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Managing Anxiety with Mindful Meditation: First Steps

Practicing mindfulness and deep breathing is a way to regulate attention, improve awareness, and decrease negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, and anger. When we achieve mindfulness, we begin to notice our thoughts, feelings, sensations and surroundings without judgment. In other words, we simply notice our experiences without trying to change them.

Mindfulness is the highest form of self-acceptance. Most of us were taught at an early age not to “feel our feelings.” When we started to cry, for example, our parents might have told us to dry our tears or “be strong.” We learned to push negative feelings to the back of our minds, to avoid our feelings of sadness or fear. Mindfulness teaches us to do the opposite: we are asked to “sit with” negative emotions, to accept them without judgment.

Accepting all of our feelings and thoughts, whatever they might be, can bring relief and emotional peace.

How to Incorporate Mindfulness into your Daily Routine

Anyone can benefit from a daily session of mindfulness and deep breathing. The real work is to make time every day to keep doing it. Here’s a short practice to get you started:

  1. Take a seat or lie on the floor in a comfortable position. Find a place that feels calm and quiet to you.

  2. Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time to do your meditation, such as 10 or 15 minutes.

  3. Close your eyes, or keep them slightly open.

  4. Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it moves in through your nose and out through your mouth. Just concentrate on breathing in and out, allowing your thoughts to enter your mind, then float away.

  5. Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensation of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.

  6. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.

Online Resources to Help You Practice Mindfulness

There are numerous resources on the Internet that will help you develop a mindfulness and deep breathing practice. Many websites contain free audio recordings of guided meditations that can help develop your capacity for nonjudgmental awareness. Guided meditations are helpful for those who are just starting to learn how to meditate, as they allow you to follow the trained voice of a professional. Here are just a few places where you can find these audio recordings:

1. Richard Sears, PsyD, Psych Insights web site.

2. Mindful magazine website.

3. UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness.

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