Does meditation really help with your social anxiety? To answer that, you need to know what meditation is and what is does for your anxiety. Used for years as a cure to any and all illnesses, meditation is essentially any technique that allows you to direct your focus and attention to the things you want, instead of letting your thoughts run wild. Here we will explain how it works to help you overcome your anxieties.
One of the main reasons that you experience social anxiety is when you over-think. Over-thinking leads to pre-judgment, procrastinating, needless obsessing and worrying, all of which lead to social anxiety.
Do not let your anxiety be the source of your anxiety.
Nearly 15 million people in the US alone suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), which is nearly 7% of the US population.
Signs that you may suffer with social anxiety disorder are:
- You fear being judged.
- You worry about being humiliated in front of people.
- You worry about starting conversations with strangers.
- You avoid situations where you all eyes would be on you.
- You worry you’ll say something stupid in a conversation with others.
- You stress about a social event long before it happens.
- You over analyze your interactions with others after a social event.
Social anxiety usually begins in your early teenage years. It can stem from numerous factors, most of which are often beyond our control. In such instances, it is necessary to make personal changes to our lifestyle and instill habits that can help us overcome this anxiety.
Meditation is one such effective treatment that will be very helpful for your social anxiety. It is a way of channeling your thoughts more positively; it lets you be in control of the way you think and the way you react to external pressures. While you cannot control what challengesyou are you faced with, you can control how you face those challenges.
When you meditate, you become more aware of your present, of your body and mind, and that allows you to be more productive as well as eliminate the stressors that make you anxious.
Meditation is not a magic cure to your social anxiety; rather it is an effective practice to help you regain power over your life when you are suffering from social anxiety.
Here’s a great video from Headspace that’s worth watching:
How Do You Meditate When You Have Anxiety?
Now that the ‘what’ section is done, let us look at how. How can you meditate so that it will help with your anxiety? The key thing about meditation is focus: you need to focus on the present, on the tangible objects and surroundings, and let your mind drift away from the thoughts that are making you anxious. There are different types of meditations and you can try them out to see what works best for you.
The most common form of meditation are breathing exercises that help you regulate your body functions and clear your mind. Whenever you feel stress coming on, the common signs that most people experience are rapid breathing and a shortness of breath. Breathing exercises will help maintain your symptoms and change your focus on the activity of breathing itself. Try to take longer breaths, focusing on the way the air feels, how it fills your lungs, how each breath matters. When you turn your attention to the little things that keep you going, the things that are making you anxious will seem smaller.
Just like breathing exercises, focused meditation asks you to turn your attention to another object. Some people use the ticking sound of clocks to help clear their minds while others focus on motion that they can control. Squeezing a stress ball, slow pacing, and jogging are all forms of activities that turn your focus to the exercise and not your thoughts. Some people even focus on mantras: words continuously repeated for a calming effect. This way, when your body calms down and you have managed your anxiety, you can revisit the situation with a newer perspective.
The purpose of this type of meditation is to highlight what we normally ignore when we get anxious. You can try to concentrate on your surroundings and pay attention to the elements around you. These will not only allow you to clear your mind, but also make your perspective more wholesome, including your environment.
The sound of people conversing, the direction of the wind, the vividness of colors around you, and the smells wafting all around you: these details focus on your sensory perceptions. We rarely consider each sensation that our body experiences. We notice but we rarely observe. Mindfulness helps you get in touch with your sensory perceptions and rewrites your thoughts to appear less threatening and stressful.
- Guided meditation
Guided meditation, often in the form of imagery and sounds, directs you intimately through the process of meditation, with clear instructions and calming sounds to engage your mind. An added benefit of guided meditation is a sense of companionship that stems from someone guiding you through your anxiety.
Guided meditation includes using your audio and visual senses to look at and hear things that calm you, like the sounds of waves and pictures of nature. White noise machines are very helpful for people with anxiety disorders, and can also be used as sleeping aids to relax and wind down.
Take a look at this great video by The Honest Guys
This maybe the most popular method you would have heard of when it comes to recent meditation. It includes moving your body through a series of relaxing postures that train your body and mind to be self-aware. Along with being very good physical exercise for your body, you can use yoga for reducing your anxiety through physical exertion and mental breaks.
What Meditation is Best for Anxiety?
To know what type of meditation works best for you, you need to go through trial and error. Something that may work for you in your house may not be effective when you are faced with a large crowd. What you need to do is understand what form your social anxiety takes and what you can do to relieve your symptoms.
Ideally, your preferred form of mediation should be easily accessible. With social anxiety, your meditation should be on-spot and easy to achieve. The recommended methods of easy meditation are breathing exercises and mindfulness, which can be done anywhere and anytime.
Research suggests that mindful meditation significantly reduces anxiety and depression in a 2014 literature review with moderate evidence. Whenever you feel symptoms of your anxiety coming on (for social anxiety that is usually when you are faced with uncomfortable social situations), you can practice these meditation techniques to help relieve your symptoms.
How Long Should I Meditate for Anxiety?
Time is an important factor to consider when meditating. Effective results come from consistency and regularity, as they help build up a familiar routine to fall back on. Take time out of your day, even just fifteen minutes, to practice your meditation.
Allow it to de-stress you at the end of the day, or refresh your mind in the mornings. Meditating even once a week is a good start on which you can build up your routine. When you make time every day to meditate, it will prove to be a much more efficient method in improving your overall persona and lifestyle, as well as helping you when you experience anxiety.
The duration of meditation depends on your routine and practices. Generally, you should use it as long as you experience stress or anxiety, which may be as little as five minutes.
A good way to use meditation in your daily routine is to take de-stressing breaks throughout your day, where you can focus on your breathing, be self-aware and try to think positive thoughts, even just for five minutes.
When you practice meditation, it is important to remember that you are not using it as cure but rather as a coping mechanism. If you have social anxiety, try to meditate at work by taking a few minutes out of your schedule. When you can effectively cope with your anxiety, you can overcome it.
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Does Meditation Make You More Social?
When you use meditation to help with your social anxiety, in time you can overcome the factors that make you anxious, which can lead you to become more social. Let me explain that. With meditation, you are not eliminating the things that are making you anxious, you are simply building up your responses to the stressors to be positive and calm. When you can significantly change your responses, you can strive to become more social through effort and progression.
If meditation works for you, try to find scenarios where you can use your improved disposition. You can put yourself forward when meeting people, initiate a conversation, and try to open up about yourself. When you can successfully handle one person, try two, then four, maybe more. Slowly but surely, when you continue to face your social anxiety, you will be able to defeat it and become more social.
Meditation is one of the most tried and trusted methods in the world for anxiety, depression, and pain management. It not only trains your mind to be more active and alert, but also allows your body to function more efficiently because you are aware of all your sensations. Mediation for social anxiety has been proven as an effective technique and can let you enjoy your life and society without stress. Whether you use simple breathing activities or do yoga, meditation can get you the results you are hoping for in overcoming your social anxiety.