Why Mindfulness is effective for Anxiety
By now, you already heard from multiple media outlets: Mindfulness is good for your brain. Mindfulness is known to reduce stress and improve general mental health.
Mindfulness is a practice of being presently aware of your thoughts without judgment. You can participate in mindfulness by focusing on the current sensations of your body, allowing thoughts to flow in and out, and noticing your emotions at the moment. Easily said than done, mindfulness is something to be practiced routinely and difficult practice to master.
There is much research that proves that mindfulness is an effective tool for anxiety. Mindfulness may sound like a way of lifestyle practiced by the monks in the mountains however, the way of mindfulness is more scientifically understandable than many people assume.
How does mindfulness work in our brains?
To understand anxiety and mindfulness in our brain, we start with a part of our brain called, the amygdala. Amygdala is the part of the brain that reacts to fear and stress. It helps us to survive by telling our bodies to ‘fight or flight’ from a dangerous situation. During this stage, our bodies are flooded with chemicals to help us perform the fighting or flighting the danger in front of us.
Our brains eventually learn that even when someone dangerous isn’t immediately in front of us, if there’s anything that resembles even the smallest part of the danger, it will activate the amygdala. This is what we call when you’ve been ‘triggered’. You may have been triggered to have an anxious response from merely a sound or smell of something.
There is another part of the brain, called the pre-frontal cortex that is responsible for logical thinking and emotional regulation. The pre-frontal cortex assists you to concentrate and make sound decisions in life. When your amygdala gets activated, your pre-frontal cortex shuts down because logical thinking and sound decisions are unnecessary when you are about to be eaten by a tiger.
Mindfulness is a practice that allows you to re-engage the prefrontal cortex and calm down our amygdala. It brings our body’s ‘normal’ functioning state of being. This is an important practice to have when we are especially suffering from anxiety, as our body goes into the fight or flight state very frequently.
How do I practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a journey into the world of self-compassion. Mindfulness assists you to observe your thoughts and be free from the judgment of them. When you breathe deeply in and out, you are beginning the process of calming the amygdala. You are bringing back the balance of chemicals in your brain and allowing your body to be in a functioning state.
You don’t any particular space or equipment to start your mindfulness practice. All you need is yourself and some space to sit.
Follow the exercise below to begin your mindful practice today!
Quick Mindful Breathing Exercise for Anxiety
Find a comfortable space where you will not be distracted by anyone or anything around you during this short exercise.
1. Begin this practice by noticing your anxiety; acknowledging that your anxiety is existing.
2. Straighten out your back and sit comfortably, either on a chair or on the floor. If you are sitting on a chair, make sure to have both of your feet grounded on the floor.
3. Start to take some breaths and find a pace that is comfortable for you.
4. Start taking breathes in as count to 4, pause for 1, take a deep breathe out slowly as you count to 5.
5. Now, if you can imagine your anxiety to be a color, what color would it be? Choose a color to represent your anxiety.
6. If you can imagine your peace to be a color, what color would it be? Choose a color to represent your peace.
7. Imagine the peace color as you breathe in. Allow the color to be breathed into your body and expand all over your body.
8. As you breathe out, you will imagine your anxious color leaving your body. Draw the anxiety all the way from the tip of your toes and lead it out through your mouth as you breathe out.
9. Continue breathing in peace, breathing out anxiety
10. When you feel ready, return your breath back to normal, invite small movements in your hands and feet
As you come to an end, tell yourself ‘I am at peace’.