In a society that is overstimulated and under-nourished, anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions. We hear anxiety everywhere, most people have experienced it. “Anxious” has now become a word used to describe what used to be simply “worried”, but that doesn’t take away the importance of looking after our own mental health, and striving to live a life that is filled with more peace, and less stress. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2021 noted that the diagnosis of Anxiety in young adults has tripled since 2008.
In a fear-fuelled digital world, it’s no surprise that many of us are distracted, unsettled, and unable to regulate
our emotions, and nervous systems too. Living in a state of anxiety and stress can take its toll, not only on the mind, but on the body too, and a lot of this has to do with our thoughts.
The body’s ability to heal and defend itself is no longer only associated with the physical. Research into the “mind-body connection” has shown that we humans have the ability to boost our immune systems that protect us from viruses or bacteria, with controlling the mind.
The Monkey Mind
First taught by The Buddha more than 2,000 years ago, the term “monkey mind” is used to describe a mind that is unsettled, restless, indecisive or confused. When we are not present, our thoughts can often take over, constantly distracted with memories and thoughts from the past, or fears and hesitations about the future.
Acknowledging and observing the ‘monkey mind’, is a great first step to living more peacefully, and in the present, and we can train these overactive thoughts. Positive and negative th
oughts relate to certain mental and emotional states, these can then influence your cells, organs, immune system, and overall health. Getting into a peaceful state with mindfulness or meditation allows the mind to slow, and has many benefits on the stress levels in our body and therefore our whole immune systems.
Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique to focus their attention on a specific area, to achieve a sense of calm and clarity, reducing stress and improving concentration and focus. The areas of focus could be: an activity (e.g. breathing), an intention (e.g. to feel relaxed, or present), or a part of the body (e.g. the heart).
You don’t have
to be an expert, or folded into the lotus position to meditate. Just somewhere comfortable, sitting or lying down with your spine and head straight, where you can fully relax, to allow your nervous system to calm down, and begin to regulate itself.
In time, practicing meditation and quieting the mind can help to alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety. One study found that with 8 weeks of meditation, it increased positive self-statements and improved stress reactivity and coping in people with generalised anxiety disorder.
As mentioned, the mind-body connection is powerful, and meditation can promote emotional health and physical health, as well as helping to improve sleep, intuition and self-awareness.
Meditation is a practice, and it takes time. Your thoughts may take a while to slow down initially, but learning to catch them as they arise, then returning to your area of focus without judging yourself is the key.
Even just a few minutes of meditation each day is a great place to start with something that can seem initially daunting, but will aim to help you calm the monkey mind, bringing you back to the present moment, and improving your wellbeing.