How Meditation Helps Anxiety
Anxiety is a common symptom of modern society. Women are nearly twice as likely to experience anxiety – or at least to report experiencing anxiety – as men, and an article published in the journal Brain and Behavior in 2016 revealed that more than 60 million people are affected by anxiety disorders every year in the EU.
The authors of this report, from Cambridge University, undertook a global review of 48 published pieces of work, and found that that as well as women, young people under 35 and those with other health problems are particularly affected. They estimated that as many as 4 in every 100 people has some sort of anxiety disorder.
What is anxiety?
There are five well known types of anxiety disorder, the most prevalent of which is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is a long-term condition that causes sufferers to feel unnecessarily and disproportionately anxious about a multitude of situations and issues arising in everyday life, rather than being reactive to a specific event and therefore with an easily identifiable cause.
Typical symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder include intense and overwhelming feelings of worry, fear, and unease. This can include excessively anticipating catastrophe about a number of different things: from overarching concerns about health, money, or work to more day-to-day issues such as planning journeys or getting to appointments or social engagements.
For those who don’t experience anxiety, it can be difficult to understand the extent to which it can impact the body. Far from simply “worrying about things”, anxiety can also manifest in physical sensations such as raised blood pressure, feeling nauseous, and disrupted sleep. These common symptoms and can persist for a long time, eventually becoming overwhelming and affecting everyday life.
How can meditation relieve anxiety?
Many people find that meditation can relieve – and even halt – the onset of debilitating anxiety. Anxiety usually develops gradually and can begin any time during life, although the risk is highest between childhood and middle age.
A twice daily meditation allows the body an opportunity to rest, and the mind to settle at a very deep level: deeper even than sleep. Research has shown that when we are in this state whilst meditating, numerous “bliss chemicals” such as endocannabinoids, dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin are naturally released into the blood stream, along with GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) which reduces excitability and induces feelings of calm.
GABA one of the major inhibitory neurotransmitters in your central nervous system, and if you have any type of addiction including alcohol, drugs, tobacco, caffeine, or food, you are probably suffering from a lack of GABA. Anxiety, nervousness, racing thoughts, and sleeplessness arise from not having enough of this important chemical. In 2010, Psychiatrists at the Boston University School of Medicine found a 27% increase in GABA levels after only 60 minutes of mindful exercises such as meditation.
Over time, keeping to a regular meditation practice effectively melts away – or at least significantly reduces – anxiety and addictive tendencies. Along with the many other benefits meditation brings, this clears the way for you to reach your highest potential.