31 Best Meditation Techniques For Anxiety Relief

meditation for anxiety
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Before I started using meditation techniques for anxiety, I was a mess. As a teenager, anytime I spoke to anyone I felt tense in my chest and hot in the face. My social anxiety made it impossible for me to have any kind of social life. And I knew I needed a solution.

Obviously, there are many options for dealing with anxiety:

  • Medication
  • Therapy
  • Lifestyle changes (healthy eating and exercise)
  • Stress management
  • Groups
  • And of course, we can use an anxiety meditation script

For me, the solution was meditation. Indeed, I became obsessed with meditation. I learned everything I could about it. And not only did it cure my anxiety, but I even ended up becoming a meditation teacher.

Now I help other people overcome anxiety with meditation in my online meditation lesson. I show them the best meditation techniques for anxiety and alleviate their condition.

Benefits of Meditation Techniques For Anxiety Relief

So, what are anxiety and meditation? And why does meditation stop anxiety?

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According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress…  [it is] the most common of mental disorders.” We feel anxiety when we anticipate future concern. For instance, many people feel anxious about speaking on stage, and so they dwell on fear until it’s over.

Many things cause anxiety. Often, the causes are circumstantial or related to lifestyle [1]. For instance, a poor diet can certainly cause anxiety, as can excessively drinking. But so can life events like exams, job interviews, and unexpected breakups. Indeed, some life events stay with us, causing prolonged forms of anxiety like social anxiety and generalised anxiety.

We feel anxiety when signals from the emotional brain overpower the cognitive brain. When this happens, the amygdala signals a threat. We then enter “fight or flight mode.” We experience muscular tension, increased heart rate, and other symptoms of an anxiety attack. [2]

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 the vagus nerve for a sense of general wellbeing.

Importantly, meditation helps with anxiety by reducing activity in the amygdala.

FMRI studies [3] show that eight weeks of meditation reduces the activity of the amygdala. In turn, this reduces the “fight or flight” response.

Plus, meditation makes us less reactive to stressful stimuli. Therefore, stressful events no longer cause anxiety attacks.

Finally, meditation creates clarity of mind. We can then change negative thoughts. For instance, by using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Let’s take a look at my best meditation techniques for anxiety relief.

how meditation helps anxiety
how meditation helps anxiety

 Best Meditation Technique for Anxiety [Script]

This is a method based on mindful breathing as described in the Buddhist text the Anapanasati Sutta.

  1. Sit in a relaxing space. Buddha said to practice in a forest sitting by a tree. A quiet room in the house will work fine.
  2. 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.
  3. Place your hands in Gyan mudra. To do this, 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Gradually open your eyes to a count of five, bringing the feeling of calmness with you.

This is the 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. Then use it daily for continual relief.

*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. Many experts like Jack Kornfield and Dr Oz. recommend this method.

A study published by the National Institute of Health in 2016 found that daily mindful breathing significantly reduces anxiety and increases positive thoughts [4].


2: Vipassana

One of the best Buddhist meditations for anxiety is Vipassana.

In Vipassana, 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 advocated by the likes of Jack Kornfield [founder, Insight Meditation Society] and S.N.Goenka.

Vipassana is one of the best meditation techniques for anxiety relief and depression because it makes us less reactive to our own thoughts and 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.” [5]


 3: Mindful Walking

Another of the best meditations for anxiety relief is mindful walking. This is a truly relaxing method that combines the relaxation of walking with the mental health benefits of mindfulness.

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 Questionnaire. [6]


4: Self-Guided Meditation For Anxiety

When you think sad thoughts, you become sad. When you think happy thoughts, you become happy.

Fill your mind with positive thoughts by doing a guided meditation.

“Self-guided” means you lead yourself through a visualisation that alleviates your symptoms. We imagine specific things to produce specific changes in the mind.

CalmClinic [4] 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.

Research shows that listening to a guided meditation for 13 minutes a day for eight weeks somewhat reduces anxiety.

