Feeling anxious? Give meditation a try

If you’re feeling anxious, meditation may be the best way to help control your thoughts. A new study out of the University of Waterloo notes that just 10 minutes of daily mindful mediation can help prevent distraction and is particularly effective for repetitive, anxious thoughts.


The study found that developing an awareness of the present moment reduced incidents of repetitive, unfocused thinking—a hallmark of anxiety.


“Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind wandering for anxious individuals,” says Mengran Xu, a researcher and PhD candidate at U Waterloo. “We also found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand.”


“Mind wandering accounts for nearly half of any person’s daily stream of consciousness,” said Xu. “For people with anxiety, repetitive off-task thoughts can negatively affect their ability to learn, to complete tasks, or even function safely. It would be interesting to see what the impacts would be if mindful meditation was practiced by anxious populations more widely.”


Mindful meditation focuses on paying purposeful, non-judgmental attention to the present moment. The best part? This quick, calming form of exercise can be done at any place, anytime.


To help get your thoughts on-track, try this quick exercise for mindful breathing:


  1. Begin by slowly breathing in and out. Inhale through your nose for three seconds, and exhale through your mouth for three seconds, letting your breath flow effortlessly.
  2. Release your thoughts—remove all consciousness of the prior or upcoming events for the day. Simply be still for one minute, purposefully watching your breathing. Focus on the calming ebb and flow of your breath.
  3. Repeat breathing cycle for at least one minute, and continue for as long as necessary.