Whether it’s the seven o’clock news or what to get your kids for Christmas, anxiety has many causes. Combating anxiety isn’t easy. Yet, using these psychologically-proven mindfulness techniques may help.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an “awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings.” The concept tells us “Slow down and pay attention.” Pay attention to your current actions, what you see and hear, and how you feel—in your body and mind.
This seems simple, but mindfulness requires effort and practice. Don’t get discouraged if it’s more difficult than you thought. Distractions and worries fill our day-to-day lives. When we’re mindful, we shift our attention away from those worries and focus on whatever we’re doing.
The Effect of Mindfulness On Anxiety
Numerous studies show how mindfulness alleviates anxiety. This is because it often causes rumination—or repetitive thoughts about stressors. When we get stuck in a rumination loop, mindfulness helps interrupt the cycle. It also allows us to focus on what’s happening before reacting.
According to Anxiety.org, there’s four major ways mindfulness alleviates anxiety:
- Body Awareness. Most don’t think about anxiety as a physical condition, but it has many effects on the body. When you know your heart’s racing, you can take steps to slow it down. By alleviating anxiety’s physical symptoms, you can better self-regulate.
- Focused Attention. Mindfulness is often about distracting yourself, but it can improve your focus. By practicing mindfulness, you can improve your ability to shift and maintain focus. This means you can shift your focus away from anxious thinking before you’re caught in a loop.
- Self-perception. Lacking self-esteem and self-acceptance can take a toll on your mind. Practicing mindfulness for extended periods can help improve your self image.
- Physical Health. Again, anxiety is not quarantined in your mind—it affects your whole body. Mindfulness helps reduce blood pressure and lower stress hormones, which alleviates anxiety. Researchers have found the relationship between sleep problems and anxiety is bidirectional. This means sleep problems can cause anxiety, and anxiety can disrupt your sleep.
How to be Mindful
Mindfulness is a skill. Like any skill, it requires practice. Don’t kick yourself if you struggle at first. Many mindfulness techniques—like meditation and journaling—might not be your speed. And that’s okay! You can turn many day-to-day tasks into mindfulness exercises. Take a walk and examine your surroundings, cloud- or stargaze, make tea, or focus a bit more on folding the laundry.
These tricks can help your mind disengage from stressors, helping quell your anxiety.
With practice, mindfulness is a powerful skill for alleviating anxiety. Though medical professionals should treat severe cases, mindfulness can reduce anxiety for anyone.