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Five Meditations for Uncertain Times

In moments of uncertainty, it’s only natural to experience anxiety. But learning how to manage it can ensure we have the mental clarity to effectively navigate the storm and to arrive stronger on the other side.   

It’s well known that meditation can reduce anxiety. What’s less well known is that meditation comes in a multitude of forms. Here, we look at five distinct types that, according to recent scientific studies, can substantially minimize anxiety. 

Binaural Beat Meditation

What is it?

Binaural beat meditation relies on binaural integration, the experience of hearing a single tone (i.e., pitch) when two different tones are presented to each ear. For instance, if you listen to a tone of 400 Hz in one ear and a tone of 410 Hz in the other, you’ll hear a single tone of 405 Hz! Researchers in New York recently found that listening to binaural recordings for 20 minutes each day for a couple of weeks led to significant reductions in symptoms among those with generalized anxiety disorder. 

How to do it

Grab a pair of headphones, head to YouTube, search for “binaural meditation”, and click on whichever thumbnail catches your eye. To test if the video is the real deal, check that a different tone is coming through each headphone and that you experience them as a single tone when you have both headphones in. Then sit back, close your eyes, and take a few minutes to enjoy the soothing sounds.

Anapanasati Meditation

What is it?

This meditation, the type adopted by Buddha himself, simply involves focusing on one’s breath. Recently, researchers in India demonstrated that this simple practice can lead to substantially lower scores on the gold standard of anxiety measures, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. 

How to do it

Take a seat, close your eyes, and turn your attention to your breath. Feel how the air flows through your nostrils before expanding your chest and abdomen. Try to notice when one breath ends and another begins. If you can do this for 10 or 20 minutes, that’s great! If you’re short on time, how about 10 deep breaths?

Body Scan Meditation

What is it?

Often done lying down, a body scan involves paying attention to different parts of your body. A 2016 study, conducted in France, found that 20-minute body scans led to considerable reductions in anxiety, as well as sizable boosts to happiness. Interestingly, the effects were attributable to the increased sense of selflessness that body scans promote. 

How to do it

Lie down and take a few deep breaths. Next, turn your attention to your feet. If there’s any discomfort, acknowledge it and any thoughts or emotions that accompany it. Gradually, move your attention upwards until you reach your head, spending a few minutes on each part of your body along the way. 

Loving Kindness Meditation

What is it?

This meditation invites the practitioner to adopt an attitude of unconditional kindness, towards others and towards the self. A 2020 study published in the journal Mindfulness found that five 1-hour sessions led to significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as increases in positive mental health.  

How to do it

Get comfortable, set a timer for 2 minutes, and close your eyes. Then, in your mind, repeat the following, “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, and at peace.”

Once you’ve completed this practice a few times, experiment with longer durations and with focusing your attention on somebody else, replacing “I” with “you.” It could be somebody you love and admire, but loving kindness meditation (also called metta meditation) is also great for letting go of any hostile feelings you have towards those you’re less fond of. 

Sufi Heart Meditation

What is it?

While the above meditations make no assumptions about the practitioner’s religious convictions or lack thereof, the Sufi heart meditation is most suitable for those with a belief in a higher power. It involves focusing on one’s heart beat while also imagining the name of one’s deity written on the heart. In 2019, researchers found that 15-minute Sufi heart meditations led to substantial reductions in anxiety among students from Pakistan.  

How to do it

Since the practice is derived from Sufi philosophy, a mystical branch within Islam, many practitioners imagine “Allah” written on their heart. However, the individual should choose a word/deity that is meaningful to them. To begin, find a quiet space, close your eyes, and attend to the beating of your heart. Then, for the next 10 minutes, imagine your chosen word being written on your heart, feeling your earthly concerns diminish as you connect to the infinite.    

Want some guidance?

When starting a meditation practice, it’s often assuring to be accompanied by an experienced practitioner, who will talk you through the steps. For all of the above practices, there are loads of guided meditation videos on YouTube. For example, search for “guided loving kindness meditation.” There are also lots of great meditation apps that can help you get started, such as Calm, Headspace, and Waking Up. 

So, if one of the practices outlined here speaks to you, why not give it a shot? It could be the key to unlocking a calmer, happier you. 

References

Dambrun, M. (2016). When the dissolution of perceived body boundaries elicits happiness: The effect of selflessness induced by a body scan meditation. Consciousness and Cognition Journal, 46, 89–98. 

Gul, L. (2019). Effects of mindfulness and sufi meditation on anxiety and mental health of females. Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research, 34(3), 583–599.

Sivaramappa, B., Deshpande, S., Giri, P. V., & Nagendra, H. R. (2019). Effect of anapanasati meditation on anxiety: a randomized control trial. Annals of Neurosciences, 26(1), 32–36.

Totzeck, C., Teismann, T., Hofmann, S. G., Brachel, R. Von, & Pflug, V. (2020). Loving-kindness meditation promotes mental health in university students. Mindfulness

Yusim, A., & Grigaitis, J. (2020). Efficacy of binaural beat meditation technology for treating anxiety symptoms: a pilot study. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 208(2), 155–160.

Five Meditations for Uncertain Times


David Robinson

David Robinson completed BSc, MSc, and PhD degrees in psychology and neuroscience in London, England. He is a co-founder of , the UK’s largest database of personal trainers.

APA Reference
Robinson, D. (2020). Five Meditations for Uncertain Times. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/five-meditations-for-uncertain-times/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Jun 2020 (Originally: 19 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Jun 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.