Why does this mindfulness work to calm the anxious mind? We don’t know all the mechanisms that make mindfulness so powerful but we DO know that the practice of mindfulness allows up to sidestep the mental reactions that lead to anxiety, fear, foreboding and worry. Showing up for the present moment without judgement alters the way you experience the information you’re receiving from your senses, thoughts and emotions.
Mindfulness can be cultivated through the practice of certain traits which serve to calm an anxious mind. When you’re feeling stressed and worried use any one of these concepts and the accompanying activity to ease your distress.
5 Tips to Calm An Anxious Mind
- Beginner’s Mind ~ While your anxiety may feel like a familiar friend, experiencing with curiosity like it’s a new experience can be transformative. Beginner’s mind kicks anxious mind’s butt ALWAYS! Practice– As you feel what you define as anxiety, begin to explore the sensations in your body that let you know anxiety is present. Where in your body do you feel your anxiety? Does it feel hard and small? Or large and diffuse? Is it hot or cold? Explore your bodily sensations with interest and non judgement. Then breathe slowly and deeply into the areas where you feel anxious. Evision your breath releasing whatever sensation is present. With practice this process can be done in 1 breath. In the beginning allow yourself as long as you need to explore and release.
- Impermanence ~ Be patient with yourself.I know it sounds crazy to talk about patience when this post is about how to stop your mind from racing, but it’s an integral part of calming your mind. Through patience you allow yourself to know and believe that this too shall pass. Nothing good is forever and nothing bad is forever. Embracing this truth that is impermanence allows you to endure tough times and anxiety attacks with greater grace and ease. Practice ~ For 5-10 breaths (or as long as you need) take a deep, slow inhale and say or think “This too shall pass.” On the exhale say or think “I am perfect peace.”
- Intention~ As you think, so will you be. Decide how you want to feel and your mind will help you. Most of the time that anxiety is crippling us we are imagining a negative future. You are free to claim a different experience in the present. Practice ~ Feel free to use your own affirmation of it resonates with you more than the ones I’ve offered. “I am cool, calm and collected.” “Each in breath brings me peace, each exhale releases tension.” “I transcend all stress and strife. I am above the fray.” “My future is beautiful. I look forward to it with joy and hope.”
- Self-compassion~ I tell everyone I talk to that they must be kind to themselves. Speak gently to yourself. Some of us have a brutal internal monologue. When your anxious mind in control and stress is high there’s a great chance that there are some pretty harsh critical beliefs playing on a loop in your head. Use the practice to just stop it! Practice – Hand-on-Heart
• When you notice you’re under stress, take 2-3 deep, satisfying breaths.
• Gently place a hand over your heart, simply feeling the gentle pressure and warmth of your hand. If you wish, placing both hands over your heart.
• Feel the natural rising and falling of your chest as you breathe in and as you breathe out.
• Linger with the feeling for as long as you like.
Some people feel uneasy putting a hand over the heart. Feel free to explore where on your body a gentle touch is actually soothing. Some other possibilities are:
• Cupping your hand over a fist over your heart
• One hand over your heart and one on your belly
• Two hands on your belly
• One hand on your cheek
• Cradling your face in your hands
• Gently stroking your arms
• Crossing your arms and giving yourself a gentle squeeze
• Gently stroking your chest, back and forth or in small circles
• One hand tenderly holding the other
• Cupping your hands in your lap
- Equanimity ~ Do not crave and do not avoid. We cultivate a steadiness of mind by combining a inner knowing of the Truth of impermanence coupled with a willingness to practice experiencing it without negative emotions. We don’t crave happy times nor do we try to avoid or deny the experience of difficult times. Craving and avoidance is the domain of the anxious mind. We of the calm mind tribe accept whatever is showing up in the present moment without wishing it to be different than it is. Practice – Sit in comfortable position and focus on your breath for a few breaths until your mind and body have settled. Focus on a sense of internal and external balance and relaxation.
Breathing out, I calm my mind.
May I be balanced.
May I be at peace.
May I learn to see the arising and passing of all things with equanimity and balance.
May I be open and balanced and peaceful.
The point of these meditations is not to have you float away to la-la land where everything is perfect. Life is nuts and sometimes pretty awful! lol It’s a rollercoaster ride filled with bliss, grief, excitement, disgust, love and loathing. Taking meditation and mindfulness off the cushion and into life is not for us to disconnect from our reality but to allow us to experience reality without being overwhelmed and fearful. Living in a constant state of fear is not living. Living life knowing, believing that whatever comes in the next moment, we can handle it one moment at a time, one breath at a time is where it’s at. You got this!