How to Use Mindfulness to Help Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety can be both mentally and physically exhausting and drastically reduce your quality of life. While doctors often recommend prescription medication as the first line of action, for many, this solution serves more as a band-aid than an actual cure. While these medications can be helpful if used correctly, they are associated with undesirable side effects and have a history of misuse. Even worse, over time patients may develop a tolerance to them, requiring them to increase the dosage over and over again.
The good news is that research shows us that there are several alternative approaches to combat anxiety, one of which is through mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is easy and requires little more than your body and mind. When you combine the following techniques with other lifestyle changes, you can significantly reduce your symptoms of anxiety, whether you choose to use medication or not.
The Importance of Mindfulness
No matter how many complex yoga moves you’ve seen or how busy your mind gets when you try to meditate, mindfulness is actually simpler than you may think. Though it is often equated with deep meditation, yoga, tai chi, and other ancient practices, mindfulness is actually just the mental state that is achieved when you focus your awareness on the present moment. It can be a five-minute hold in plank pose or maybe just stopping to savor your food.
Why is mindfulness so important? Studies show that mindfulness benefits our psychological health by helping to decrease anxiety, depression, rumination, and emotional reactivity.1 Some research also suggests that mindfulness helps to increase well-being, positive affect, and concentration.
In one 2010 study, mindfulness-based therapy was identified as a “promising intervention” for treating anxiety and mood problems in people with a range of conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and even cancer.2 And according to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness may also reduce pain, fatigue, and stress in people with chronic pain as well as boost the immune system.3
Now that you know the many benefits of mindfulness, here are seven exercises you can do right now to help reduce anxiety:
1. Deep Breathing
Breathing is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to get on the path to a more mindful existence. To turn this innate function into one that improves clarity and focus and reduces the symptoms of anxiety, you need to give it your undivided attention.
Find a quiet place to sit and relax. Once situated, close your eyes and breathe. Pay attention to each breath you take and the way your shoulders, stomach and chest rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Feel the way your limbs tingle as they’re able to relax, and the way your eyelids flutter. When your mind begins to water, as it is apt to do in the first few days of your practicing breathing exercises, bring it back to your breathing. You can start with just 10 minutes a day and gradually increase the time to whatever meets your schedule.
Try this video to guide you through a breathing practice and get your children involved with these breathing exercises for kids.
2. Intention Setting
Setting a positive intention for the day is one mindful way to ease anxiety or maybe even prevent it from springing up. Setting an intention instantly empowers you to choose what energy you want to bring into the day, whether that means intending to be a better listener or intending to stop and breathe when you’re frustrated. Not to be confused with a goal, which is a concrete task you can either achieve or not, intentions describe the attitude you want to align yourself with through all the ups and downs of the day.
To practice this exercise, state your intention clearly and keep it fairly simple. Try not to be too hard on yourself either if you find yourself reacting to something in the day that isn’t aligned with your intention. Instead, forgive yourself and make a mental note to try again.
3. Guided Meditation
If you find it difficult to sit still and meditate without checking the clock every few seconds or running through your to-do list, try a guided meditation. A guided meditation is led by a teacher either through audio, video, or in person. There are numerous meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace, with a variety of guided meditations to choose from. Or you can simply go on YouTube and find a guided meditation for free. Following someone’s cues is one way to access new ideas and techniques as you build your meditation practice.
According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation can help ease a number of issues, from anxiety and depression to headaches, chronic pain, and even sleep problems.4
4. Move Your Body
Ever heard of a runner’s high? Research shows that exercise may help ease anxiety and depression by releasing feel-good endorphins that enhance your sense of well-being.5 Moving your body is also a good way to distract yourself from your worries and release any tension hiding in the body.
Moving your body to experience these benefits doesn’t have to be intense or wear you out. The best way to stick with an exercise routine is to do something enjoyable. Walking, climbing, even dancing in your living room counts. To make it a mindful practice, focus on the sensations in your body, including your breathing, as you enjoy the present moment.
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Journaling is a great way to separate your thoughts and give each its undivided attention. While this may seem counterintuitive (After all, isn’t the goal to escape anxious thoughts, not indulge them?), it can actually be quite helpful in getting the thoughts of your head and out into the open. Once your mind is clear, read through your journal entry and reflect on what concerns you laid bare. Separate those that are valid from those that are not by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- How likely is this fear to come to pass?
- How do you know?
- Are you certain?
- If what you fear does happen, will it really be as bad as you imagined? Could its occurrence actually be a positive event?
- What can you do now to better your circumstances or to prevent your concern from happening?
- What can you do now to prepare for changes that the event might trigger?
By challenging your fears and anxieties in this way, you effectively accomplish two things: You gain control over them and your future, and you gain some much-needed perspective, two outcomes that improve symptoms of anxiety.
6. Conscious Eating
Resist the urge to eat at your desk or in front of the T.V. set if you want to practice conscious eating. This mindful exercise requires you to slow down, pay attention to the flavors, textures, and smells of your food, and listen to your body to signal when you’re full. Not only will this practice help ease anxiety as you tune into your senses, it will also make meals more enjoyable as you foster a deeper appreciation for the experience of nourishment.
Some examples of conscious eating include eating seasonal fruits and vegetables, expressing gratitude before starting to eat, and paying attention to each bite as you thoughtfully chew.
7. Smile More
You may not feel like smiling when you’re feeling anxious, but the simple practice can actually help you feel calmer and more positive. Studies show that holding a smile on your face during stressful situations may help reduce your body’s stress response regardless of whether you feel happy or not. There’s even some evidence that smiling can strengthen the immune system and potentially prolong your life.7
The next time you’re feeling anxious, whether you’re heading into an important work meeting or boarding a plane, let your smile lead the way.
Incorporating Homeopathic Medicines Into Your Routine
If you struggle with anxiety, taking a homeopathic medication like Brillia can help. Brillia is a non-prescription medication with clinical evidence proving its efficacy in helping to reduce anxiety, restlessness, and irritability without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Unlike many prescription drugs for anxiety, Brillia is not habit forming and it does not cause drowsiness, lethargy, depression, nor does it affect your appetite or weight. It also has no contraindications, so if you’re already taking medication for anxiety, Brillia can be added to your regimen without worry. As part of a holistic approach, Brillia works best when combined with healthy lifestyle factors like the mindfulness practices listed above along with healthy nutrition, adequate sleep, and controlled screen time.
Learn more about how Brillia works and find more resources on managing stress and anxiety at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.
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