How to Reduce Anxiety Using Meditation


by WITHIN Cofounder Hannah Knapp

Whether you’re in the workplace, out with friends or just walking down the street, there are plenty of opportunities to feel anxious. We seem to be surrounded by reasons to be worried, fearful and stressed about what might happen. Meditation can help you get just enough distance from the anxious treadmill of your mind to release those fears and live more easefully in the world.

How does practicing meditation reduce anxiety?

In the past five years, there’s been a lot of research into the benefits of meditation, and in particular, how mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety. Essentially, when you practice being in the present moment - which is all you do in mindfulness meditation - you notice that your thoughts are just thoughts. You begin to get a visceral sense for the “you” that isn’t affected by those thoughts - the “you” that is just fine, no matter what thoughts are going on. This little bit of distance between you and your thoughts releases the grip of the anxiety on your mind and heart. You begin to have choices: instead of being run by your fears about what might happen, you recognize that you’re having fearful thoughts and that they’re just that: thoughts, not what’s actually happening.

How much do I have to meditate to reduce my anxiety?

Many of the students who come to WITHIN tell us that meditation helps them cope with and release the anxiety they live with on a daily basis. For some of them, practicing with us in the studio daily is how they make sure they keep building that muscle. For others, sitting with a group once a week is enough to remind them of the tools they have to cope with their anxious thoughts. Regular practice over time makes the most difference in acute cases: if you enroll in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, it lasts 8 weeks.  What you need will depend on the intensity of your anxiety and the tools you already use to manage it.

At WITHIN, we love helping people experience relief from anxiety through mindfulness meditation. Having a meditation class that you commit to going to in advance, as part of your workday, is a great way to help yourself remember to take a mindful perspective.