If you have children, you may recall or currently be experiencing the challenges of dealing with a two-year-old who is bursting with energy and finds it difficult to sit still for even a few seconds without becoming fidgety or distracted. This is a natural part of their development, and it doesn't require any diagnosis or treatment. Instead, as parents, our role is to compassionately guide our children toward developing focus and acquiring skills that allow them to find mental stillness through activities such as coloring, reading, organizing toys, playing with other children, and learning new things like the alphabet.
However, chronic anxiety can interfere with this natural process. Many experiences during the first 18 years of life can shape our path and influence us throughout our lives. When anxiety becomes chronic, we tend to dwell in the past and engage in activities that distract us from or alleviate our uncomfortable feelings. Anxiety often leads to low self-esteem, depression, hopelessness, and other confusing emotions. To cope with these feelings, many individuals turn to self-destructive behaviors and may even develop addictions.
Furthermore, in addition to anxiety, we all have natural cravings and desires. We spend a significant portion of our lives pursuing the fulfillment of these desires, often accompanied by stress and tension. Modern societies can make us feel isolated from community and disconnected from nature, which is where we naturally find comfort and a sense of belonging. While moving away from nature was necessary for our survival thousands of years ago, we have since embraced luxurious living, which has reduced our tolerance for even minor frustrations in our daily lives. Consequently, a large majority of humanity suffers from anxiety without even realizing it, let alone knowing how to address it.
Anxiety reduction through self-help tactics, without resorting to toxic behaviors or substances, is not a quick fix. While simple breathing exercises can instantly improve one's state of mind in some cases, it doesn't work that way for everyone. Just like learning to play a musical instrument or any other skill, meditation requires practice. Ancient philosophies and diverse cultures throughout history have emphasized meditation for a reason, and scientific studies conducted by prestigious universities have shown its remarkable benefits in terms of relaxation and improved brain function.
Meditation allows us to control the patterns in our minds by first observing and becoming aware of them. We must identify what triggers our anxiety and how often we experience it throughout the day. Even minor stresses can cause a slight increase in heart rate, signaling the brain that something stressful is happening. In response, the brain prepares the body to act quickly based on habitual or routine responses. If our habitual response is not appropriate for the situation, our minds can become obsessively focused on finding a solution, which only exacerbates our distress and becomes a major distraction from feelings of gratitude, connection, joy, and a sense of safety.
Breathing exercises form the foundation of meditation practice and can be performed at any time, anywhere, and in any position. Whether you're still or in motion, you can focus on deep breathing for a specific duration, usually between four and eight seconds for both inhalation and exhalation. Nasal breathing is generally more efficient for our respiratory system. For example, while cutting cucumbers in the kitchen, you can set a goal to concentrate on breathing deeply for ten cycles, simultaneously maintaining focus on the precision of your breath and the task at hand. However, for some individuals, it may be better to solely focus on the breathing exercise to avoid distractions.
Instead of overanalyzing what meditation is, it's crucial to start practicing with simple exercises consistently. For instance, you can begin by doing ten cycles of breathing, with each inhalation and exhalation lasting six seconds. Repeat this ten times. It's as simple as that.
Let go of fear and make a conscious shift today.