There are many meditation techniques for anxiety relief that can help to remedy the problem. These meditations for anxiety will reduce worry and create feelings of calmness.
Best of all, by using a meditation for anxiety, you will learn to change negative thoughts that create your worries and uneasiness, and you will learn to stay calm in stressful situations.
Here’s what you need to know about meditation and anxiety.
Benefits of Meditation Techniques For Anxiety Relief
There are many ways in which meditation helps with anxiety, but to understand the true relationship between anxiety and meditation, we first have to consider the nature of these two opposing elements.
So, what are anxiety and meditation? And why does meditation stop anxiety?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress… [is it] the most common of mental disorders.” They state that anxiety related to anticipation of a future concern. The causes of anxiety are usual circumstantial or related to lifestyle [Bystritsky A, Khalsa SS, Cameron ME, Schiffman J. Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P T. 2013;38(1):30-57.]
For instance, poor diet can certainly cause anxiety, as can excessive drinking. But so can life evens like exams, job interviews, and unexpected breakups. And some life events stay with us, causing prolonged forms of anxiety like social anxiety and generalised anxiety.
Anxiety is mostly created by overactivity in the amygdala, a part of the brain. Theories states that we feel anxiety when signals from the emotional brain overpower the cognitive brain. The amygdala is a structure shaped like an almond that lies deep within the brain and serves as a communication hub between different parts of the brain. It is the amygdala that signals a threat. And people with anxiety are constantly perceiving threats, hence the “fight or flight” response and the muscular tension we feel when we have an anxiety attack. [Martin EI, Ressler KJ, Binder E, Nemeroff CB. The neurobiology of anxiety disorders: brain imaging, genetics, and psychoneuroendocrinology. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2009;32(3):549-575. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2009.05.004]
So how can meditation help with anxiety?
Meditation is a psychological practice with roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, and yoga. It is the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment without judgment. This has many benefits including stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to create feelings of calmness, and balancing vagus nerve for a sense of general wellbeing.
Importantly, meditation helps with anxiety by reducing activity in the amygdala. FMRI studies conducted by Benjamin Shapero, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Depression Clinical and Research Program, show that after eight weeks of meditation, activity of the amygdala is reduces, which leads to less “fight or flight” response and less anxiety.
Plus, meditation also makes us less reactive to stressful stimuli, so events that would usually provoke anxiety no longer do so. And it also creates clarity of mind, which we can use to challenge negative thoughts (via CBT) so we develop a more positive mindset.
Let’s take a look at my best meditation technique for anxiety relief and how it works.
Best Anxiety Meditation Technique [Script]
This is a method based on the teaching of mindful breathing as described in the Buddhist text the Anapanasati Sutta.
- It is best to practice this meditation in a relaxing space. Buddha said to practice it in a forest sitting by a tree. So, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
- Sit with good posture, ideally on a chair. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Roll your shoulders back then let them relax and open upwards a little, which will open your chest space. Tuck your chin down a little to elongate your neck.
- Place your hands in Gyan mudra. Touch the tips of your index fingers and thumbs together on each hand. Now place your hands on your thighs with the palms facing upwards.
- Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths. Breathe in for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Repeat ten times.
- Focus your mind on the spot just beneath the middle of your nose. Mindfully observe your breath moving between this space. Observe the breath here for ten breaths.
- Now expand your awareness so you are aware of the breath moving through the spot just beneath your nose, in through your nostrils and your mouth, to the back of the throat. Mindfully watch your breath here for ten breaths.
- Expand your awareness again so you are aware of the entire breathing process. Continue breathing here for ten minutes. While you are doing this, you are promoting activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing amygdala activity, and balancing cortisol levels. All of this is helping you to relax.
- You should now feel calm and relaxed. Next, focus on the energy of calmness. What does it feel like in the body? What kind of energy do you feel? Observe that calm energy and meditate on it for ten minutes.
- Gradually close your eyes to a count of five, bringing the feeling of calmness with you.
This is my best meditation technique for anxiety. It will make you feel relaxed in as little as 20 minutes.
More Meditation Techniques For Anxiety Relief (With Scripts)
I recommend trying each of these meditation techniques for anxiety relief. Find the one that works best for you. When you find your best method, use it daily for continual relief. For me, I personally found that a combination of Loving Kindness and Anapanasati helped me best, but you may have positive result with the other scripts I’ve put in this list.
*For all these anxiety-meditation scripts, please refer to our main menu.
1: Mindful Breathing
The ideal place to start is with a simple breathing meditation. You would have heard many experts touting the benefits of this practice, including Jack Kornfield and Dr. Oz. This type of meditation soothes the mind and generates inner peace. It is fundamentally like a breath of fresh air when you’re feeling anxious.
