Meditation Decreases Anxiety


It has been known for ages that meditation can decrease anxiety but until now the brain regions involved in the process have remained a mystery. Fadel Zeidan from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has recently shed some light on the process. They selected 15 healthy volunteers with no history of meditation or anxiety disorders. The volunteers took four 20 min classes to learn mindfulness meditation. They were taught to focus on breathing and body sensations and non-judgementally assess distracting thoughts and emotions. Anxiety reports and MRI scans were taken before and after the meditation training course. The majority of the subjects displayed a decrease in anxiety of around 40% following meditation. During meditation, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (controls worrying) and anterior cingulate cortex (controls thinking and emotion) were found to be more active and led to decreased anxiety.

Zeidan commented,  “Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings. Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful.” In short, if we focus on our breathing and body sensations in the present, it inhibits our ability to worry about imaginary problems in the future.


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