Mindfulness Meditation and The Reduction of Anxiety
Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that has been prevalent for thousands of years, and is only becoming increasingly more popular. “Over the past decade, neuroscientists like myself have become increasingly interested in studying how meditation affects the brain and body. The number of studies conducted per year in this new field of contemplative science is rising exponentially, with more than 200 studies published last year alone,” (Hasenkamp). It’s a form of meditation in which a person builds a practice of awareness, intentionally focuses their attention on the present moment, and accepts whatever the present moment brings, without any judgment.
New research presents mindfulness meditation as a helpful source for preventing and/or reducing anxiety. Mindfulness and it’s relation to anxiety is broken down into three parts; the neurological relation, the effects presented by focusing the mind on the present moment, and the reduction of any pre-existing physical symptoms of anxiety. Any presented research regarding mindfulness implements how essential it is in successfully decreasing anxiety.
Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recruited fifteen healthy volunteers with normal everyday levels of anxiety to partake in a study to see how mindfulness specifically affected anxiety. The volunteers of the study participated in four twenty-minute meditation classes where they learned about mindfulness and were taught how to focus one’s attention on the breath and body sensations, in attempt to non-judgmentally redirect thoughts and emotions. “In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief.” (Zeidan)
The study revealed that anxiety relief due to meditation is associated with the activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain that are involved with high levels of function. While meditation, activity increased in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls worrying, as well as in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that governs cognition and emotion, thus decreasing anxiety. “The majority of study participants reported decreases in anxiety. Researchers found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent.” (Beck and Davis)
The direct effect that focusing the mind on the present moment has on reducing anxiety and its symptoms are largely important. The idea of not controlling one’s thoughts, but redirecting them to the present moment is a fairly hard concept for most people to fully understand. Redirecting one’s thoughts to the present moment distracts the mind from any worry-some or anxiety inducing thoughts or feelings, without giving attention to them. The redirection of thoughts essentially keeps the mind occupied, which means the mind has less time to spend worrying or...