Recently, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) regarding the equal effectiveness of both Escitalopram (Lexapro) and Mindfulness Meditation to reduce symptoms of anxiety hit the news waves.
In the study, 200 women were assessed on anxiety symptoms and randomly assigned to a group to take a daily pill or to a group to meditate for 45 minutes per day. At the end of the research period, the participants remaining in the study experienced the same decrease in anxiety symptoms. Some participants dropped out due to the medication side-effects and some participants dropped out because focusing on a mantra for 45 minutes per day was too much time out of their schedules.
This study offers a window into new options for people suffering from anxiety. They now have a personal choice for how they want to care for themselves. Anxiety is more prevalent since the pandemic. It interferes people’s daily functioning and relationships. For some, taking a daily pill works just fine. Others may prefer a more natural approach. Maybe some people would find a combination of the 2 treatments to be most effective for them.
Meditation is a continual focus on a neutral word or phrase while also focusing on the breath for 45 minutes. This continual focus, without any other instructions, could have been a very challenging task for people with anxiety. The research results speak to the strength of the meditation practice to significantly reduce anxiety.
Expanding the meditation skills in the study to include more mindfulness techniques would have further eased the women’s frustration and made them less likely to drop out of the study. Meeting themselves with curiosity, openness, compassion, and non-judgment when restlessness occurred would have helped them stay steady in the face of their changing day-to-day internal weather.
Another assistance to further reduce anxiety, would be mindfulness-based biofeedback. Biofeedback is a computerized tool that monitors a person’s breath, temperature, muscle relaxation, etc. in real time and then feeds it back to the person so they can better learn to calm themselves in less time. When biofeedback is paired with mindfulness meditation people can learn to calm themselves well, in about 20 minutes. They can measure proof of their success by their own biological data readings on the screen!
Learning the tenets of mindfulness such as curiosity, self-compassion, openness, non-judgment while seeing yourself respond in a positive way, reinforces that you are feeling in the right direction. With practice, this calmer more positive state becomes the person’s new normal. Mindfulness is one of the oldest and most basic skills known to mankind. It is a way of being which doesn’t belong to any one culture or tradition. It is our birth-right, but it seems lost to us in our busy 21st century world.
The good news is that we can more easily learn to use these ancient, meditative techniques to reduce anxiety with the help of technology. The process of calming becomes more efficient, interesting, and meaningful. So now, there is evidence through JAMA that a natural approach is equally effective to a medication approach to treating anxiety.
If you are suffering from anxiety and you want to further explore your options for a natural treatment that better suits you, Stress Relief Services offers mindfulness-assisted biofeedback therapy in a warm, supportive environment.
Lauren Salani, LCSW, BCB, Psychotherapis,t Senior Fellow, BCIA, Biofeedback International Certification Alliance, Trained in EMDR, EMDR Institute Stress Relief Services, Atlantic Executive Center, Building C107 Monmouth Road, Suite 104, West Long Branch, NJ 07764 Phone: 732.542.2638,Web:StressReliefServices.com, LaurenASalani@gmail.com.