How to Manage Anxiety through Meditation

Hui Ting Kok

Meditation is an effective way to manage anxiety. During meditation, one focuses their attention on the breath or a specific object, which can help one to become more aware and present in the moment and less reactive to thoughts and emotions.

Research has shown positive effects of meditation. For example, meditation was found to reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve overall well-being. Some of the pathways that meditation can help with anxiety include:

  1. Reducing stress levels: Meditation was found to lower cortisol level, a hormone that is commonly associated with stress. Reducing cortisol levels can help to minimize feelings of anxiety and promote a sense of calmness [1].
  2. Enhancing self-awareness: Meditation can help us becomes more aware of our thoughts and emotions. This can help us better understands and manage our expectations and feelings. With an increased level of self-awareness, we can better recognize and reframe negative thought patterns that lead to our anxiety.
  3. Cultivating mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. When we are being mindful, we are participating fully in our experience and are less prone to get caught up in worries or fears. Consistent meditation practice can help us to develop greater mindfulness, which is an important tool to manage anxiety.
  4. Strengthening emotional regulation: Meditation can help us gain better control over our reactions to emotions. Research has shown that meditation can with regular practice, we are able to take a step back and choose how to respond to our emotions, instead of simply reacting to them [2].

Overall, meditation is a promising approach to managing anxiety, but it is important to note that it may not work for everyone. It may take some time and practice to see the benefits, and it is always a good idea to speak with a therapist or health care provider if you are experiencing severe anxiety or other mental health concerns.

Different Types of Meditation

There are many different types of meditation, and each one may have a unique focus or approach. Here are some common types of meditation:

  1. Mindfulness meditation: We will describe this meditation in the following section: Meditations for Beginners. Basically this involves bringing your full attention to the present moment, without any judgment. It requires focus and attention on the breath, and noticing any thoughts or feelings that arise without getting caught up in them.
  2. Loving-kindness meditation: This practice maintain focuses on cultivating compassion and kindness toward yourself and others. During the practice, you will repeat phrases and thinking of specific people and sending them positive and well wishes.
  3. Mantra-based meditation: In this practice, individuals repeat mantra or sounds to help them settle into a deep state of relaxation.
  4. Yoga meditation: This kind of meditation allows you to incorporate physical movements and postures with breathing exercises to enhance relaxation and mental focus.
  5. Body-scan meditation: This approach is helpful in reducing tension in the body and promote relaxation. It brings your awareness to the different parts of your body and observing any tension that arise and subsequently releasing the tension
  6. Chakra meditation: This meditation allows you to focus on chakras, otherwise known as the energy centers in the body while using breathe and visualization to balance or align them.
  7. Walking meditation: This is an exercise of bringing mindfulness to the experience of walking. With each step, observe and notice the sensations of walking without being distracted by thoughts or other stimuli.

I encourage you to try these different types of meditation. One might work better than the other for you. There are many videos on the internet demonstrating each meditation technique. Explore them and see which one works best for you!

Meditation for Beginners

For those who haven’t tried meditation, here are some tips to get started:

  1. Find a comfortable, quiet place and minimize your distractions. You can choose to sit on a comfortable chair or lay down.
  2. Use a timer and start with a short amount of time, like 5-10 minutes to start. You can increase the time you meditate as you get more comfortable with the practice. 
  3. Focus on your breath. You can choose to close your eyes or maintain a soft gaze at an object. Bring your attention to your breath and notice how the breath moves in and out of your nose. It is common for your mind to wander. But when it does, simply redirect your attention back to your breath.
  4. Maintain a non-judgmental attitude. Notice your thoughts and simply labelling them. Don’t worry about not getting the meditation “right”.
  5. Listen to guided meditations: If it’s difficult to just focus on your breath during the meditation practice, you can try listening to guided meditations. There are many YouTube videos and apps that offer free guided meditations.
  6. Engage in regular practice. To develop meditation as a habit, practice meditate at the same time every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Remember, meditation is a practice, and it may take time and effort to experience the benefits. Maintain an open mind and experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.

[1] Koncz, A., Demetrovics, Z., & Takacs, Z. K. (2021). Meditation interventions efficiently reduce cortisol levels of at-risk samples: A meta-analysis, Health Psychology Review, 15:1, 56-84.
[2] Prakash, R. S. (2021). Mindfulness meditation: impact on attentional control and emotion dysregulation. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 36(7), 1283-1290.