A study published by the National Institute of Health in 2016 found that daily mindful breathing yielded large effects in the reduction of anxiety and increased positive thoughts [The Effectiveness of Daily Mindful Breathing Practices on Test Anxiety of Students, Hyunju Cho, Seokjin Ryu, Jeeae Noh, and Jongsun Lee, Department of Psychology, Yeungnam University, Department of Psychology, Kangwon National University LINK].
I personally found that mindful breathing helped me to relax and feel calmer.
One of the best Buddhist meditations for anxiety is Vipassana. Vipassana is a meditation technique in which we label our emotions while meditating on the breath. For instance, if we are meditating on the breath when we suddenly feel worried, we tell ourselves “this is just a feeling.” This method is frequently advocated by leading meditation experts, including Buddhist meditation teacher Jack Kornfield [founder, Insight Meditation Society]”.
Vipassana is one of the best meditation techniques for anxiety relief and depression because it trains the mind to dissociate from feelings so that anxious thoughts don’t affect you so much. In my experience, Vipassana helps me to understand unpleasant emotions like fear and worry and it made me less reactive to those emotions.
In 2001, the Journal of Scientific Research found that a 10-day training program in vipassana meditation “may help mitigate psychological and psychosomatic distress.” [Vipassana meditation: A naturalistic, preliminary observation in Muscat, Ala’Aldin Al-HussainiSultan Qaboos University, Vipassana Research Institute, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174711/]
3: Mindful Walking
I couldn’t write this list of the best meditations for anxiety relief without mentioning mindful walking, a truly relaxing method that combines the relaxation of walking with the mental health benefits of mindfulness.
In Zen Walking, you walk a path while meditating on the sense of movement. This allows you to get some fresh air (important for anxiety), to clear your mind and to find relaxation. I found that this gentle mindful movement helped me to feel more positive and to get some perspective on my negative thoughts.
This is one of the best meditation techniques for anxiety relief if you prefer to be a little active, and especially if you happen to have a relaxing natural environment to spend time in, such as a beautiful park.
A trial published by the American Journal of Health found that ten minutes of meditation followed by a ten-minute walk reduced anxiety significantly better than a walk by itself, as measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Questionaire. [Differential Experimental Effects of a Short Bout of Walking, Meditation, or Combination of Walking and Meditation on State Anxiety Among Young Adults, American Journal of Health Promotion https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29216745/ ].
4: Self Guided Meditation For Anxiety
When you think sad thoughts, you become sad. When you think thoughts that make you anxious, you become anxious. Simple, right? One of the best ways to take control of your symptoms is by controlling what’s in your mind. And one of the best ways to do that is by using self-guided meditations for anxiety.
“Self-guided” means you lead yourself through a visualisation that alleviates your symptoms. Essentially, we imagine specific things to produce specific changes in the mind.
CalmClinic  states that “Visualisation is not an anxiety cure. What it is, is a relaxation strategy that makes it much easier for you to cope with your anxiety symptoms during periods of high stress.”
5 Guided meditation for anxiety
Yes, there may be some truth in what Andy Puddicombe of Headspace says: guided methods using apps can sometimes be effective.
Research from the journal Behavioural Brain Research shows that there are indeed benefits of guided meditations for anxiety, although Harvard Medical School states that guided meditations for anxiety are not as effective as traditional methods. Therefore it may be best to stick with traditional methods unless you find them too difficult, in which case try a guided meditation for anxiety instead. The research reveals that listening to a guided meditation for 13 minutes a day for eight weeks significantly reduces anxiety. [Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators, Behavioural Brain https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016643281830322X]
6 Body Scan Meditation Script For Anxiety
Another of the best daily meditations for anxiety relief is “Body Scan”. This exercise reduces the physical symptoms of the condition. It does this by systematically relaxing the body. This system was devised by Jon Kabat Zinn [ creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School]. It is a fundamental aspect of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.
One of the critical reasons to use meditation techniques for anxiety is that when you meditate you become aware of bodily sensations, which are often the causes of the problem.
As someone with the problem myself, when you feel your physical symptoms coming on, you might enter a panic attack. Controlling the initial symptoms of panic attacks is half the battle. With Body Scan, you learn to recognise the very early stages of an upcoming anxiety attack. You can then take steps to cut-off those symptoms before they get any worse.
