I started meditating about 38 years ago when I was just seven years old. It helped me through some stressful times in my life, stopping me from becoming anxious and depressed. It’s why I’ve been sharing the benefits of meditation with others for over 20 years as a meditation teacher. But what you may not know is that I’ve also trained as a spoken word therapist.
My therapeutic training, included Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Ericksonian Hypnosis, Provocative Therapy and Sleight of Mouth. These therapy approaches gave insight into how internal dialogue and mind-chatter can contribute to anxiety, depression and stress. I’d say they were invaluable techniques and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in understanding the mind better.
Why I Gave Up Being a Therapist
But although they were really effective at helping people I discovered something quite unexpected. What I found was so simple that I literally gave up providing “therapy” and focused on teaching meditation and spirituality. I did this because what I found was that many people were healing themselves! They just needed the right help and what they really needed was the “off switch“.
Let me tell you a true story. People would come to me for NLP, hypnosis and things like that. One of my clients really opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of stress and anxiety. When he called to book his first appointment he explained to me: “I’m really stressed, anxious and cannot stop my mind“.
A few days later he sat in the therapy chair and I asked him “so, what is the problem?“. Straight away he started explaining all the things wrong with him and the list was long. But the more he spoke of his problems the more anxious he got. After all it is so obvious, the more you focus on something, the more you get of that thing, right?
Did I Stop Anxiety in Seconds?
I calmly said to him, “close your eyes“, because I could see where he was going. I then talked him into a gentle guided meditation, focusing on becoming stiller. Quickly his breathing slowed down, he looked calmer and transformed. In that moment he had stopped being the person who was anxious, stressed or depressed.
I asked him to keep his eyes closed and I gently asked “So, what do you really need?“. When he answered he spoke with a calmness and wisdom that I not seen in him before. “I need more stillness“. I asked him now “so, what is the problem?” and this time he said, “nothing, that was all just my mind“.
He had tears and that was OK, I let him cry it out as we sat together in healing silence. He had found the “off switch” and for the first time in a very long time he had stopped his anxiety and was at peace.
A Different Approach to Stop Anxiety?
After that I started each therapy session with a gentle guided meditation, sometimes with breath meditation, other times just relaxation. Pretty soon my clients were not really wanting therapy! One lady became so relaxed and free of mind-chatter that she did not want to stop the meditation. You now what? I let her sit there for the entire session. She needed that stillness more than she needed therapy or talking about her problems!
What I came to understand is that for many people change is easier when they are stiller. I decided to stop offering “therapy” and to focus on teaching meditation, which was my passion.
I relocated to Yorkshire a few years later and began working in a holistic therapy centre as a meditation teacher. The majority of people came to me because they wanted to stop anxiety, reduce stress or break free from fear. I would always explain to them:
“I am not going to address your condition, instead I will teach you how to become stiller, calmer, more relaxed and overcome you mental chatter.“
Overwhelmingly those people looking for lasting change were relieved that they would not be spending more time discussing their problems.
Everyone is different, but we are all the same
When it comes to mental health, stress, anxiety, depression and panic attacks everyone is different, but fundamentally we are all the same. “What do you mean?” you might ask.
Consider that your mind is like a very special computer. It is the files and programs (thoughts) that you have stored in it that make you unique. What makes us all the same is that we all have one of these computers (minds) and they all work in the same fundamental way.
Some people become overwhelmed because they simply have too many programs. Others have disruptive programs that create unhelpful responses like fear, worry, anxiety, panic and the like.
Is Thinking Helping You Stop Anxiety?
Using this computer analogy then it becomes clear that in some scenarios mentally oriented approaches probably wont work well. These mental approaches include activities like:
- Thinking about your problem.
- Analysing your problem.
- Researching and studying your problem, for example online.
- Discussing your problem in great detail.
- Comparing your problem with other people’s problems.
- Reflecting on your problem.
Have you noticed that all of these approaches have two things in common? Firstly they are all focused on the problem, and we know that “what we give more attention to, we get more of” and that’s not always good. Secondly they are all mind-based activities which means they are just another program!
