Even A Single Mindfulness Meditation Session Can Reduce Anxiety

Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

IN BRIEF

You've heard that meditation is good for lots of things, but you may be surprised to learn that good changes start to happen from the very first session! Here's more about how meditation can help you overcome anxiety.

When we dwell too much on what has passed, or what might be in the future, we are essentially cut off from life. Yet how seldom are our minds in the present moment?

We should be experiencing joy in our lives as the seconds unfold – yet many of us stress on what’s over and done, or the opposite – on our yet-unwritten future. This can leave us feeling out of touch with ourselves. 

Many modalities can reduce anxiety, and of the numerous offerings, mindfulness meditation has become one of the hottest trends in the wellness world. (2)

Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Anxiety 

Studies claim that in our everyday lives, eight out of ten Americans encounter anxiety, and have a tough time relaxing their bodies and calming their minds – putting them at risk for heart disease, stroke, and other diseases. (1)

A recent study suggests we can reduce anxiety from mindfulness meditation, after just one introductory session. (3,4)

Study author John J. Durocher, Ph.D. is a professor of physiology in the department of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University. His team of researchers recruited 14 participants who had normal blood pressure, but high levels of anxiety.

They assessed factors related to cardiovascular functioning before and after a 60-minute supervised introductory session of mindfulness meditation. This included heart rate, blood pressure, aortic blood pressure, and arterial stiffness.

The results showed a clear reduction in anxiety in the first hour after the meditation session, and that anxiety was still significantly lower a week later. 

Durocher said ~ “Participants also had reduced mechanical stress on their arteries an hour after the session. This could help to reduce stress on organs like the brain and kidneys and help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure.”

Durocher’s colleagues are working further, to assess the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction, in people with moderately elevated blood pressure. 

The hope is that understanding the effects of mindfulness meditation on the body, might help improve the design of anti-anxiety therapies. (4)

Props For Mindfulness Meditation

At first, mindfulness meditation can be hard, but with gentle persistence it is possible. In general mindfulness meditation involves a breathing practice and awareness of the body and mind. A comfortable place to sit, some free time, and a judgment-free mindset are required.

Extra props can be soothing, like candles, essential oils, or a preferred mantra. Before one starts applying a product such as Be-Serene IR, to ease one into calmness, can be a huge help. By simply applying 1-2 pumps to temples or wrists, a sense of well-being comes swiftly.

You can turn a mundane space into a sanctuary in your home to be an exclusive house of Prayer and mindfulness.

If you’re a visual person, you’ll likely enjoy having a lot of items to look at such as photographs, Buddha statues, flowers, and plants, or colorful wall coverings. If you’re an auditory person, you may enjoy some soothing music, binaural beats, or singing bowls. 

How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation 

Mindfulness meditation can help us become aware of negative thoughts and decrease our response to them. Instead of altering the nature of our feelings, the goal is to inspire and to feel differently about negative thoughts. (5)

The Oxford Mindfulness Centre, UK describes the process: “Imagine standing at a bus station and seeing ‘thought buses’ coming and going without having to get on them and be taken away.” With most mindfulness-based meditation, focus is usually on the present, by paying attention to bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions, and especially the breath. (1)

To keep a practice simple in the beginning, one minute is all that’s needed:

  • For a count of four, close your eyes and take a deep breath and then exhale for a count of eight. When you inhale, visualize the flow of oxygen into your respiratory system. Imagine any tension you’ve been keeping inside, floating away when you inhale. Repeat this breathwork at least 5 times.

Mindfulness meditation can also be done with open eyes throughout our day and relaxed breath. By focusing on the good, we can discover how even household chores can be gratifying when we throw ourselves into them positively. For example – Doing the dishes can be grounding. By really feeling the warm water on our hands, we can let ourselves enjoy the experience of making something dirty clean again. The key is to focus entirely on the present with all our attention while consciously deciding to look for and appreciate the positive in each situation

When vacuuming, dusting, or ironing, we can note stuff we might have not seen before, like quality materials, beautiful colors, or clever design shapes in our homes.

Within exercise, to improve health and happiness, we can practice movement-based meditation, through yoga, Tai-chi, or by walking. During a workout we can be mindful, by paying attention to how we feel, and why we are doing it – perhaps to work out for a certain period of time, or to burn a certain number of calories.

With mindfulness meditation we can zone in on anything and everything – we can eat healthier, wind down and go to sleep with gratitude, or even listen better as a friend. (8)

Healthy Benefits Of Mindfulness Meditation 

Bolstered by a growing body of research showing that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety, many people want to find out what else it can do. (1)

Other benefits include: 

  • Building resilience and letting go of problems 
  • Learning to ride life’s up and downs
  • Reconnecting to our bodies
  • Appreciation of sensations- sights, sounds, smells, and tastes
  • Less brooding
  • Better quality of sleep 
  • Fewer addictions
  • Coping mechanisms for pain
  • Less fatigue 
  • Improvement of the immune system 
  • Less swaying emotions, and more productive thought
  • Promotes empathy
  • Improves attention and memory (1,3,7)

One Session Is All That’s Needed

Michigan’s study has shown only a single session is needed for mindfulness meditation to start working for anxiety. Classes are available in settings across the world, including yoga centers, athletic clubs, hospitals, and clinics, and even prisons are reaping the benefits. (6)

Once you get more experienced, you can include different techniques, and you can pick and choose from modalities such as:

  1. Vipassana Meditation (6)
  2. Zen Buddhist Meditation 
  3. Mindfulness-based stress reduction 
  4. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (2)

Current research focus seems to be on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) –  a therapeutic intervention that involves group classes and daily mindfulness exercises of yoga and meditation to practice at home. Also mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is getting noticed – a therapeutic intervention that combines elements of MBSR and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to treat people with depression. (3)

With mindfulness meditation becoming more popular, it appears that by temporarily ignoring the past and the future, the practice is our welcome to ‘now’. 

Our only reality is the present. If we can accept this with patience and kindness to ourselves, and to others, we have already started to master the practice.

Sources:

  1. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/less-stress-clearer-thoughts-with-mindfulness-meditation/ 
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db325-h.pdf 
  3. https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation 
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423135048.htm
  5. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/ 
  6. https://www.dhamma.org/en/index 
  7. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998
  8. https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

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About Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan is an expert in Functional and Integrative Medicine with a Strong Emphasis in stress related illnesses like anxiety and insomnia. In addition to his 20 years of work in Functional Medicine, he has expanded his practice to include work on the deeper aspects of our being that point to the root cause of our illnesses working with Mind Body Wellness, Energy Medicine, and Healing with Consciousness.
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