A study published on the National Institute of Health showed that women with breast cancer who used MBSR [Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, in which Body Scan is the primary technique] “experienced a significant improvement in 16 psychosocial variables compared with [a control group]. These included health-related, [breast cancer] specific quality of life and psychosocial coping, which were the primary outcomes, and secondary measures, including meaningfulness, helplessness, cognitive avoidance, depression, paranoid ideation, hostility, anxiety, global severity, anxious preoccupation, and emotional control.” [A Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer Receiving Radiotherapy, Virginia P. Henderson, MD, MPH,1 Ann O. Massion, MD,2 Lynn Clemow, PhD,3 Thomas G. Hurley, MS,1 Susan Druker, MEd,4 and James R. Hébert, ScD1, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758444/]
- Breathe in for four counts. Hold for four. Then exhale for another four counts. Continue to breathe like this throughout the meditation.
- Say to yourself, “I am feeling anxious right now, but that it is okay. It is just a temporary feeling and will pass.”
- Now begin to pass your attention up and down your body, starting from the crown of your head and progressing down to your toes one step at a time. Take one breath per body part (head, face, neck, upper body, stomach, lower back, shoulders, arms, hands, abdomen, legs, ankles, feet). As you breathe into these areas, ask them to relax.
- Tense your entire body. Notice the sensations. Then completely let go. Notice the feeling of letting go. Do this three times.
- Continue to breathe as described above. Then tell yourself, “I welcome relaxation and inner peace.”
Scientific research has proven that arguably the very best meditation technique for anxiety is mindfulness. Mindfulness involves focusing the mind 100% on the present moment. There are various ways to do this.
- You can mindfully observe your breath (see #1 above)
- You can mindfully listen to music
- You can mindfully observe your thoughts
Like Lao Tzu says: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present moment.” Living in the present moment is called being mindful.
Scientific research has proven that this is an excellent technique for social anxiety, depression, and for stimulating the relaxation response, so you experience less fight-or-flight. Anxiety.org  tells us, “Research has shown that mindfulness helps to reduce anxiety and depression. Mindfulness teaches us how to respond to stress with an awareness of what is happening in the present moment, rather than simply acting instinctively, unaware of what emotions or motives may be driving that decision.”.
This form of meditation originates from the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu, the father of philosophical Daoism. Emptiness meditation refers to the act of emptying the mind by focusing on nothing. This creates a sense of space in the mind, which is very relaxing. Definitely one of the best meditations for anxiety because it gives your mind a break.
Pranayama refers to the way we breathe when we do yoga. It is a deep style of breathing that is coordinated with movements of the body. By meditating on the breath in pranayama while doing yoga, we relax both the mind and the body, which is one of the best ways of handling anxiety.
A study published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2013 revealed that students who practised pranayama for one semester significantly reduced their anxiety and improved their test results. [ The effect of pranayama on test anxiety and test performance, Azadeh Nemati, International Journal Of Yoga]
10 Mindful CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
An alternative type of meditation for anxiety is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MBCBT)
Ben Martin, Psy.D. states, “Our unique patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving are significant factors in our experiences, both good and bad.” CBT is a way to change those thinking patterns.
MBCBT is an extension of cognitive-behavioural therapy. It is a method of using specific strategies of thinking to change negative thoughts. Take a look at the link above for more on this. This is a powerful system for altering mindsets and is commonly used by psychotherapists. Much research has revealed that MBCBT alleviates the symptoms of anxiety and is particularly beneficial for treating social anxiety.
11: Loving Kindness
Loving kindness is one of the best meditation techniques for anxiety relief if your worries involve other people. For instance, social anxiety and relationship-anxiety. The reason why this is better than other methods is that it involves creating positive feelings about other people. It trains us to receive love from others and to give love too. This creates a sense of emotional support that helps relieve symptoms.
If you’d like to discover more bout this method, I highly recommend reading the works of Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg.
A 2015 study by Evidence-Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine found that loving-kindness led to significant reductions in depression and anxiety, with less rumination of negative thoughts and increase in positive emotions. [Loving-Kindness Meditation to Target Affect in Mood Disorders: A Proof-of-Concept Study, Evidence-Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4468348/]
The above methods have the most significant scientific research, for which reasons I have listed them as the top ten. However, as a meditation teacher, I do recommend that you also consider the following techniques.
- Third Eye
- Kriya Yoga
- Tibetan singing bowls
- Apps like Calm and Headspace
- Kundalini Meditation (consult a professional teacher first)
- Inner Vision
- Internal Alchemy
- Qigong Meditation
- Falun Gong Meditation
- Contemplative Prayer
- Contemplation of Religious Teachings
- Binaural Beats
- Guided Imagery
- Nature Sounds
Bear in mind that different people will experience different results. In a 2020 study published by Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, Miguel Farias at Coventry University in the UK stated that some people may experience worsening symptoms after meditation [a) Adverse events in meditation practices and meditation‐based therapies: a systematic review, M. Farias E. Maraldi K. C. Wallenkampf G. Lucchetti , WILEY].
