Why practice Mindfulness to reduce anxiety?
How many ways have you tried to calm your anxiety without success? Reasoning, with small or large rituals, avoiding staying alone, doing a lot of sport, with anxiolytics that manage for a while, or -simply- stopping doing things you used to do before getting on the bus. Do you know what this is called? Avoidance and do you know where the avoidance takes you? To anxiety.
Avoiding symptoms is the instinctive, but it is not effective and ends up being a very limiting strategy.
There are already many scientific studies, opinions of experts and testimonies – like my own – that show that practicing Mindfulness can suppose a before and after in anxiety. Today I want to explain why.
What is Mindfulness or Mindfulness?
Put like that, it seems simple, but-believe me-requires training. On the one hand, we have grown by classifying, judging, describing everything that surrounds us as “good or bad”, “own or strange”; On the other, we have the insane habit of not paying attention to almost anything we do. Both educating our attention and non-judgment require a little work.
Another day we will discuss the role of judgment in anxiety, but today I want to go to the basics: what is mindfulness and why it serves to reduce anxiety.
What is the practice of Mindfulness?
Practicing Mindfulness consists in centering the mind in the here and now with curiosity and without judgment. This allows us to really connect with the reality that we live (and not with the film that we usually tell about it) and with what is happening inside us.
It is living our day to day from the awareness, acceptance, compassion and honest and deep commitment to oneself. It is about expanding our awareness to access new places of self-knowledge and serenity.
By the way, it is essential to underline that when we talk about consciousness in this blog we do not refer to a moral or ethical sense but to realize, to be conscious .
What do we do in Mindfulness?
Basically, observe with total openness and acceptance before what we find ourselves.
What do we observe?
Our internal and external physical sensations, our thoughts, our emotions, the information that comes to us through the senses, our impulses and beliefs. Everything becomes an object of observation.
But what is really important is how we observe: with tenderness towards oneself and acceptance. Enough of mistreating!
The Mindfulness training is divided into two types of activities:
- Formal practice or meditation : This is our mental gymnasium, here we train in observation without judgment and we begin to relate differently to ourselves.
- Informal practice in daily life. They are very brief exercises that we perform several times a day to break the automatisms, “awaken” from the daily unconsciousness in which we are normally sunk and connect with our body and our emotions.
I practice and impart Transpersonal Mindfulness that -to the foregoing- adds the self-inquiry that, in my opinion, is key.
- Self-inquiry : consists of understanding ourselves, understanding how our mind works and why we interpret reality in the way it does. When we are able to see what is behind the anxiety, we are much closer to deactivating it.
What are the benefits of a Mindfulness training?
They are many and very valuable at many levels, but today I am going to focus on 5 that I find especially significant for people with anxiety.
- Live in the present : your mind learns to be here and now. I pose a question: your anxiety, is it going on what is happening now or what may happen next or tomorrow? If you think about it carefully you will see that it is almost always unleashed by a thought about the future.
By training our mind to stop walking through threatening and hypothetical future scenarios or painful memories of the past, we gain much in serenity and we are open to the possibility of enjoying life here and now.
- Greater mental clarity . In my Free Course of Mindfulness for Anxiety I explain how sometimes the mind mistakenly interprets some situations as dangerous and the body, consequently, triggers an anxious reaction.
Anxiety is intimately linked to a survival mechanism called a negativity bias that-combined with the ability to imagine the future and plan-ends up becoming the annoying habit of always putting oneself in the worst and trying to avoid it.
This resource had its meaning when we were exposed to beasts and other dangers that constantly threatened our survival, but today is no longer the case. This tool has been somewhat outdated away from the happiness and serenity we need.
Meditation trains our clear mind and helps us to stop seeing threats where there are none.
- Better emotional management In a smooth and gradual way we are learning to relate to our emotions and physical sensations in another way. We learn to sustain them and we stop running away from them unsuccessfully: our tolerance increases.
Anxiety stops limiting us when we realize that we are capable of experiencing it without rejecting it and that it is a transitory process.
- Increase your ability to calm down : the hectic life we lead and the worries lead us to a shallow, incomplete breathing, which does not provide enough oxygen to the body and which requires us to perform more breaths per minute to cover our oxygenation needs, which – sometimes- activates the chain of anxiety.
Mindfulness connects us with a deeper and more conscious breath that relaxes us and gives us access to deep and unknown places of calm.
- Unlinking thoughts: that is, stop believing them . People with anxiety fight a permanent and sterile struggle against our catastrophic thoughts. We try to block, cut or get rid of any terrible image or thought, but what happens? That we always lose These catastrophic thoughts come back more strongly and are repeated more often becoming obsessive.
That is why it is necessary to look for other strategies. Believing a thought causes it to become true for our body, which lives it as if it were really happening. If our mind imagines something dangerous, the body will trigger an anxious reaction so that we can run, fight or be paralyzed. It’s just our survival instinct.
Learning to observe our thoughts without being carried away by them leads us to realize that they are only products of our mind, not absolute truths. With practice, they end up losing the power that we give them by turning them into enemies.
If you have done the same thing a thousand times and it has not worked, I encourage you to try something new. Mindfulness is scientifically proven, backed by the world’s leading universities and, as I always say, it’s just good.