Money worries, a big presentation at work, hosting a social event—all of these things can trigger stress and anxiety symptoms such as uneasiness, heart palpitations, nausea or sleeplessness. While persistent symptoms may signal an anxiety disorder that requires medical treatment—always talk to your doctor—combatting day-to-day anxiety can be as simple as taking a time-out for meditation. In fact, a 2014 review of 47 clinical trials by John Hopkins University determined that mindfulness meditation offered relief from many anxiety and depression symptoms. No surprise, then, that high-profile CEOs and celebrities like Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey and Hugh Jackman use meditation to boost their calm. Here’s how to do the same when you feel anxiety rising.
1. Breathe deep. While you meditate, breathe in through your nose and let your chest and lower belly fill with air before exhaling through your mouth. As the Harvard Family Health Guide notes, breath-focused meditation helps calm your blood pressure and your heartbeat, and turns your mind away from stressful thoughts and worries.
2. Focus on the present. Anxiety often spikes when we start obsessing about things that happened in the past—which we can’t change—or might occur in the future. In contrast, meditation encourages us to zone in on the current moment. Over time, this can help us become more attentive to reality rather than our worries, says Tom Corboy, co-author of The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD. “Ultimately, meditation helps us slow down, get perspective, and think more objectively and with less knee-jerk reactivity,” Corboy recently told PsychCentral.com.
3. Measure your calm. Focused-attention training teaches us to slow down our racing, anxious thoughts. Using Muse, the brain sensing headband, lets you determine when your mind is truly calm and you’re meditating effectively. Guidance, tracking and challenges within Muse help you achieve stillness more often, as well.
4. Observe your thoughts without judgement. Typically we react emotionally and physically to our thoughts, but meditation teaches us to “see” our thoughts in a quiet way and gain insight. “You don’t need to get rid of your thoughts or empty your mind, you just need to see that they’re there,” says Andrew Parr, a coach and former pro golfer who uses Muse to gain mental focus and improve his game.
5. Carve out some “me time”. The simple act of routinely setting aside time for yourself in a calm, quiet space can do wonders for your mental health. Although research suggests that 20-to-30 minute meditation sessions work best to alleviate anxiety, Muse users report that even three-minute daily sessions help them feel calmer and happier.
So, what are you waiting for? Give yourself the gift of calm and start meditating with Muse today. Plus, learn about other health benefits of meditation, as well as how to handle common meditation challenges.