This refers to everyday worries and fears. Meditation cannot replace psychotherapy. If you have serious thoughts about the extent of your fears, please consult a doctor you trust.
Nobody is free from fears. Some stress situations trigger real basic instincts in us, and many public discussions fuel additional worries. But you can learn to deal with them better. Meditation helps you to recognize worries and fears, to evaluate them more clearly, to cope better and to live more freely.
When it comes to fear, most of us think of particularly dangerous situations or major challenges, fear of flying, fear of heights, fear of exams, the dark way home or the choleric boss. But in fact most of us experience fears in a different way. Even without concrete triggers, many carry around nervousness, worries and insecurity – subliminal anxieties that affect the quality of life.
According to surveys, 38 percent of people worry every day. Worries about the job, worries about relationships, worries about health, worries about illness, crime and terror in the media. For those who let all these things get to them unfiltered, it is only a small step from everyday worries to fears that really burden life. Studies show that negative thoughts and fears are strongly connected. Worries are one of the biggest triggers of anxiety and depression. But mental training can help break this mechanism.
Better control of worries and anxieties
Scientific studies show that regular meditation strengthens the ability to control worries and anxieties. The regular relaxation reaction forms a counterweight to stress and gets your body out of a permanent state of alert. This effect is not only effective at the moment of meditation but is also easier to recall with practice.
Mindfulness training also strengthens the brain regions that control emotions and impulses. Thus it gives you step by step more control over negative reactions. In addition, mindfulness makes it easier to perceive the beautiful moments in life and really let them have an effect on you. Regular meditation makes you more resistant and happier.
How meditation can help against fears and depressions
Psychotherapy has also discovered the potential of mindfulness. In the last twenty years numerous mindfulness-based forms of therapy have been developed, ranging from the well-known mindfulness-based stress reduction to mindfulness-based behavioural therapy. Today, meditation is used in a variety of ways to help people deal with stressful emotions.
On the one hand, mindfulness helps to be more psychologically flexible, i.e. to react better to situations that cause stress. This leads to the fact that one does not worry so fast or gets into the brooding. On the other hand, mindfulness helps to become aware of one’s own emotions more quickly and not to get into the spiral of thoughts in the first place. Being able to accept one’s own emotions as they are helps to perceive them as part of the natural emotional palette and not to give them too much power over one’s own well-being.
Dealing with fears thanks to meditation: Scientific studies
Psychologically flexible through mindfulness (Masuda & Tully, 2011)
Mindfulness and mental flexibility are closely related: In the study with 500 students, it was found that both have a positive effect on anxiety, depression and stress perception. Those who are mindful are mentally more flexible and vice versa. More mindful college students were less stressed, less depressed and less anxious.
“Decentering” and “nonattachment” as mechanisms of mindfulness (Tran et al., 2014)
Being more positive and less anxious through concepts of mindfulness – that works: A sample of 900 Germans and 400 Spaniards showed that mindfulness meditation has a positive effect on depression and anxiety as well as on the experience of stress. The mechanisms of action behind this are “Decentering” and “Nonattachment”.
Decentering consists of three facets: on the one hand, decentering means not to identify with one’s thoughts, on the other hand, not to react habitually to negative experiences and to have compassion for oneself. Not being trapped in one’s own feelings and thoughts – decentering – can be seen as an aspect of emotion regulation.
Nonattachment is characterized by not sticking to one’s own ideas, images or sensory perceptions. Thus, there is no inner pressure to avoid or change the circumstances or experiences. If you are aware of your emotions and can regulate them, the risk of suffering anxiety decreases.
On the one hand, because one becomes more aware of them, on the other hand, because one does not get into a spiral of thoughts, but can accept one’s emotions as they are. Aspects of emotion regulation, physical awareness and non-attachment explain the effect of meditation on anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness is also effective in therapy – regardless of the degree of severity (Manicavasgar et al., 2010 Therapy).
In an overview study, the scientists showed that mindfulness also helps with severe depression: mindfulness-based therapy is in no way inferior to classical therapy. On the contrary, while classic cognitive behavioural therapy worked better for patients who had already had four or more depressive episodes, mindfulness-based therapy helped everyone equally well.