3 Simple Meditations to Calm Anxiety

Meditations to Calm Anxiety

Do you have a difficult time turning off your fretful and anxious thoughts? Do you think reaching for anti-anxiety pills is the only way to calm your racing mind, nervousness, or panic? Wrong! Brain SPECT imaging shows that benzodiazepines, the medications often prescribed for anxiety, are harmful to brain function. Decades of research show that meditation can be an effective alternative to anti-anxiety pills…without any negative side effects! In fact, meditation enhances brain function. And you don’t need to spend years training to think like a monk, you can start enjoying the soothing benefits of meditation in mere moments.

Decades of research shows that meditation is an effective alternative to anti-anxiety pills…without any negative side effects! Click To Tweet

The Science on Meditation for Anxiety and Stress

Scientific evidence shows that meditation can help to calm anxiety and stress and enhance brain function in important ways that help you get your worries and panic in check.

A randomized controlled trial with 93 subjects who had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers found that those in a stress-reduction program that incorporated meditation had a greater improvement in their symptoms of anxiety and stress along with an increase in positive self-statements compared to those in a stress management group without meditation.

Another group of researchers who did a study with 40 college students found that after only 5 days of meditation the participants had significantly lower levels of cortisol, the notorious stress hormone.

Also, it’s important to know that cardiovascular problems and anxiety are often connected. An interesting study found that after only one 60-minute guided mindfulness meditation session, the participants experienced not only a decrease in their anxiety symptoms, but also showed lower stress on their arteries!

3 Simple Meditation Practices to Get Your Worries Under Control

Although there are several different types of meditation practices, many share the goals of increasing mental clarity and relaxation, while reducing self-judgment and fear-based thinking. And, contrary to some common misconceptions about meditation, you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor (but you can) and burn incense to reap its many positive benefits.

Here are 3 simple practices you can use to help get your worries, fears, and runaway thinking under control:

1. Kirtan Kriya Meditation

Dr. Daniel Amen, neuropsychiatrist and founder of Amen Clinics, often teaches this to his patients. Although it only takes 12 minutes to do, you will find it is very helpful in giving you a sense of calm.

This meditation involves sitting comfortably and chanting the following simple sounds, “saa” “taa” “naa” “maa,” while repeating simple finger movements with your hands. Say the sound once as you touch the corresponding finger.

Here’s how it goes:

  • Touch thumbs to index fingers while chanting “saa.”
  • Touch thumbs to middle fingers while chanting “taa.”
  • Touch thumbs to ring fingers while chanting “naa.”
  • Touch thumbs to pinkie fingers while chanting “maa.”
  • Repeat the sounds for 2 minutes aloud.
  • Repeat the sounds for 2 minutes in a whisper.
  • Repeat the sounds for 4 minutes silently.
  • Repeat the sounds for 2 minutes in a whisper.
  • Repeat the sounds for 2 minutes aloud.

When you finish, sit quietly for 1-2 minutes. Try to hold onto your calmed mind and body throughout the day.

2. The Relaxation Response

This was developed decades ago by Herbert Benson, MD, at Harvard Medical School and is one of the easiest ways to meditate and soothe your worried mind.

Here are the instructions:

  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes, or softly focus on a spot on the wall if you aren’t comfortable with closed eyes.
  • Beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face, deeply relax all your muscles, keeping them relaxed as you move your awareness throughout your body. Relax your tongue too.
  • As you do this, breathe through your nose and become aware of your breathing. After each exhale, say the word “one” (or another relaxing word you choose) silently to yourself.
  • When distracting thoughts arise, don’t dwell on them, simply shift your attention back to your breathing and the word “one” (or whichever word you choose)
  • Try to do this for 10-20 minutes (but don’t set an alarm that will induce stress). Even if you can only do a few minutes at first, it will get easier with practice,.
  • When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed (if they were), and open them when you are ready to. Stay seated for a few minutes after finishing.

As you do this meditation, don’t worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Instead, maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. With practice, the relaxation response should come with little effort.

3. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Focusing on your breath for a few minutes is one of the simplest and quickest ways to give yourself a time-out and settle down your anxious mind—especially if you aren’t in a place to do regular meditation. You can even do this at your desk!

Breathing with your diaphragm (or belly) rather than your chest:

  • Inhale for a count of 3 to 4.
  • Exhale for a count of 6 to 8.
  • Repeat this pattern 10 times.

If you need to practice breathing with your diaphragm (instead of your chest) try this quick exercise:

  • Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Notice how you are breathing right now. If you’re breathing with your chest, do this:
  • Lie on your back and place a small book on your belly.
  • When you breathe in, make the book go up, and when you breathe out, make the book go down.
  • Once you get the hang of it, then do the diaphragmatic breathing described above.

The distress related to unchecked anxiety not only disrupts your mental health functioning, but it can lead to physical health problems too. However, by incorporating simple meditation practices such as these you can start to tame your anxious thoughts, manage your stress, and get back to doing the things you love.

Anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and other mental health problems can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

6 Comments

  1. Communal Praying with The Holy Spirit in your heavenly language (called “tongues”) provides peace and for me at age 72 a blood pressure reading of 116/70.

    Comment by Howard Sorett — July 30, 2021 @ 3:35 AM

  2. Due to past trauma from being raised by wolves and my military experience, I suffered from anxiety and panic for years. I thought alcohol “releaxed me” but eventually found out it only intensified my problems X1000. Once I stopped drinking I realized I, “Needed to get it (my anxiety) before it got me”. I learned about tapping /EFT and meditation, both life-changind and life-saving.. I love love love that you are promoting a healthy way to get back to a relaxed and “normal” state without medication. THANK YOU and as always, I’m sharing this great FREE read. love, Kelly

    Comment by Kelly Robertson — July 30, 2021 @ 5:36 AM

  3. Do you exhale through the nose or through the mouth?

    Comment by Kendell — July 30, 2021 @ 8:18 AM

  4. I love the Kirtan Kriya Meditation! I learned it from watching Dr. Amen ‘a videos years back. I set all the phases up on the Insight Timer (very handy for gently letting you know when to shift). There’s something about chanting (the vibration?) that is VERY relaxing to the nervous system. In fact, it was one of the only things that would stop intrusive thoughts when I was at the height of post traumatic stress. Chanting and EFT both work “miracles.”

    Comment by Senta — July 30, 2021 @ 5:42 PM

  5. Thank you for this concise and helpful info about meditation, and Kelly Robertson you summed it up beautifully with your comment. I’m learning to breath and meditate when sharp emotions come up instead of using chardonnay and cigarettes to calm my nerves. The pay off is HUGE and worth the practice.

    Comment by Nancy — July 31, 2021 @ 5:26 AM

  6. Thank you for sharing your exercises. My husband and I have followed you on TV and purchased several of your books and programs. (My husband reversed many of his Alzheimer symptoms . We both have benefitted from the Paleo diet promoted by your wonderful wife!). I have 4th stage metastatic cancer. The saa, taa , naa, maa exercise is especially helpful in getting relaxed. My cancer support group does this at our monthly meetings. You are a blessing to all of us.

    Comment by Carolyn Fischer — July 31, 2021 @ 6:46 AM

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