How Meditation Can Help Relieve Anxiety

We’ve heard the seemingly endless benefits of meditation, including the reduction of anxiety, but now scientists identified the brain functions of how it actually does it.

A team of scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. studied 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety who had no previous meditation experience or diagnosed anxiety disorders. Each took four, 20-minute meditation classes to learn mindfulness meditation – where they focused on their breath and body sensations – and the results showed reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent, according to the report in the journal of “Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.”

“In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief. This showed that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety,” Dr. Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study said in a report.

Fadel and colleagues revealed meditation-related anxiety relief is associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are areas of the brain involved with executive-level function, the report stated.

“Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings,” Zeidan said. “Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful.”