Anxiety may be your body’s natural way of saying, “I’m experiencing excessive stress.” However, it can exhaust you mentally and have a direct impact on your body. Fortunately, research has revealed that you can reduce your stress and anxiety with various mindfulness practices.
How mindfulness helps anxiety and depression
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when you pay attention to purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally. Learning to be present and aware of what you are already experiencing without being overwhelmed or overactive can alleviate anxiety and stress, the two primary triggers of depression. In fact, the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence recommends mindfulness to prevent or manage depression.
Research shows that mindfulness can help restore your brain’s power to regulate emotions. Generally, stress sends your medial prefrontal cortex into overdrive, alerting the ‘fear center’ (amygdala), triggering your body’s flight or fight mode. These brain parts interlock, creating a somewhat overwhelming cycle that leads to depression. Mindfulness and meditation can help disconnect these brain parts.
During meditation, you deliberately ignore the negative sensations of anxiety and stress. It allows you to acknowledge stress without triggering the ‘fear center.’ Also, mindfulness protects your hippocampus. Rather than letting depression shrink your hippocampus, meditating for about half an hour daily can improve the volume of grey matter in your hippocampus and maintain its normal size. That means you’re better placed to regulate your emotions and less vulnerable to low self-esteem and negative feels.
Mindfulness changes the way you think.
A common symptom of anxiety and depression is debilitating sadness. Most medications like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and antidepressants help combat heightened levels of sadness through improving neurotransmitters. But mindfulness takes an entirely different approach.
Rather than trying to eliminate your sadness, mindfulness works to alter the way think about your experience of negative feelings or emotions. It helps you learn how to anchor yourself in your experiences so that when negative feelings strike your mind, your brain can wash over them instead of getting destabilized.
Anxiety and depression are frustrating, isolating, and exhausting experiences. Fortunately, meditation and mindfulness can help empower your brain to regulate emotions in a healthy way. Indeed, it can help change the way you perceive challenging situations and difficult emotions. Be sure to consult with a mindfulness expert to benefit from this practice truly.