Habits to Happiness: Meditation is easy and calms anxiety

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you had asked people ten years ago, do you practice mindfulness or meditation, they might have looked at you a little strange.

In 2012, only 4.1% of the population said they practiced some form of meditation but that number more than tripled in five years and that’s a good thing. Research shows a few minutes of meditation every day could help with anxiety, pain — even reduce high blood pressure.

Anish Mehra holds a weekly meditation session through a group that does Heartfulness Meditation.

“I was new in town in Jacksonville, I was so lucky to find the practice of meditation, which has been an anchor point in my life,” Mehra said. “Before the pandemic, you could come to Anish’s home, kick off your shoes and meditate weekly. Now those same sessions are held online. It’s a heart-based practice, you know, I’ve learned empathy, through practice, and you feel that connection, and you wanted to, you know, share it and give back and I asked, you know, how can I contribute to this,” Mehra said.

He’s a leader in the Heartfulness community that offers this service for free.

There are many ways to meditate and the only one that works is the one that you’ll do.

Psychologist Dr Tracy Alloway, whose research on memory and the brain has been nationally recognized, says we all need to give our brains a break.

“It could be I spent two minutes in the morning where I sit in bed, when I’m not ready to get up, but I’m not touching my phone. And I’m using my five senses to be mindful to think about okay, what do I smell? What do I see? What do I touch? What do I taste? And that’s a mindful way to enter your day,” Alloway said.

Alloway points out that the brain is wired for survival.

“Anxiety is often future focus. So, when you wake up with these anxious thoughts, your immediate thought is, what can go wrong today? How can I circumvent that? Those are all healthy, survival-based thoughts, but they can overwhelm us,” says Alloway. “So when you practice mindfulness it brings you back to that moment and what you can control. When you’re sitting outside when you’re connecting to the moment, it’s like pressing the pause button for your brain, you’re saying, hey, you know what, I am not thinking about anything right now, other than my five senses, there’s nothing on my to-do list,” Alloway said.

Anish meditates first thing in the morning and at night for between 30 to 45 minutes. But he suggests, starting small and making it a habit to really see the difference.

“I feel it’s more like a preventative approach to things where yes, a situation might be stressful, but you are not stressed. It gives us the tools and capabilities to deal with the situations in a more centered and calmer approach,” Alloway said.

If you’re interested in learning more about Heartfulness meditation, visit heartfulness.org. There’s also an app with guided meditations and suggestions to hold you accountable.

Mehra believes there are three necessary components to successful meditation practice.

  • Accessibility- No cost, Simple practice, easily accessible to everyone through different means - online, in-person, at work
  • Support structure - Guidance, trainer/coach for individual training, peer-to-peer connection through group meditation mobile app
  • Effectiveness - Overall, the practice must work from where you are and evolve with you as you adopt a new habit and start to experience the results

If you’re interested in learning more about Heartfulness meditation, visit heartfulness.org. There’s also an app with guided meditations and suggestions to hold you accountable.

About the Author:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.