Worrying Too Much? Meditate Instead
Once you start worrying, it can be pretty hard to stop. Strategies such as trying to stay positive, bracing for the worst or efforts to distract yourself don’t often work, according to Kate Sweeney, Ph.D. an expert on worrying at the University of California, Riverside. Her latest research has shown that mindfulness meditation can help you deal with worrying and the anticipation of news that could be good or bad. The study involved 150 California law students, all of whom were waiting for the results of the bar exam, which don’t become available for four months after taking this career-determining test. On questionnaires, the participants described nightmares, getting sick, and experiencing high anxiety during the waiting period. As part of the study, they also took a 15-minute audio-guided meditation session at least once a week during the four-month wait for their exam results. Even this small amount of mindfulness meditation was enough to ease the stress of waiting, Dr. Sweeney reported. “We know that meditation is a great way to reduce everyday stress, but our study is the first to see that it also makes it easier to wait for personally significant news,” she added.
My take? I’m not surprised by the results of this study. Meditation is about establishing a different relationship with your thoughts, even if just for a little while. Instead of your attention being drawn off by whatever thought happens to present itself, in meditation, you watch your thoughts from a different, more stabilized perspective. In many ways you’re training yourself to place your attention where and when you want. This is very powerful. It gives you the ability to direct your thoughts (and mood) in more productive and peaceful directions. And, as has been demonstrated in the last few years, this ability has profound benefits for physical and mental health.
Kate Sweeny and Jennifer L. Howell, “Bracing Later and Coping Better: Benefits of Mindfulness During a Stressful Waiting Period.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, June 18, 2017; 43 (10): 1399 DOI: 10.1177/0146167217713490
Also in this week’s bulletin: