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Mindfulness for Anxiety: How Living in the Now Is the Best Medicine for Anxious Minds

Anxiety is the most commonplace mental problem in America. It affects forty million adults. Although anxiety disorders are very treatable, only about a third of sufferers get the right kind of help.

Mindfulness for anxiety sufferers can be very effective. Think of it as your very own set of tools. When you're feeling anxious you can use mindfulness as part of a coping strategy to combat this debilitating disorder. Here's how it works.

The Origins of Mindfulness

Mindfulness has its roots in meditation and Buddhist philosophy. Meditation often involves trying to enter into a different level of consciousness. The aim can be to get into a deep state of relaxation or a state of restful alertness.

Mindfulness means becoming aware of the present moment. In a sense, you might want to think of it as one step on the road to meditation. It can help to reduce worry but it still allows you to be aware without being fearful.

Mindfulness is not part of any organized religion. It is definitely not a religion in itself, either. Being spiritual is not a requirement of mindfulness.

However, it's so effective for coping with disorders such as anxiety that many people incorporate it into their daily routines. 

Mindfulness is even prescribed by public health professionals in the UK. It's used as an alternative to anti-anxiety medication. 

Mindfulness for Anxiety

Mindfulness is an ability to be fully in the present. In practicing it, you will be aware of where you are and what you’re doing, but not overly reactive to or overwhelmed by the things going on around you.

 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a specific kind of mindfulness practice. Its goal is to address the stresses of everyday life.

It has been shown to improve mental and physical health. The eight-week program will teach you mindfulness practices. These will let you bring 'kind awareness and acknowledgment' to any anxious feelings in your mind and simply allow them to be.

How Mindfulness Works

You may just be starting out on a new psychological treatment that involves therapy. It's quite normal to be wondering whether you are doing things right. 

The first thing to do when practicing mindfulness is to lie or sit whilst trying to be still and comfortable. When you are troubled or worried, it may be that your 'worry thoughts' begin at this point.

There can be all sorts of problems that trigger your anxiety. Mindfulness can help with this. You might have financial issues or be finding a long commute really stressful.

You may feel unable to cope at work or are perhaps experiencing a relationship problem that's making you anxious. 

Once you are still and quiet, the first things that come into your head could be the very thoughts you want rid of. This is not unusual at all.

Getting Into the Present Moment

Instead of focusing on your problems, mindfulness teaches you to think about those things you can sense in the present moment. 

If you are being mindful, you would begin to turn your attention to things like the touch of clothing on your body or the sound of any distant traffic noise. This diverts your attention away from things you can do nothing about and helps you to relax.

By drawing yourself into the present moment you will end up expending less energy thinking about things which are beyond your control.

That does not mean that you will stop worrying forevermore. You won't. But, the mindfulness process lets you recognize your 'worry thoughts' for what they are.

It allows you to accept them and then to concentrate on those things within your immediate vicinity.

Mindfulness Classes

One of the best things about mindfulness is that you can use it to help you cope almost anywhere. That means you could take a quick coffee break at work and embark on a mindfulness exercise to help you relax. 

A really good way to start learning more about mindfulness is to join a class or series of group sessions. This has several advantages.

You may find that others in the group come from different backgrounds and are of varying ages. You will though all share similar aims for wanting to learn more about mindfulness.

You may all be suffering from anxiety issues brought on by the everyday stresses of busy lives. This can be very empowering because it enables you to see that you are not alone in the anxiety you are experiencing.

It also helps get over the 'am I doing this correctly' question. You can bounce any concerns you may be having about this off the person leading the class or even other participants. 

Simple Mindfulness Exercises

The 'three-minute breathing space' is one of the most popular practices in one of the eight-week mindfulness programs. It lets you shift your attention away from what you might normally do when you are trying to relax.

This could be getting out of a loop of thought patterns about things that are worrying you. Instead, this practice invites you to focus your attention in a broader, more open manner.

It encourages you to become aware of your thoughts and feelings, along with your breath in various regions of the body. The focus is on the sensations of breathing throughout the entire body.

Another popular exercise is something called the body scan. This focuses your attention on particular parts of the body in a particular order.  

In a sense, mindfulness has become a perfect fit for the modern, frenetic lifestyle. It will teach you techniques you can practice 'on the go' to help keep your daily routine less stressful and more peaceful.

Being Kind to Yourself

One of the key components of mindfulness is learning to be kind to yourself. Most of us lead busy lives often with long and stressful commutes and constant online interaction. Using mindfulness for anxiety can keep you calmer and more relaxed.

Continue reading our blog for more useful articles, including this one. It explains the meaning of generalized anxiety.