Our brains are wired to worry, so, it’s no wonder that sometimes our anxiety levels go off the chart. It is as if we are programmed to expect bad things to happen. For some, anxiety levels are out of control and finding a solution is essential. Fortunately, managing anxiety with meditation really works and here’s why.
The amygdala and managing anxiety levels
Forming a part of the limbic system in the brain, the amygdala deals with the memory of emotions and fear. It governs how we respond to danger or threats. Think of it as the center for fear but also, for emotional behavior and emotions. It receives data from all our senses as well as those gained through being intuitive. The amygdala is responsible for rising anxiety levels and so, managing anxiety levels is paramount.
Meditation reduces the signals of distress transmitted to the brain and so, electrical activity caused by the amygdala then reduces considerably, in fact, it shrinks in size. So, when we perceive stress differently, we control how we respond to difficult situations. We amend our judgment as to what situation is fearful and what is not. In other words, we become less anxious.
Meditation and endorphins
Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter. They are manufactured in the spinal cord and brain. Endorphins improve the function of the brain but, they also elevate mood, reduce pain and help to improve sleep. Meditation is even better at boosting endorphins than when achieved throughout exercise and the higher levels of endorphins will naturally reduce anxiousness.
Throughout the day and night, your brain fires off electrical signals which form unique brainwave patterns. If analyzed, your brainwave patterns would reveal the essence of who you are. It would reveal your moods, thoughts and emotions and of course, anxiety levels. When the amygdala goes into overdrive, and anxiousness raises its head, you are within a Beta brainwave state.
If you suffer from anxiety, you can change beta brainwaves into Alpha, Theta and Delta states simply by meditating. Alpha brainwaves (7-13 Hz) aid a sense of peace and deep relaxation. They increase the sense of happiness experienced and can even boost feelings of creativity. Theta brainwaves (4-7 Hz) are connected to emotional intelligence and enable access to the deep levels of your mind. From here, you may explore and deepen your intuition or feel inspired. Delta brainwaves (0-4 Hz) help to reduce the signs of aging, increases longevity, boosts health and well-being. It also increases awareness and improves sleep. It is through these brainwaves that you can connect to the deepest levels of consciousness.
Positive thoughts versus negative thoughts
Too often, we place great emphasis on our thoughts and when they are negative, we fight them, becoming guilty or anxious as a result. It is important to not believe in these thoughts. They do not become us. But, the more we try to ignore them, the more we focus on them. This increases fear and we feel powerless.
We often give our thoughts too much credence. But, the meaning behind some thoughts can magnify and intensify and this fuels feelings of anxiety. The reality is that thoughts hold no power at all. Unfortunately, we tend to notice more about the negative thoughts than we do any others, and this becomes a never-ending cycle of thoughts, destructiveness, and fear. Managing anxiety with meditation enables you to let it all go and to not attach any sentiment to them and this makes sense.
Instead of reacting to those fears which are half fueled by darker thoughts where life and all its problems appear to manifest, meditation teaches you to take a step back into the quiet space within your mind and to avoid giving those thoughts your undivided attention. Meditation enables you to understand how thoughts and emotions interconnect and to not give them credence.
The perils of stress
There is no doubt that we live in stressful times. Rising pressures all around us naturally lead to feelings of anxiety. We face a bombardment of external pressures which may include relationship issues, work pressures and financial pressures too. If we do not offset stress, it can have a damaging effect on physical health as well as impact psychological health too.
Sadly, stress is not just in the mind. If not careful, the stress response can escalate out of control and we react through false perceptions. Often, the real cause behind the stress response is fear and uncontrolled anxieties.
Fight or flight response
The truth of the matter is that we are wired to react to stressful situations. In times gone by, there were very real threats to be faced. But these days, life-threatening scenarios are much rarer. Our reaction to stressful situations can create a false outcome. It’s fueled by an inner fear, anxiety escalates and then, our reaction is not conducive to a favorable outcome.
How many times have you felt angry about an outburst or unnecessary outcome?
