Meditation practices are widely employed to reduce anxiety and to maintain optimal psychological and spiritual health. Meditation has been extensively studied as a treatment of anxiety. Beneficial physiological effects of meditation include decreased oxygen consumption, respiratory rate and blood pressure, as well as long-term beneficial changes in brain electrical activity that result in increased calmness. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an integrative approach pioneered by Kabat-Zinn that has been validated as highly effective for reducing the physical, emotional and mental consequences of chronic stress. MBSR incorporates elements of different Eastern meditation practices and western psychology. Its methods are now widely employed in group therapy in large health-maintenance organizations in the U.S.
Research findings show that the regular practice of mindfulness meditation, in which the individual practices detached self-observation, significantly reduces generalized anxiety and other anxiety symptoms. Almost 100% of individuals who started a 10-week MBSR program successfully completed it, and the majority reported significantly decreased physical and emotional distress, improved quality of life, a greater sense of general well-being, increased optimism and increased feelings of control. Persons diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a frequent complaint of generalized anxiety, experienced significantly fewer symptoms of both IBS and anxiety when they engaged in two brief (15 min) daily sessions of mindfulness meditation.
You can find out more about meditation, mindfulness training, MBSR and other safe and effective complementary and alternative treatments of anxiety, and learn practical tips for using them in “Anxiety: the Integrative Mental Health Solution,” by James Lake M.D.