Best Meditation for Overthinking & Anxiety

meditation for overthinking and anxiety

Today, I’m going to share one of my best meditations for overthinking and anxiety. My students in my online meditation lesson tell me that they find this method very helpful.

Simply follow the steps below and you will stop thinking so darned much. 

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Best Meditation for Overthinking & Anxiety

Also, read my guide to stopping negative thoughts


1: Sit in a proper meditation position, on a chair, with good posture

To sit with good meditation posture, place your feet shoulder-width apart, roll your shoulders back, evenly distribute your weight across your sitting muscles, sit with a straight but relaxed spine, and slightly lower your chin to elongate your neck.

We know from scientific research that posture affects mood. Good posture helps to increase focus, promote positive thoughts, and encourage self-esteem, according to research from Shwetha Nair et al. at the Department of Psychological Medicine at The University of Auckland [2015].

Having good meditation posture will a) help to reduce overthinking and anxiety, and b) help you to focus for this meditation.


2: Put your hands in Apan Vayu Mudra (little finger straight, third and fourth fingers touching the tip of the thumb, index finger curled so it touches the part of your hand just before your thumb).


3: Close your eyes and take a few moments to relax

Because this is a meditation for overthinking and anxiety, we need to quieten the mind before we can start meditating. Otherwise, we will not be able to focus.

To do this, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, so you start to relax. You may use Square Breathing to assist you (breathe in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four). This is actually one of the best meditations for overthinkers.

Leah Brock, LMSW, at the University of Michigan Health Department, says, “Square Breathing promotes relaxation and leads to clearer thoughts, helping to reset emotional peaks.”

In some instances, you will find that when you close your eyes, your thoughts become louder and it is harder to focus. If this is the case for you, open your eyes and meditate in the Zen fashion. That is, sit in front of a blank wall with your eyes open, looking at a point 45 degrees below your regular line of sight. This will stop you from entering the “dream state” that closed eyes can produce. It will help you to focus.


4: Practice mindful breathing for a minimum of 27 breaths (one-quarter mala). To do this, simply observe your breath moving through your body.

Now that we are focusing, we can begin to soothe the mind. This is where our meditation for overthinking and anxiety really kicks into gear.

We are going to promote parasympathetic nervous system activity, reduce amygdala activity, reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, and start to balance the stress hormone cortisol. This will help with relaxation and wellbeing while also reducing stress. We are also going to promote the activity of the limbic system, which is part of the brain involved with processing emotions.

If all that sounds difficult, don’t sweat. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. In fact, these are all things that happen through mindful breathing [2]. So, continue to observe your breath with a non-judgmental attitude.


5: Monitor when your mind is focused and when it gets consumed by thoughts. Say to yourself, “Mind leaving” when you lose focus, and then “Mind returning” when you regain focus.

One of the single most important parts of meditation for overthinkers is the process of observing the mind.

When we observe the mind, we gain insight into how it works. That insight helps to reduce anxiety and overthinking because it trains us to be non-reactive.

In the Buddhist text the Anapanasati Sutta [3], Buddha advised monks to practice the “4 Tetrads of Anapanasati”. The second tetrad is about observing mental activity. We start by noticing when the mind is “going” and “returning”. In other words, when the mind gets lost in thoughts and when it returns. We do this to increase control of the mind.

So, continue mindful breathing and observe when the mind goes and returns.

IMPORTANT: If you are new to meditation (have been meditating less than a year), I advise you to continue to do this step and not to progress to the next few steps. Simply continue observing the breath and labelling when your mind goes and when it returns. Do this for 20 minutes.


6: Mindfully observe your thoughts and label them for the sensory experience that they are (e.g. “This is a thought as a visual image in my mind”)

By now, you are completely calm and relaxed. It is now time to change the way we process thoughts.

Most people respond to thoughts as though they were real. For instance, you think about someone saying something to you, and you imagine that it is real. Buddha called this “The Second Dart”. The first dart is when something actually happens; the second one is when we relive the event in the mind.

We want to stop responding to thoughts as though they were real and instead see them as the sensory experience that they are. For instance, if you see a visual image of someone in your mind, say to yourself, “This is a visual image in my mind.”

As has been explained by S. N. Goenka [Indian teacher of Vipassanā meditation], when we see thoughts for what they really are, we stop being so reactive to them. This is backed by research published in the International Journal of Psychology [3], which shows that Vipassana makes us less reactive to thoughts.

Continue to observe your thoughts and label them for a minimum of 54 breaths (half mala).


7:  Change your thoughts using CBT. Observe your thoughts and then change them to something more positive and more realistic

Now that we are less reactive to our thoughts, we can begin to change them. To do this, we will use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a form of psycho-social intervention created by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck.

CBT involves many different techniques. But for our meditation for overthinking and anxiety, we are going to use a very simple technique.

All we are going to do is observe our thoughts and then calmly suggest more positive, more realistic alternatives.

For instance, if you think, “Something bad has happened, and it is the end of the world,” calmly suggest an alternative. For instance, “I am going through a momentary negative experience, but I will get through it, and life will carry on.”

This simple exercise trains your mind to form thoughts that are more positive and more realistic. It will reduce the symptoms of anxiety caused by overthinking.


Conclusion

When we overthink, we flood the mind with too many thoughts, or, sometimes, with the same thought over and over again. This happens because of how we react to thoughts.

Most people argue with negative thoughts, or try to repress them, and this just makes us think even more. However, when we meditate we simply accept our thoughts, and this stops our thoughts from multiplying.  

In our meditation for overthinking and anxiety, we have promoted wellbeing and relaxation. We have learned to interpret our thoughts for the sensory experience that they are (instead of responding to them as though they were real). And we have changed our negative thoughts to healthier alternatives.

Research shows that meditation can help with overthinking [1] according to Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, [psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School].

For more precise instructions to help you overcome your unique situation, book an online meditation lesson with me today.

ALSO READ: Best meditations for anxiety

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. "My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation" - Paul Harrison

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