Stress is real, and so, we understandably have concerns about health, financials and loved ones. But being concerned is very different to being in an overly anxious state. Once anxiety starts, heart rate increases and muscles tighten up ready to fight or run from the situation. Cortisol – the stress hormone floods the body. Short term, this is okay. Long-term, too much stress is dangerous.
Long-term stress and fluctuating anxiousness make life difficult and place health under very real pressure. To be able to manage anxiety levels and to remove reduce stress dramatically, you really do need to meditate. Create your own oasis of inner calm and shut the door on anxiety.
Feeling isolated and inner angst
When we feel stressed, we often withdraw from others. But this only leaves us alone with our fears. Many stress-related situations are resolvable but because we become overwhelmed by stress on a daily basis, clarity of mind reduces, and it becomes impossible to review any situations with clarity.
We become anxious all the time almost as if we are waiting for the next bad news or stressful situation to arise. Of course, we’ve already established that the fear center i.e. the amygdala is responsible for this, but even so, this sensation of fear can be crippling. Meditation provides the solution to help reduce inner angst and to help control anxiousness. Meditation brings calmness and inner peace. It reduces heart rate, improves the state of brainwave activity, lessens headaches and tension and slows metabolism. Life becomes much more peaceful as a result.
Meditation helps to deactivate your fight or flight stress response, certainly in cases where it is deemed unnecessary and it does this by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Anxiety medication or meditation?
When life is extremely difficult or where anxiety disorders exist, medication may be necessary. However, medication often has some very negative side effects. It can increase drowsiness, create dizziness, reduce concentration levels, impact memory and recall. It may also create blurred vision, fatigue, and a zombie-like state. Of course, the medication must be tailored to the individual’s needs. Where possible, it is better to opt for natural methods of recovery. Start to meditate, improve the techniques and learn to meditate at will. This way, it will reduce the need to take anti-anxiety medication.
When we feel anxious, we often feel unwell, we may physically shake and feel nauseous, but anxiety on a deeper level doesn’t just make us feel physically ill, it can change the structure and the function of the brain. We know that it decreases the size of the hippocampus which is responsible for memory, but it increases the size of the amygdala.
So, memory grows worse, but, our anxiousness increases substantially. Unfortunately, fear of what might happen in life controls us. Stress hormones released from the adrenal glands flood the body and these create neurotransmitter imbalances thereby, effecting the way the brain cells communicate with each other.
Meditation as a solution
Meditation aids deep relaxation. But it does so much more than this as it combats the negative changes made through anxiety so, will alter the structure and the function of the brain. Symptoms of anxiety will reduce.
Meditation for mental health disorders
Meditation can manage anxiety levels and aid the recovery from many other disorders including panic attacks, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, addictions, depression and even eating disorders. Importantly, managing anxiety with meditation is possible because it breaks negative thought patterns halting the vicious cycle of anxious thoughts.
It enables greater control over unwanted thoughts and helps you to change the way you respond to stress and this is a great improvement. Anxiousness and living with stress often become the norm these days. It’s no wonder that we develop bad habits in life. We do this through repetition.
Fortunately, with meditation, it is possible to recognize these negative behaviors and patterns and to view your thoughts with compassion and from a non-judgmental stance. Eventually, you learn that your thoughts are just that, they hold no power over you and you learn to let go. Managing anxiety levels may not be easy, but, once you embrace the power of meditation, you let go of anxieties.
Daily meditation sessions help in multiple ways:
- · Increased levels of serotonin improve mood
- · Increased levels of neurotransmitter GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) improve feelings of happiness
- · Decrease the stress hormone cortisol which directly contributes to anxiousness and depression
Meditation also increases the volume of the hippocampus, increases the thickness of the cortex and reduces the size of the amygdala. In addition, it improves blood flow to the brain. Managing anxiety with meditation takes time but, it does help. Meditation retrains your brain to respond differently. There is no point worrying about what might be, focus on the here and now and make the most of life.