Can Mindfulness Really Help Reduce Anxiety?
by Tim Jones on Jan 21, 2022
Have you ever had a boiled egg and peanut butter sandwich? Probably not! Why? Because they naturally don’t go together. It honestly sounds like an upset stomach waiting to happen. The same thing goes for mindfulness and anxiety. They can not exist in the same realm because they are complete opposites. Mindfulness is the essence of being in the present moment and experiencing the reality you are in. Anxiety jumps you to places where you do not have control. It takes your mind to the past or future. Unlike mindfulness, anxiety takes you away from the present moment.
“WHAT IF” and ANXIETY
These two words together are toxic and are full of anxious thoughts. It is my least favorite phrase, in any language. It’s a sure-fire way to stop any positive traction to practicing mindfulness:
- What if… I made the wrong decision
- What if… I had the life my neighbors do.
- What if… I hadn’t gone that way
- What if…. I never become enough.
- What if….my past mistakes haunt me
- What if…the future I want never happens
We all know the list goes on and on. The pressures of these two words create insecurity, anxiety, depression, and the feeling of never being enough. It yanks us from what is realistically going on and takes us to a place that is very much out of our control.
Thinking about the past, trying to predict the future, and allowing the outside world with its opinions of us to creep into our thoughts is the essence of the toxic “What-if”. What happens when we allow these pressures into our thoughts…? We start to believe them and feel anxious.
I used to not understand the concept of being in the present moment. In fact, I thought the whole thing was nonsense. I felt like I needed to always be planning and trying to control what was coming my way. It wasn’t until I watched “Kung Fu Panda'' that my world changed. I do not say that lightly. Something clicked and now because a master turtle sensei, Grand Master Oogway said “‘You are too concerned with what was and what will be. There is a saying: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present” Kung Fu Panda (2008).
What a fictional turtle sensei, and the amazing screenwriters behind him, did for me with that quote is change my life perspective and boom… mindfulness was born and anxiety left, temporarily. I continually center myself and remind myself that the present of NOW is a gift.
In the book THE POWER OF NOW, Eckhart Tolle discusses that living in the present is a skill learned by freeing yourself from useless inner thoughts. These inner thoughts often attribute to anxiety. By centering yourself and pulling your thoughts to the “now” you experience your real reality. “Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now.” Doesn’t that sound much more manageable? Handling the Now? Just one step. Rather than trying to juggle and sort out a million steps out of our control? No wonder focusing on the Now is less overwhelming.
We need to experience the present moment, in all its glory and pain and stay present. No “What-if’s”. Use mindfulness to let any judgment or criticism of ourselves, float away like a cloud passing in the sky. This will reduce our anxiety and the soul crushing weight it carries.
Tolle writes, “Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life”.
MINDFULNESS AND NOW
Jon Kabat-Zinn, is an American professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He said, “Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience” … “Practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world”. Use your five senses to ground yourself in the present moment. This technique helps us be aware of what our current reality is. What do you hear? See? Smell? Taste? Feel? Identify what you sense. Don’t assign a judgment but just be aware of what is happening.“Befriending ourselves and our experience” is a good path forward to reducing anxiety. Challenges come but there is a peace in knowing that during those times we can mindfully grow if we stay present. No matter how busy your life may feel you can use mindfulness to balance yourself, calm your mind, and feel without judging your NOW. Your life and the present moment you are in is a gift. So...Can Mindfulness Really Help Reduce Anxiety? Yes...Mindfulness is a powerful antidote to anxiety, if we honor the now and let go of what was and what will be.