Anxiety is one of the biggest health issues right now. In America alone, more than 40 million people suffer from anxiety. And globally, more than 6-18% of people experience anxiety.
So, don’t worry you’re not alone.
Fortunately, mindfulness practices can be extremely effective in alleviating anxiety. Today, we’re going to go over 5 mindfulness practices for getting in the present moment and learning to respond to anxiety in a healthier way. Let’s dive right in.
1) Connecting with the breath
Intentional breathing techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to start a relaxation response in the body. This slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and slows breathing. By doing all of these things, your body can carry out repairing and restoring functions.
Here’s a 7 step process to practice breathing meditation properly:
1) Sit comfortably and breathe naturally. Start to observe your breath and where in your body it is flowing and filling.
2) Put one hand on top of your chest, on your breastbone, and the other hand right below your belly button on your stomach. Try to notice which area you seem to be breathing into. Continue for a cycle of about 10 breaths.
3) Focus on breathing in your chest. What things to do you notice when you’re doing this? Observe this for 10 to 20 breath cycles and then start breathing normally again.
4) Focus on breathing into your belly. What do you notice about your breath when you’re doing this? How do you feel? Keep doing this for about 10 to 20 breath cycles then breath normally for a few cycles.
5) Take a half inhale into your chest, then breath the rest into your belly. Notice how this feels and observe the sensations. Do this for a cycle of 10 to 20 breaths then breathe normally for a few cycles.
6) Fill both areas with air. Take deep breaths and feel both of your hands move as you fill these spaces with your breath. See if you can slow the exhale to be longer than the inhale. Do this for a cycle of 10 to 20 breaths, then return to normal breathing.
7) Reflect on how that felt physically, emotionally, and energetically.
2) Become an observer of the mind
This technique simply involves taking a step back from your mind and realizing that you’re not your thoughts. Spiritual guru Osho explains how to go about it:
“Become an observer of the currents of thought that flow through your consciousness. Just like someone sitting by the side of a river watching the river flow by, sit by the side of your mind and watch. Or just as someone sits in the forest and watches a line of birds flying by, just sit and watch…”
“Don’t do anything, don’t interfere, don’t stop them in any way. Don’t repress in any way. If there is a thought coming don’t stop it, if it is not coming don’t try to force it to come. You are simply to be an observer….
“In that simple observation you will see and experience that your thoughts and you are separate – because you can see that the one who is watching the thoughts is separate from the the thoughts, different from them. And you become aware of this, a strange peace will envelop you because you will not have any more worries. You can be in the midst of all kinds of worries but the worries will not be yours.”
3) Acknowledge and accept your emotions
When you take responsibility for your emotions, like fear and anger, you are giving yourself the power to change them. By resisting these feelings, you are only masking them. When you accept them, you can learn about them and learn where they come from and how to control them.
Osho explains why we need to embrace our emotions in this beautiful passage:
“…Through suppression, the mind becomes split. The part that you accept becomes the conscious, and the part that you deny becomes the unconscious. This division is not natural, the division happens because of repression. And into the unconscious you go on throwing all the rubbish that society rejects — but remember, whatsoever you throw in there becomes more and more part of you: it goes into your hands, into your bones, into your blood, into your heartbeat. Now psychologists say that so many diseases are caused by repressed emotions: so many heart failures means so much anger has been repressed in the heart, so much hatred that the heart is poisoned.”
4) Imagine the best scenario
By imagining the best way that things can be carried out, you will give yourself motivation and hope instead of the negativity and fear that imagining the scenario would bring. Worst case scenario thoughts will also you stress, anxiety, and possibly to behave irrationally.
You can’t get much more inspirational than these words from Mahatma Gandhi:
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
5) Be comfortable with yourself
When you wait for others to make you feel comfortable, you give off fearful energy. By feeling your own sense of power and unique abilities in situations, you can help to create the safe environment you seek to be part of.
Osho explains this feeling as not “coming home yet” in this beautiful, long quote:
“Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky, because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking to what people are saying about you. And you are always following other people, you are always trying to satisfy them. You are always trying to be respectable, you are always trying to decorate your ego. This is suicidal. Rather than being disturbed by what others say, you should start looking inside yourself…
Whenever you are self-conscious you are simply showing that you are not conscious of the self at all. You don’t know who you are. If you had known, then there would have been no problem— then you are not seeking opinions. Then you are not worried what others say about you— it is irrelevant!
When you are self-conscious you are in trouble. When you are self-conscious you are really showing symptoms that you don’t know who you are. Your very self-consciousness indicates that you have not come home yet.”