When you’re worried, concentrating on anything can be difficult.
A new study suggests that specific forms of mindfulness techniques can be particularly useful for reducing repetitive and intrusive negative thoughts that frequently occur in anxiety and depression.
Conducted by the University of Southampton, UK and Bournemouth University, UK, the randomized study of 77 participants examined the impact of three types of mindfulness techniques on the frequency of intrusive negative thoughts and measured subjective anxiety levels.
The most effective technique for reducing the frequency of negative thoughts was a guided acceptance-based mindfulness meditation. The general principle behind acceptance-based meditations is that you allow thoughts to come into your mind, observe, acknowledge, and make room for them rather than attempt to struggle with them. This principle of acceptance has been formalized into a type of therapy called acceptance and commitment therapy. You can practice acceptance techniques at home on your own through guided meditations that encourage acceptance. The following script was used for the acceptance based guided meditation in the study:
Direct your attention inwardly…notice thoughts, emotions, physical sensations…any other kinds of experiences as they show up in the field of your awareness…sitting and noticing what’s here, right now, for you…Each time you become aware of a private experience, such as a thought, or a feeling…turning your attention towards it, acknowledging it, maybe labeling it…and as best you can, letting things be as they are…making space for your experiences.
The second mindfulness technique studied was an attention-based breath meditation which focuses attention on the breath. Breath awareness was slightly less effective than acceptance based mindfulness but still helpful. Below is the guided meditation used in the study:
Become aware of the sensation of breathing…noticing where in the body the physical sensations of breathing are vivid for you, right now…choosing one place to follow the breath…making a decision to stay with this place…bringing your attention and your curiosity to each breath…Feeling the moment-by-moment physical sensations as you breathe in and breathe out. And each time you notice your attention has wandered, gently bringing your attention back to the breath and the sensations in your body.
Finally, the third mindfulness technique, which was the least effective in reducing the frequency of negative thoughts, was progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Progressive muscle relaxation directs you to focus your attention on different muscles in the body and guides you to tense and then relax these muscles.
There are a couple of important things to keep in mind. First, you might not feel better or less anxious after completing a mindfulness meditation, but it could be helping you worry less. Second, sticking to a consistent practice is important. Studies have shown that regular practice is important for lasting changes and has been proven to lower anxiety.
eMindLog™ can help you track how worried you are over time, allowing you to see if a mindfulness practice is helping and also help you identify worry triggers. Check it out and sign up for your free account today.
This article was originally posted on Urban Survival by Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.