So depending on your own state of well-being and mental health, then these mind-based approaches may or may not help. Put it this way, if you’ve got one or two unhelpful programs in your mind then talking about it might help fix them. This is fine if you’re not overwhelmed and you’ve got the resources to cope with the demands of talking about it.
We all know however that when a computer has reached its limit and has too many programs running then trying to open another program is likely to cause problems. There’s got to be another way!
Meditation to Stop Anxiety?
Many people enjoy meditation for its mental health and well-being benefits. At The Way Back we teach people of all abilities and although we know meditation can go well beyond the mind into spiritual realms, we want everyone to benefit. If you are not ready for meditation then you can still benefit in a number of positive ways. We will explore this below.
Breath Meditation and Panic Attacks
Let me tell you another true story. I was running weekly meditation classes in Yorkshire and there were about 10 people in the class. After about five weeks one of the women from my class called me on the phone.
“I’m in the supermarket!” she said and I thought “that’s nice“, although I did wonder why she had called me to tell me.
She explained “This is the first time in years I’ve been on my own in the supermarket and I’m not panicking or overwhelmed“. When I next saw at class she told how she had suffered terrible panic attacks each time she tried to go into large shops, like a supermarket. By practicing the breath meditation techniques she had found that her underlying anxiety and fear had dropped and she had challenged herself and gone shopping.
She was so excited to find that there was no panic that she had called me.
Although it had caught me by surprise it is always wonderful to get that kind of feedback. There are plenty of other examples of people overcoming anxiety, stress, fear, panic and the like, but this story always makes me smile.
It’s not everyday someone calls you to say “I’m in the supermarket!“. However beyond sharing the joy at another person overcoming mental health issues, there is a reason for telling this story.
What it demonstrates is that something truly fantastic can happen. When she first came to my class she never told me that she had panic attacks and anxiety. Furthermore we never discussed her problems or did any kind of “therapy“. She permanently resolved her problem with panic attacks by practicing breath meditation!
Why Meditation can Stop Anxiety
The easiest way to understand why meditation can stop anxiety is to go back to the computer analogy. Putting it simply:
“Therapy is trying to sort out the programs and files in your computer by using the computer. In contrast meditation allows you to step outside of the computer and have a break from it.” – Mark
When you meditate and relax then it’s as if you move out of your mind and you can start to become aware of a stillness that is supportive, loving, non-judgemental, and re-energising. This still space has always been there for you but you can’t get there with thinking. So how do you get there?
I’ve created lots of guided meditations because being guided is the easiest way to become stiller and more relaxed. I’ve put together a selection of guided meditates that help you to improve your mental health and well-being:
Meditation Videos to Help Stop Anxiety & Reduce Stress
Download FREE MP3 guided meditations
I’ve selected a shortlist of our MP3s for you to download and enjoy. These will help you relax and importantly build your connection to inner peace and stillness.
I’m not ready for meditation
That’s OK. Did you know you can benefit simply by listening to positive conversations? Do you remember the saying from earlier? “Whatever you give your attention to, you get more of“. Some mental health challenges respond well to being distracted.
This is why some people really benefit from the distraction of walking in nature, which is also fantastic for your physical health. But wherever you are, if you’re stuck listening to negative thoughts and mind-chatter, then it can spoil even the most inspiring walk. This is where making the positive choice to listen to uplifting dialogue can really help.
Inspiring and uplifting FREE meditation podcast MP3s to download
There’s a number of reasons why listening to these podcasts and similar things can really help overcome anxiety, stress and mental health problems:
Firstly, it gives your mind something external to focus on breaking the cycle of repetitive thoughts.
Secondly if what you are listening to is positive then you will become more positive and the more you do it the more positive you become. This is because you get more of what you give your attention to.
Thirdly, because these podcasts are about more spiritual matters then they can support your personal development. The reason this helps with mental well-being is that there is so much more to you than your mind, and the more you tune in to this more subtle side of life, then the less power your mind has over you.
Lastly, they may introduce new concepts and ideas that broaden your mind and enrich your life. Therefore, from the perspective of the computer analogy, you may find new ways to reprogram your mind and feel good.