Mindfulness exercises for anxiety are becoming a popular therapeutic technique among millennials, middle age, and the elderly. There are many reasons for its popularity.
- It can be done by yourself anywhere or everywhere without the aid of a therapist or professional
- It does not require you to take any form of medication
- It’s inexpensive, and most importantly, it helps one gain control over their mind and relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression.
More than often, I find anxiety originates in my mind when I start thinking negatively. Our thoughts are compelling and have a significant impact on the way we feel, believe, and act. Negative thoughts reinforce negative emotions, which lead to negative behavior that further causes the individual to succumb to negative thoughts.
When we think negatively, it becomes a continuous cycle which causes us to sink further into depression and anxiety. Mindfulness exercises for anxiety help stop this cycle by helping you take your focus away from negative thinking and channelize this awareness to your breathing and bodily sensations.
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Mindfulness exercises for anxiety are defined as an act of intensely focusing or being aware of what you are is sensing, feeling, or experiencing.
I try not to judge or rationalize my actions. I let go of the thoughts that pass through my mind when practicing this activity. Initially, it may be difficult not to pay attention to your thoughts.
Continuing to practice and making an effort, I’ve learned it gets better at practicing mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety
According to Steven F. Hick, mindfulness activities are classified into two types.
- Formal and informal meditation practices
- Nonmeditation-based exercises.
He describes, formal meditation as the practice of sustaining attention on one’s body, breath or sensations, or whatever arises in each moment.
Informal mindfulness, he says, is the application of mindful attention in everyday life activities. Nonmeditation-based exercises, according to Hick, are correctly used in dialectical behavior therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy.
Mindfulness exercises for anxiety help relieve symptoms by altering your physical, emotional, and cognitive responses. They are explained below and can prove to be very helpful when practiced regularly.
This exercise requires you to focus on your breathing and be aware of the way you inhale and exhale your breath. Concentrating on your breathing helps take attention away from troubling thoughts and worries.
According to experts, slow controlled and mindful breathing helps calm the mind and suppress emotional disturbance and panic attacks. Described below are ways you can practice this exercise.
- Find a place or room which is silent and free of distractions.
- Position yourself comfortably. You can either sit on a chair or the floor with your legs crossed.
- Make sure you are not slouching and have your back straight.
- Next, begin to be aware of your breath going in and out.
- Begin to breathe in and out slowly, with each breath cycle lasting about 6-8 seconds.
- If your mind begins to wander during the exercise, gently guide it back to your breathing. Thoughts are bound to pass across the mind, do not suppress them.
- Pay attention to your breathing and how air passes in and out of your body.
- Gradually begin to extend the duration of practicing this exercise. With practice and persistence, you will get better at it.
Breathing exercises are an excellent mindfulness exercise for anxiety, and this exercise helps ward off panic attacks, manage stressful emotions, and helps calm and clear your mind.
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Meditation is a well-known mindfulness exercise for anxiety practice that helps relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
By meditating, you will achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state by focusing your mind on a particular object, thought, or activity.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, meditation plays a fundamental role in reducing emotional effects of anxiety, stress, and depression.Extensive surveys conducted on individuals who suffered from anxiety and practiced meditation. The results from the study stated:
- 60% of anxiety-prone people showed marked improvements in anxiety levels after 6-9 months
Meditation also helps relieve stress and worries
It is an art that can be practiced by one and all. It is an effortless art and, in most cases, requires a quiet room and a comfortable position. Meditation is done in different ways described below.
- Focusing on one’s breathing: This meditation is very similar to mindful breathing explained above.
- Repeating a chant/mantra: In this meditation, you meditate on a word or chant until you silence your mind and enter an emotionally calm state. The word “Om” is used in chanting during this meditation.
- Concentrating on a visual object: In this practice, you meditate by focusing on an object until you attain a sense of calm and serenity. The purpose can either be the flame of a candle, a flower, a crystal or images of divine beings like Buddha, etc. The object should be placed at eye level; you should be seated comfortably.
- Body Scan: As the name suggests, in this meditational practice, try to focus on each part of your body. You need to lie down comfortably and mentally focus and guide each body part to relax. The relaxation process can begin either from your head and move down to the toes or start from your toes and move upwards to your head.
- Visualization: This meditation practice involves imagining being in a safe and secure place that is your sanctuary. It can be a house, a beach, or a garden. The area should be personalized and specific to you. Doing so you’ll find calm and peace by imagining yourself being present in your sanctuary and exploring it.
- Walking Meditation: This meditation practice involves walking and is useful for individuals who cannot sit still for a long time. This practice requires the individual to observe and concentrate on the movement of one’s feet and experience the connection with the earth. It is necessary to walk barefoot in a quiet place and experience the calmness that arises from the walking movement.
