Anxiety and Meditation Pt. 2

By Tom Sutherland, MA, LPC, NCC

This is a simple form of meditation that anyone can do:

1. Find a location that is safe and appropriate for this exercise. It will help if the environmental distractions are minimized.

2. Sit upright but keep your posture comfortable. The point is to give your lungs plenty of space to expand so that you can breathe deeply.

3. Imagine an object or pleasant scene – one on which it is easy for you to focus your attention. I’ll refer to this as your anchor. Close your eyes if this makes it easier – just make sure you are in a safe space to do this.

4. Begin breathing deeply and slowly. But pay attention to how you feel. Your breathing shouldn’t be so deep or slow that you are either uncomfortable or becoming short of breath. Keep it safe and within your comfort zone.

5. Focus your attention on your anchor as you breathe. Sooner or later, you will likely have a distracting thought. This is normal and you should expect this. As soon as you recognize your attention has been diverted, calmly refocus your attention back to your anchor. Repeat this every time you are distracted.

That’s it. Follow this process for ten breaths or so. You can pick your own number but ten is probably long enough to get worthwhile practice in. I suggest to clients that it’s probably more helpful to practice for a brief time every day, once or twice, than to do thirty-minute sessions once or twice a week – especially to begin with. Just a few minutes a day can be easier to work into a busy schedule. Also, you are getting regular practice, not periodic. You can always increase it later if you feel you want to add more. Be realistic about your time and you are more likely to stick with it. The main purpose of this meditation is to practice improving attention control. This requires becoming distracted, recognizing the distraction, and practicing moving attention back to an anchor. Like any other skill, the more you practice the better you get. Still, some days you’ll have more distractions and may feel you aren’t doing it correctly. Don’t worry about that. It’s part of the process. Benefits to meditation practice may include a decrease in overall anxiety and increased calmness as well as better stress management. But another benefit is an improved ability to move your attention away from unhelpful and intrusive thoughts that are pointless. Some worries are valid and important to attend to. But we also can get wrapped up in worries that we can’t do anything about – they will either happen or they won’t and we don’t have a say in it. For situations where you feel it is useless to worry about something, and you are just stressing yourself out for no reason because you can’t do anything about it, better attention control can help you refocus on other things – especially things you CAN do something about!

For a more comprehensive list of benefits of meditation you can check out the following article, “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation,” written by Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD and Rachael Link, MS, RD, which can be found at this link: Benefits of Meditation: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation (

Tom Sutherland (author) is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Oakland Psychological Clinic in Livonia. His scope of practice is Depressive and Anxiety disorders and Grief Counseling.
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