It seems like lately, meditation is everywhere. It’s being talked about in magazines, podcasts, and news articles. Athletes are doing it. Oprah’s on board. And there are literally hundreds of meditation apps in the app store. Even the guy in the cubicle next to you is practicing! It seems like everyone is talking about meditation. And people are making some pretty big claims about how it can help you.
One of the biggest claims being touted is that meditation dramatically helps with anxiety. In fact, I’ve even seen some people claiming that meditation cures anxiety. But is that true? Does it really do what people say it does? Does meditation cure anxiety?
But first, just in case you’re not familiar with meditation, here’s a quick overview. Meditation is a way of focusing your attention on a single thing. That thing is often, but not always, what’s happening in the present moment. So you might notice your body or your breath. You might engage one of your senses. Or you might focus on an image or a mantra. Meditation can really be practiced in so many different ways. But for brevity, remember this. Meditation is a practice in focusing and directing your attention.
Most people who meditate have positive things to say about it. In fact, they report that it’s helpful for all sorts of things, including stress, mood, relationships, attention, and one of the biggest things, anxiety. Now, opinions, experiences, and anecdotal support are awesome, but what does the research say?
Well, the good news is that research shows moderate evidence for improved anxiety with meditation. Meaning, yes, meditation has been shown to be effective in helping with anxiety. (PS: for all my fellow research nerds out there, you can read the full meta-analysis here.)
So hooray; that’s the good news! Meditation is shown to be helpful in improving anxiety. But now, the bad news. Does meditation cure anxiety? The answer to that is simple. No. Meditation isn’t a cure all for anxiety. It doesn’t eliminate it. And it doesn’t keep anxiety from coming back.
And while this might sound strange, this is actually a good thing. We don’t want anxiety to go away completely. There are times in life, where we need anxiety. Where it protects us and keeps us safe. Or where it motivates or focuses us. The problem is when our anxiety is out of proportion to what’s going on in life. When our brains confuse discomfort with danger.
So, we’ve got some good news and some bad news. Meditation isn’t a cure all for anxiety. But it helps. So if you struggle with worry, doubt, or fear, then give meditation a try. A real try. Not a one-time sit down, give it a whirl kind of try. Make a commitment. Stay consistent. And work on focusing your attention, even though it’s hard.
Meditation is free. It’s simple. And there aren’t any negative side effects. And best of all? Science says it’s helpful. So if you’re on board, ready to give meditation a try, one of the best places to start is with your breath. This video is an oldie but a goodie, and it will give you a basic overview of how to pay attention to and meditate on your breath.
What’s your experience with meditation? Have you tried it? What did you think?
PS: Now that you know what’s helpful for anxiety, want to know one of the worst things you can do for your anxiety? Check out this video; it’ll surprise you!