- Heart Chakra Meditation: This meditation requires one to get in touch with the heart chakra, which is located in the center of the chest and symbolizes feelings of love, peace, compassion, and acceptance. Through heart chakra meditation, the individual gets in touch with these feelings and sends them out in the world. This meditation is done by rubbing one’s hands and placing them on one’s heart while doing this. You need to take deep breaths and chant the word “Yam.” More information about this meditation technique is given here.
Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety
This meditational practice is straightforward yet powerful and calming. In this practice, it is required to focus on an object which is within your sight. It can be a picture, a stone, a vase, or a chair. Try to put all your focus and attention on the object and look at it as though you are seeing it for the very first time.
Even if your mind wanders, you need to gently draw your attention and observe every aspect of the object — the color, the shape, the details, its formations, etc. Allowing yourself to be consumed by its presence will help you connect to its energy and experience a sense of peace and calm.
Mindful awareness is a straightforward exercise that will remind you to be grateful for the daily blessings in your life. It requires one to stop and think before engaging in an activity and be thankful for it.
Just before bathing, stop to think about how lucky you are. You have water and soap to bathe with, as this luxury is not available to millions out in the world.
Another example is stopping to think before dressing up — millions of people in the third world who don’t have clothes to wear.
Bring to mind the many small blessings which we take for granted brings a sense of gratefulness, joy, and peace. Being mindful helps overcome thoughts of anxiety and depression.
Sometimes certain sounds are linked with painful memories and can be a source of anxiety and depression.
The idea of this mindful practice is to experience these sounds from a non-judgmental perspective. Release the negative power it has over you.
For example, a particular song may be associated with painful memories of a known person who is either deceased or is not in contact with you.
Playing a song and listening to it as though hearing it the first time. Concentrating on the voice of the singer, instruments being played, the ranges of the sound, etc. can help minimize the emotional effect it has over you.
Mindful immersion helps look at everyday tasks with a new and refreshing perspective.
Daily chores like cleaning, cooking, and dishwashing, which are dull and considered as sources of anxiety and worry are turned into opportunities for peace, calm, and relaxation.
This exercise will require you to focus on the everyday task entirely. Observe the various actions associated with it.
For example, when washing the dishes, notice the way your hands move, feel your muscles, smell the scent from the cleaning liquid, feel the wetness of the sponge. Hear the soothing flow of the water. Take your time, and don’t rush through.
Rushing from one task to another can cause a lot of anxiety and create panic and experience depressing thoughts. This practice of mindful immersion helps you move through tasks calmly and peacefully.
An anchor is a device that is lowered down into the sea to stabilize a ship or a boat in rough weather.
Similarly, this meditational practice calms anxious thoughts and feelings by drawing one’s attention to the lower part of their body. Beginning with the toes, focus, and pay attention to the various sensations you experience in your feet, lower legs, and upper legs.
Identify the various feelings, i.e., if you are hot or cold, heavy or light if your muscles in the legs are relaxed or strained, etc. Finally, put all of your focus on breathing and relaxation with every breath taken.
You can do this exercise while sitting, standing, or walking. Anchoring can be done with your eyes open, anywhere or everywhere.
Finger breathing is an excellent meditational mindfulness exercise for anxiety practice that can be used when one is unable to focus genuinely.
It involves the use of our hands and helps keep one visually and kinesthetically engaged, giving you something to focus on when very anxious or stressed.
Finger breathing is so simple that it can also be taught to children in doing so, teaching them to calm themselves down when stressed or anxious.
For this exercise, stretch the palm of one hand out and using the index finger of the other side. Continue to breathe in as you trace down the length of your thumb finger.
Once you reach the end of the finger, you need to pause and move your index finger to the inside of the thumb while tracing up against the thumb finger you need to breathe out.
The exercise needs to be done on the rest of the fingers, and one should continue to do it till you feel calm and relaxed.
Yoga is an ancient art that includes physical exercises, meditation practices, and breathing exercises.
Practicing yoga will help strengthen the body as well as relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Practicing yoga, according to this study, helps one attain a sense of peace and a feeling of oneness with the environment.
Research conducted by Georgia University found that yoga was extremely effective in reducing worry, which is a primary symptom of anxiety.
Journaling is a great way to vent out emotions and record one’s thoughts and feelings.
It is also a tremendous mindful practice as it helps one honestly express what is in their heart and mind. According to Jeff Krasno, “Journaling is the act of tapping into your stream of consciousness – where there is no right or wrong – just finding your flow.” Lifehack.org states that writing a mindful journal has several benefits. It helps one be grateful, makes better decisions, be better organized, assigns meaning to their emotions, and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Anyone and everyone can use the mindfulness mentioned above exercises for anxiety. It should not be limited to individuals suffering from anxiety and depression. These exercises can be used by all to nurture themselves and improve their well-being.