Reduce Anxiety with Anapanasati (Breath) Meditation
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Even a few minutes of meditation everyday can give you the space you need to reflect on your anxiety, calm your nerves, and allow you to create a retreat away from hectic modern life.” – Natural Anxiety Meds
Anxiety at low levels is normal and can act to signal potential future danger. But when it is overwhelming it creates what we label as anxiety disorders. They are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18% of the population. A characterizing feature of anxiety disorders is that the suffer overly identifies with and personalizes their thoughts. The sufferer has recurring thoughts, such as impending disaster, that they may realize are unreasonable, but are unable to shake. It has been estimated that one out of every three absences at work are caused by high levels of anxiety. Also, it has been found to be the most common reason for chronic school absenteeism. In addition, people with an anxiety disorder are three-to-five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than non-sufferers, making it a major burden on the healthcare system.
Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness improves the regulation of all emotions, including negative emotions like anxiety. There are a large variety of mindfulness meditation practices. So, it is important to examine the effectiveness of different mindfulness meditation practices on anxiety.
In today’s Research News article “Effect of anapanasati meditation on anxiety: a randomized control trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6894628/) Sivaramappa and colleagues recruited healthy adults and randomly assigned them to either receive a 6-month program of once a day, 6 days per week, for 1 hour anapanasati (breath following) meditation or to a no-treatment control group. The participants completed a measure of anxiety levels before and after the 6-month treatment period.
They found that the participants who practiced meditation had significantly reduced levels of anxiety after the 6-minth period while the no-treatment group had a significant increase in anxiety. Interestingly, the decrease in the meditation group was due solely to reductions in anxiety in participants over 40 years of age while the increase in the control group was due solely to increases in anxiety in participants under 40 years of age. Since the control participants under 40 years of age significantly increased in anxiety levels but the meditation participants under 40 did not, it suggests that meditation protected under 40 participants from increasing anxiety levels. In addition, in the meditation group, the reductions were primarily among participants who expressed high anxiety levels at baseline.
These results replicate the common finding that mindfulness training reduces anxiety levels. The present study demonstrated that a particular form of focused meditation practice, anapanasati (breath following) meditation, was effective in lowering anxiety particularly in older participants and those who had high anxiety levels at the start of the study. This improves our understanding of meditation effects on anxiety.
So, reduce anxiety with anapanasati (breath) meditation.
“Breathing exercises are an effective, quick, and easy solution for stress and anxiety relief. Proper breathing techniques work on anxiety on a physiological level by automatically slowing your heart rate. The effect on anxiety is almost instant.” – Alice Boyes
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Sivaramappa, B., Deshpande, S., Kumar, P., & Nagendra, H. R. (2019). Effect of anapanasati meditation on anxiety: a randomized control trial. Annals of neurosciences, 26(1), 32–36. https://doi.org/10.5214/ans.0972.7531.260107
Meditation has shown positive results in improving the psychological disorders such as anxiety. There is a need to study the therapeutic benefits of Anapanasati meditation, a mindfulness meditation technique.
The study aims at investigating the effect of Anapanasati meditation on individuals with moderate anxiety.
A total of 112 participants who were willing to participate in the study were recruited for the study. Anapanasati meditation was used as an intervention. The participants were divided into two groups experiment and control groups. Experiment group had 56 persons performing Anapanasati meditation and Control group had 56 persons not performing any type of meditation. The experiment group practiced one hour of Anapanasati meditation daily under the supervision of experts for six months and continued their daily routine and control group was not given any intervention, but they continued their daily routine. State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) is used to assess the anxiety level.
The STAI score before and after Anapanasati meditation was analysed for both experiment and control groups using Paired Samples T test. The experiment group has shown significant reduction in the STAI (P < 0.05) score after the intervention whereas in the control group the reduction in STAI score was not significant.
This study has shown that after six months of intervention, the subjects with moderate anxiety who practiced Anapanasati meditation had a significant decrease in their STAI score and the control group has not shown significant change in the STAI score.