In our modern societies the most commonly known and used tool to address anxiety is the practice of meditation. Although the label can be different, most methods of meditation focus on some type of breath work to help you with all sorts of issues linked to excessive anxiety like trouble sleeping, social anxiety, overthinking or even health issues.
Although at Functional Patterns we do not deny the benefits that meditation can have on a short term basis on your nervous system, we do not think it addresses the root cause of the problem to help you alleviate your anxiety in a sustainable manner.
After a quick overview of the definition of anxiety, we will question the relevance of meditation and see what can efficiently help you even if you suffer from a high level of anxiety or if you have a tendency to fall into overthinking.
Definition of anxiety (by the American Psychological Association): “Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry.”
We have all been through phases of anxiety and for some of us, that feeling can be constantly present and feel like a social and mental handicap. The notion of social anxiety also keeps rising globally as well as the level of anxiety as a general concept.
Many anxiety management tools (controlled breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, calming imagery, distraction, thought challenging…) exist on the market, however the most commonly used is meditation; whether it is to help you sleep better, to enter a state of relaxation, reduce physical tension or many other reasons.
QUESTIONING THE RELEVANCE OF MEDITATION
As stated in the dictionary, meditation is a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth.
It is scientifically proven that meditation can have an effect on the nervous system. The sympathetic system is the most affected by anxiety, tension, fatigue and depression. It controls the body’s fight or flight response. Meditation works by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, it feels beneficial as it directly calms the sympathetic nervous system which leaves you feeling calm and relaxed.
However, like many types of stimuli your body will adapt to it and the effects will start to wear off.
We can take as an analogy the way the fitness world uses progressive overload: you begin by lifting some light weight, then your body adapts to it, then you have to keep putting more and more weight for a minimal gain on the long run.
Going back to the topic at stake, when the first meditation method stops working for you you might look for other anxiety tools or other types of meditation like guided meditation or healing meditation.
One of the functions of healing meditation, is that it’s meant to “consciously promote the health of the mind, body and spirit. The main intention of healing meditation is to cultivate balance. Healing meditation is more intentional than other types of meditation” according to What is Healing Meditation by Marisa Peer.
One of the issues here is the abstract foundation attached to it (spiritual growth, cultivate balance…).
Mind you, after yoga, meditation is the most popular mind and body practice in the US (source: CDC).
What we question here at Functional Patterns is the long term efficiency of a technique that is not based on first principles or on a more objective way of analyzing the problem.
SAME OLD SAME OLD
The hundreds of different types of meditation promote the same outcome: alleviate anxiety to feel better and be more efficient with your life whether through breath work or repeating a mantra.
But can you really meditate with high anxiety? Can meditation cure overthinking?
This feels like looking at the same tools with different packaging. Just like many new methods in the fitness industry are just remodeled versions of squats and mobility routines. The global meditation and mindfulness industry is valued at $5 billion and is excepting to reach $20 billion by 2029. The meditation application market was valued at $1.1 billion in 2021 and is expecting to be multiplied by 6 to reach $6.8 billion in 2030, according to The Good Body.
And yet, studies show that globally, anxiety levels are rising in adults and even in teenagers these past few years, according to High Anxiety by Dan Gordon.
From this statistical point of view it seems pretty clear that the main problem is not really being solved. Meditation may temporarily make you feel better, but if you aren’t addressing the root of your anxiety or problems, then it will continue to only mitigate the symptoms and the anxiety will remain.
To become a more resilient human being you will have to tackle the foundation of your imbalances that are rooted in your biomechanics.
You may wonder why your anxiety is rooted in your biomechanics? Everything you feel is expressed in some way. Anxiety can feel like overwhelming emotion, and when that pressure builds up, it tends to ‘leak’ out in the form of rapid movements and twitches. These physical expressions of anxiety in turn affect how you move.
At Functional Patterns we help you address your movements and your behavior to find a better balance.
Meditation, in any type of form, seems to be the most commonly used tool to address stress and anxiety. At Functional Patterns we understand that the main cause of anxiety for us humans is deeply rooted in our mechanical dysfunctions and imbalances. There is a fundamental link between the way your body operates in space (curved back, muscles really tensed, daily pains…) and how stable your mind will feel. If you suffer from severe anxiety it is pretty clear that meditation alone will quickly show its limits.
It’s time to stop asking yourself exactly which specific type of meditation will reduce your stress or which one will help you clear your mind.
The key to address your anxiety is in learning how to find balance in your body as anxiety is rooted in instability, you need to learn to move in space and hydrate your tissues in a relevant manner respecting the big 4 (Standing, Walking, Running, Throwing).
How will fixing your biomechanics address anxiety / overthinking?
Moving efficiently will enable you to use your energy efficiently. When you begin to move better, your body learns how to express calmly, leading to less pain and less injury.
Functional Patterns has helped thousands of people address their anxiety by moving better.
The Good Body, https://www.thegoodbody.com/meditation-statistics/
What is Healing Meditation, https://marisapeer.com/what-is-healing-meditation/