Contrary to what pop icons would have you believe, there’s no single right way to meditate. As long as you end up calm, restored, able to focus and at ease in your mind at the end of a session, you’ve successfully meditated. While mindfulness meditation – the act of training your mind to be present in the moment – is the current darling of supplemental health circles, it’s not the end-all, be-all of meditation practices that those battling social anxiety can benefit from.
The Problem with Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation has a host of benefits. Those who practice it and find it beneficial find themselves better able to focus on the present and able to lessen or silence the doubts and worry that come with anxiety. By being aware of your body and mind in relation to the current moment, you might find yourself calmer and able to focus and implement other coping mechanisms to deal with social anxiety flareup.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees a benefit from mindfulness. Its use can be problematic if your social anxiety brings a friend to the party like Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). Comorbid conditions that cause you to panic at being present in the moment because of hypervigilance – or even clinical paranoia – can make mindfulness meditation more harmful than helpful.
Visualization Is the Opposite of Mindfulness
Where mindfulness is the art of focusing your mind on your present circumstances, visualization – including guided meditation – is allowing your mind to wander elsewhere to instill a sense of calm. Mind-wandering, while the exact polar opposite of mindfulness, can be used to create a similar effect as mindfulness through different methods. By focusing on your wants, goals, dreams, desires or even creating a pleasant scenario – as is done in guided meditation – you’re dissociating from whatever circumstances are causing anxiety and refocusing on something that allows you to maintain your cool.
While some people are able to visualize without the aid of a guided session, those unable to do so can tune into any number of free or paid videos, audio recordings and podcasts aimed at helping create a guided meditation for calm.
Other Methods of Meditation for Social Anxiety
Meditation doesn’t always look like sitting in one spot. Those coping with anxiety may find they function best when there’s something to focus their physical attention on – be it a fidget toy, a set of beads or even walking or performing another simple, repetitive task while meditating. By occupying the energy created by anxiety with a physical task, it can be easier for some to quiet their minds and find calm. Walking meditation, meditation beads or even everyday tasks that fit the bill can aid in meditation.
Still other forms of meditation – including but not limited to religious practices from around the world, self-inquiry meditations, self-affirmation meditations and the practice of observing your thoughts without judging them – can benefit social anxiety warriors who are seeking to use this complementary therapy to calm themselves in addition to other coping mechanisms.
Moving Beyond Mindfulness Meditation
If mindfulness meditation works for you, it can still be helpful to explore other types of meditation to add to your toolbox of social anxiety skills. It’s not always practical or possible to practice one type of meditation – and finding other methods that work for you can aid when you least expect it. If mindfulness meditation doesn’t work for you at all – or makes things worse, as can be the case with certain comorbid psychological conditions – then exploring the offerings of meditation styles from around the world can help you learn new skills.
What type of meditation do you find works best for you? What resources would you recommend others explore when learning about your favorite type of meditation?