What are the best meditations for social anxiety?
The best meditations for social anxiety are ones that change the way we feel about other people. And, importantly, ones that change the way we think they feel about us. When you have social anxiety, meditation techniques can help you to relax around other people so that you can enjoy better relationships.
The best meditations for social anxiety are techniques in which we change the way we feel about other people. For instance, the two Buddhist methods Loving Kindness [Metta] and Karuna [Compassion] are all about developing feelings of love, kindness, and compassion towards other people. While doing these techniques, we visualise giving and receiving love and compassion for and from other people.
These are the two best meditations for social anxiety because they help us to develop more compassionate relationships with others.
Stefan. G. Hoffman [Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University] conducted research  into the effect of Loving Kindness Meditation on social anxiety. In his conclusion he wrote, “Adding an LKM component to traditional psychotherapy (such as CBT) that primarily targets negative emotions, might significantly enhance the efficacy of treating mood dysregulation, possibly by enhancing adaptive emotion regulation. We also predict that such a strategy might be beneficial for treating anxiety disorders, such as PTSD, generalised anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder.”
You can also use general mindfulness meditation technique for social anxiety. This is a technique where you simply observe how you are feeling in the present moment. This helps you to recognise that your feelings are just feelings and that they are unimportant.
It’s also worth using daily mindfulness meditations for social anxiety. You can do this by practising mindful breathing during panic attacks or using apps like Headspace and Calm, which have quick exercises you can do. The main benefit of using mindfulness meditations for social anxiety is that they quickly return your focus to the present moment, and this helps you to relax.
One other tip that I personally do is that I remind myself that I’m not psychic. I don’t know what other people are thinking or feeling. A lot of the negative thoughts I think other people are thinking about me are untrue. Remembering this, I stop imagining that people are thinking bad things about me, and this helps me overcome my social anxiety.
Best meditations for relationship anxiety
Similar to social anxiety, meditation techniques can help us build better relationships by making us more compassionate towards other people. Buddhist Metta and Karuna [which are basically about visualising yourself giving and receiving love and compassion from other people] will help you with your relationship. They are the best types of meditations for anxiety in a relationship because they cultivate more compassion and understanding.
In his book Altered Traits, internationally renowned psychologist Dan Coleman explains that with Loving Kindness Meditation “You handle stress better, you’re calmer, you’re less triggered, and you recover more quickly.” He goes on to explain that LKM leads to heightened compassion and empathy, which makes us more understanding of our significant others, which in turn reduces the symptoms and effects of relationship anxiety.
Best meditation techniques for anxiety attacks / panic attacks
The best types of meditation techniques for anxiety attacks (or “panic attacks”) are a little different. Panic attacks are different to other forms of anxiety. They are about very heated feelings that come on out of nowhere.
In my experience, as someone who has personally used meditation for anxiety attacks, the best option is mindfulness and Mindful CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy]. Any technique that immediately brings you back into the present moment (such as mindfully holding an ice cube, or taking a cold shower and meditating on the sensation of water on your body) are also good options. Techniques like these can cut through the panic attack and snap you back into the present moment.
Best Meditation Techniques For Anxiety In School / Exams
We all know what it can be like to be stressed about your school or university work. Thankfully we can use meditation for exam anxiety. One of the best ways to do this is to take mindful breaks.
One of the primary reasons for anxiety when studying is because we cram the mind with too much information. This is like lifting too many weights at the gym. It makes you ache. Studying hard makes your mind ache. And just like your body, your brain needs a break.
For this reason, the best meditations for anxiety in school are easy methods that let you relax and take a break, such as basic mindfulness. When you feel stressed about exams, meditate on your breath. Simply close your eyes and take 108 mindful breaths. Do not listen to a guided meditation, which is just more noise. Your breath should be your guide.
Best Meditation Techniques For Anxiety At Work
It’s best to use some relaxing and easy meditation techniques for anxiety at work. If you are feeling the pressure or you’re stressed, your mind is telling you that you need a break. And when the brain needs a break, it wants silence and stillness. For that reason, the best meditation techniques for anxiety at work are easy mindfulness exercises. Take some mindful breaths, or do simple mindful exercises such as tai chi or yoga, which will also help to relax your body if you have been sitting for too long.
Above we looked at the best meditation techniques for anxiety. Which method works best for you? Leave a comment and remember to subscribe.