finding comes from a study revealing that anxiety relief connected to mindfulness meditation was associated with activation of three parts of the brain: the anterior cingulate cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and anterior insula.

“Worried thoughts will continue to arise so long as we are human, but what changes is how we interact with them.”

- Unknown -

Mindfulness for Anxiety

If you are interested in learning more about how mindfulness helps anxiety, or if you are looking for specific practices that can support you, consider some of the following resources: 

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

- Amit Ray -

All of the above resources and findings might prove beneficial for you in navigating any anxiety you might be experiencing. With that said, it is important to always take the path that feels most healing and nourishing for you. For some, mindfulness practice is best explored with an advanced teacher. Others might find greater benefit working with a therapist or taking some other approach to managing these emotions.

Trust that the best approach to managing anxiety is the one that works for you. We are all unique and require different supports and tools at different times in our lives. Honor what feels best for you today and in the days to come.

Key Takeaways

  • Mindfulness meditation has been found through scientific research to be promising intervention in helping to manage anxiety.
  • Mindfulness helps to shift our attention away from worried thoughts, while also shifting our relationship to the thoughts themselves.
  • The body's relaxation response can be initiated through mindfulness practice, helping to move us out of the fight-or-flight state.
  • Mindfulness has also been found to influence brain functioning, which is one of the mechanisms by which it supports those with anxiety.
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