10-Minute Meditation For Anxiety


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 [MBSR].

When you use meditation techniques for anxiety you become more aware of physical sensations, and thereby less reactive to them. 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 worse.

A study published on the National Institute of Health showed that women with breast cancer who used MBSR “experienced a significant improvement in sixteen 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.” [8]

Effect of MBSR Meditation On Anxiety
Effect of MBSR Meditation On Anxiety

Script

  1. Breathe in for four counts. Hold for four. Then exhale for another four counts. Continue to breathe like this throughout the meditation.
  2. Say to yourself, “I am feeling anxious right now, but that it is okay. It is just a temporary feeling and will pass.”
  3. 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 five breaths 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.
  4. Tense your entire body. Notice the sensations. Then completely let go. Notice the feeling of letting go. Do this three times.
  5. Continue to breathe as described above. Then tell yourself, “I welcome relaxation and inner peace.”

7: Mindfulness

Scientific research suggests that the best meditation technique for anxiety is mindfulness.  

Mindfulness involves focusing the mind 100% on the present moment. There are various ways to do this.

  • Mindfully observe your breath (see #1 above)
  • Mindfully listen to music
  • Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings

Being mindful means living in the present moment. And like Lao Tzu says: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. But if you are at peace, you are living in the present moment.”

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Anxiety.org [8] says, “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.”.

 


8 Emptiness

This form of meditation originates from the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu, the father of philosophical Daoism. In Emptiness meditation, we meditate on nothingness. This creates a sense of space in the mind, which is very relaxing.


9 Pranayama.

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 while doing yoga, we relax both the mind and the body.

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. [9]


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 uses 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 this is better than other methods is that it creates 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.

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 an increase in positive emotions. [10]

If you’d like to discover more bout this method, I highly recommend reading the works of Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg.


More exercises

The above methods have the most significant scientific research, which is why I listed them as the top ten. However, as a meditation teacher, I do recommend that you also consider the following techniques.

  • Mantras
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • Chakras
  • Third Eye
  • Trataka
  • Shikantaza
  • Kriya Yoga
  • Tibetan singing bowls
  • Apps like Calm and Headspace
  • Kundalini Meditation (consult a professional teacher first)
  • Tantra
  • Inner Vision
  • Internal Alchemy
  • Qigong Meditation
  • Falun Gong Meditation
  • Contemplative Prayer
  • Contemplation of Religious Teachings
  • Binaural Beats
  • Affirmations
  • Guided Imagery
  • Nature Sounds
Best Meditations For Anxiety (Beginner Friendly): Stop Anxiety Fast!

Precautions

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 [11]

F.A.Q. 

What are the best meditations for social anxiety?

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, Loving Kindness [Metta] and Compassion [Karuna]. 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 [9] 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.”

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.

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 help because they train us to give and receive love and compassion from other people].

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. In turn, this 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 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 how stressful school and university can be. 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. Studying too 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,. This will also help to relax your body if you have been sitting for too long.

Conclusion

Above we looked at the best meditation techniques for anxiety. Which method works best for you? Leave a comment and remember to subscribe.

meditation for anxiety

Sources

1: Bystritsky A, Khalsa SS, Cameron ME, Schiffman J. Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P T. 2013;38(1):30-57.

2: 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

3: Benjamin Shapero, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and  psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Depression Clinical and Research Program

4: 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.

5: 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/

6: 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/ .

 7: Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators, Behavioural Brain  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016643281830322X

8: 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/

9: The effect of pranayama on test anxiety and test performance, Azadeh Nemati, International Journal Of Yoga

10: 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/

11: Adverse events in meditation practices and meditation‐based therapies: a systematic review, M. Farias E. Maraldi K. C. Wallenkampf G. Lucchetti , WILEY.

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

1 comment

  1. Yes Yoga and Meditation is the best way to deal with Anxiety..Thank You for your informative post..

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