05 Mar Anxiety Reduction: Mindfulness Meditation
I began meditating around 20 years ago. I was looking for peace in my mind and piece of mind in dealing with a very demanding work schedule. I found both. Of course, my practice waxed and waned over the years as did the peace in my mind!
What I can definitively say after all of this time is that my day is calmer and more focused when I begin the day with a 15-minute meditation. Longer is lovely. Fifteen minutes makes a big difference. Five minutes can make a difference too. Start small.
Brain Benefits of Meditation
On a very basic level, mindfulness meditation is about noticing your breath, the sounds around you, feeling your bodily sensations, and gazing inward to observe thoughts without judgment. Distraction is normal.
For those with anxiety, strengthening the ability to detach from obsessive thinking and feelings of distress is very helpful to calm the body down and increase attention.
Studies have shown that meditation practice is effective at reducing anxiety and depression including sleep issues. There has also been extensive research on the impact of mindfulness meditation on the brain. MRI scans have shown that after an 8-week course on mindfulness meditation practice, the “fight or flight” center of the brain, the amygdala, appears to shrink.
While this fear and emotion center shrinks, the prefrontal cortex thickens. The prefrontal cortex deals with awareness, concentration, and decision-making. Additionally, the connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker and the connections between the prefrontal cortex (executive functioning) gets stronger.
In a nutshell, mindfulness meditation can aid you in reacting to the ups and downs of life in a more calm, cool, and collected manner. And in case some judgment is kicking in, bear in mind that meditation is not self-indulgent navel gazing.
The idea that it’s “just focusing on me, that it is narcissistic” — that’s a complete misunderstanding. Just stopping [to think] is a radical act of sanity and love — and not just love for yourself. To drop into being means to recognize your interconnectedness with all life, and with being itself.
4 Ways to Start Meditating
1. Use an app on your smart phone.
- Buddhify: Meditations that target every aspect of your life, from sleeping, to traveling, to being online.
- Calm: Choose between options for sound and length of time, scenes from nature for you to visually focus on while you meditate. A breathing function. There is even a Winnie the Pooh meditation in the series.
- Headspace: Their level one course features easy, 10-minute sessions for each day that will help you get into the habit of meditating regularly.
2. Get a book on meditation.
Some recommended authors are Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sharon Salzburg, and Tich Nhat Hanh.
3. Join a group.
In the Atlanta area, you could try Shambhala Meditation Center.
4. YouTube video on meditation.
There are tons of good ones. If you type in the authors above you are sure to be on the right track.
If you would like to use mindfulness meditation to help you combat the symptoms of anxiety and depression with a partner, call or email me. I find that practicing mindfulness in a therapy session can be a good way to get started.
Kate Murphy, LMSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Berkeley Lake, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often.