Originally a tool for our ancestors’ survival, anxiety is not as handy as it used to be, what with the shortage of predatory animals inhabiting the same space as us. As an anxiety sufferer of almost 17 years, I can hardly recall a time when I wasn’t nervous or scared of something. I developed it at the age of five. But when I was that young, I didn’t even understand what it was.
It wasn’t until I took a psychology class in high school that I became fascinated with mental health. I realized I had anxiety, depression, and a laundry list of other issues. But over the last year or so, I’ve spent a lot of my time researching and practicing ways to better cope with and even quell these illnesses.
Compared to all other means of getting my anxiety to chill out, meditation has been the most effective and beneficial to my overall well-being. When we see the word “meditation,” we sometimes picture a monk in lotus pose perched atop a rock on a mountain. While that would be considered meditating, that’s not the only way to go about it. Meditating, at its core, is an act of quieting the mind. It can be on a mountain or in your living room.
The best part about what I call “classic meditation” is you don’t need anything apart from yourself to make it work. It’s only a matter of finding a quiet place, taking a seat, and closing your eyes.
Once you’ve found a desirable location and your eyes are shut, try to focus attention on your breath. Taking deep breaths is key here. I like to count to three in between each inhale and exhale.
Try to focus on only one thing. You might notice this is much easier said than done, though. This is because our brains are used to zipping between thoughts without a moment’s notice. When you practice meditating, classic or otherwise, it teaches you how to relax thoughts and train attention on a single thing.
If sitting in silence isn’t your cup of tea, though, don’t fret. Allow me to introduce to you what I call “distracted meditation.”
Distracted meditation sounds like an oxymoron, but allow me to explain. I call it “distracted” because you don’t have to be in a quiet place with your eyes closed.Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting in silence. In fact, nearly anything can be considered meditation under the right circumstances.
As an example, I’m going to refer to my favorite form of distracted meditation: music. Whether I’m listening to it, playing it, or recording it, music never fails to make me forget about the time going by. I’ll start writing a song, and before I know it, two hours have gone by. This is the key to distracted meditation.
Staying busy can help when it comes to having anxiety. On the other hand, distracted meditation involves total immersion in whatever you’re doing. It can be gaming, reading a book, taking a nature walk — anything. Your goal is to block out everything except the one task you’re working on.
Making Your Choice
If more people were aware of distracted meditation, they might be more inclined to give it a shot. Either way, most of us practice it whether we realize it or not. It’s not a means to ending your anxiety, but it can reduce it. Having a clearer mind is far better than having one congested with fear and nervousness.
I discuss meditation, among other methods of dealing with anxiety in my free e-book, “Anxiety & Friends.”