By Faye Martins
Many studies have recently shown, much to the delight of the yoga community, that mindfulness meditation is scientifically verified to help reduce anxiety. It is sometimes called mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, when studied in a scientific setting, but it is a mindful form of meditation through and through. These studies show particular promise for mindfulness meditation in the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder, or SAD, and in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy. Hybrids between cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness meditation have even been developed, called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Participants who undergo mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are found to have a reduction not only in anxiety symptoms, but also depression symptoms.
Research into the effect of meditation on social anxiety has revealed a mindful form of meditation can actually change the self-image of participants. In one study headed by psychology researcher Philippe Goldin, participants meditated and then were told to select adjectives that described them. After meditation, they were more likely to select adjective such as “admired” or “loved” but less likely to pick adjective such as “coward” or “afraid.” In fact, participants showed favor toward all positive words after meditation. This suggests a mindful meditation actually bestows a feeling of well being on the practitioner, with radical psychological consequences, rather than simply raising awareness or giving the practitioner more tools.
The effect of self-knowledge and awareness certainly shouldn’t be underestimated either. Long touted as the primary psychological benefit of being mindful during meditation, it has far-reaching consequences, particularly for social anxiety sufferers. Since anxiety is formed from negative emotions in the past and unhelpful projections into the future, bringing awareness to the moment cuts off the main mechanism of social anxiety, and indeed anxiety in general. Those who practice mindfulness meditation learn to see their thoughts for what they are, simply thoughts and not necessarily truths. This helps anxiety sufferers detach from the spiral of negative thoughts that so often causes anxiety, freeing their emotions to respond to other things. Eventually, this can stop the habitual cycle of self-defeating thoughts all together.
To practice mindfulness meditation only takes ten minutes out of your day. Some meditate for longer periods, and some meditate for shorter periods, but ten minutes is the recommended time to help with psychological issues. Simply find a quiet place to sit or lie down, and close your eyes. Concentrate on each breath. Thoughts will arise; simply observe them. With continued practice, you’ll learn much about yourself and improve your quality of life. Though this form of meditation really is as simple as that, it can help to have a teacher or course as a beginner if only for your own confidence.
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