You must be wondering, again a new term for dealing with anxiety! What is it? How can it help? Yes of course, there is an answer. We never knew that something so beautiful and simple can actually be a modifying agent for behavioural problems, especially anxiety.
We have spoken about power pose, we have spoken about determination for managing anxiety, and now we are into mindfulness which can be a scientific solution to your panic attacks.
Mindfulness is your purposeful concentration on the present, and the better you practise it, the more you can keep yourself aloof from the thoughts of past and future.
You can meditate focussing on the present moment of joy, or you can practice yoga with mindfulness. Try to feel the different sensations on your physical self during the daily life activities. For e.g. the breeze on your face, the dewdrops on your feet, tune in to sensing the fabric of your clothes on your skin. As you follow this process, you will notice that you are slowly and gradually being swept away from panicky thoughts like ‘what ifs’.
How can mindfulness help in reducing anxiety?
- Mindfulness changes the brain- Amygdala which is the centre of all emotions is hypersensitive to perceived dangers. Whenever, it can foresee danger, whether it is real or not, it tries to warn you, alarm you, and this comes in the form of anxiety, your ‘what if’. It has been scientifically proven, that practising mindfulness-
- Increases the density of the brain- 27 minutes of mindfulness can affect the density of the prefrontal cortex in a positive way which is responsible for calming down.
- Decreases the size of amygdala- the main player for anxiety reactions, the amygdala is reduced in size.
- Increases the level of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)- this is the chemical generated in the brain for reduction of hyperactive anxiety reactions.
- Decreases the cortisol- which is the main stress hormone in the brain.
- Activates relaxation response- contrary to the flight response, associated with nervousness and panic attacks, is the relaxation response which relates to settling down of the over-active sensations of anxiety, worry and stress.
- Mindfulness improves well-being- By focussing on ‘now’ many people have been able to prevent themselves from getting caught up in worries, and thereby adhered to a satisfied life.
- Mindfulness improves physical health- if well-being is just not enough motivation for you to start up with something new, know the health benefits of the practice-
- Helps relieve stress
- Mindfulness can treat heart disease
- Lowers blood-pressure.
- Fights with gastrointestinal difficulties
- Improves your sleep practices.
Mindfulness attributes its roots to Buddhism, where it was a kind of formal prayer. Later, Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, helped to bring the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine and demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health attitudes and behaviours.
How can you practise it?
- Mindfulness requires concentration. As you start focussing on the meditation, you will observe that your inner thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations are getting channelized without any judgemental reaction.
- Watch over what comes and goes in your mind. Focus on the bodily sensations. Every day, there are a multiple collections of emotional and physical sensations that meet us, the idea is to get carried away with them, rather than holding on to any particular thought or sensation and ruminate on the past or future.
- Initially, you may feel the pressure of trying too hard, such that it gives you a feeling of boredom, rather than relaxation. Don’t worry, keep practising, it will help you on a long run.
Accepting your anxious thoughts is the key to reducing it. You have to acknowledge that you are worried, only then will meditation help.
Ways of practising-
- Sit on a chair with your back straight or cross-legged on the floor, for this practice.
- Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing while chanting a particular word, expression or ‘mantra’ that can help relax your mind. Avoid the recurrent thoughts that provoke.
- Focus on small bodily sensations like itch, hiccup, or tingling, focus on each part from head to toe.
- Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
- Allow emotions of joy, anger, frustration, despair and sadness to come and go without judgement. Do not get your mind involved in evaluating them.
- Cope with your cravings. Your desires will come, but don’t let them haunt you, just let them pass off. Concentrate more on your breathing regularity.
Keep trying till you succeed. Often we fall short of time for yoga and meditation, but if you miss your schedule, try practising some other time in the day. Perseverance will help fight your anxiety.