Meditation is a practice that dates back thousands of years and draws on Buddhist principles. During meditation you learn to focus your breathing, reduce negative thinking and live in the present. The practice of meditation has been shown to have a positive impact on many medical and mental health conditions, including social anxiety disorder (SAD).
How does meditation help? In a study at Manchester University, Chris Brown and colleagues found that people who practiced meditation had less negative reactions to pain. As part of the study, participants were administered pin pricks on their arms with a laser; brain scans showed that areas involved in anticipation were much less active in those who meditated.
Anticipatory anxiety plays a large role in SAD; worry about upcoming social or performance situations can cause significant impairment in daily functioning. If meditation helps to reduce anticipation of pain, it follows that it would also help to reduce anticipation of feared events.
Indeed, when researchers at Stanford University looked at brain scans of participants with SAD during meditation, they found changes in brain activity that suggested the potential for a reduction in social anxiety symptoms and reactions to negative self-beliefs.
Finally, meditation is believed to have some direct impact on the body's nervous system. Breathing, heart rate, and other physiological mechanisms respond to this form of relaxation. Given the role of the fight-or-flight response in SAD, it is easy to see how meditation may also have a direct positive effect on symptoms.
What do you think? Have you practiced meditation and was it helpful for you?
Photo © Microsoft