While most people who meditate experience amazing results, it’s not uncommon for negative emotions to come up. There are 6 common meditation mistakes that can cause anxiety.
Whenever we try anything new, it can take some time before we get good. Not only that, when you’ve been living your whole life constantly doing things, not doing things can feel very uncomfortable. Thanks in part to smartphones, most of us spend all our time constantly entertained. We’ve unconsciously trained our minds to find peace and quiet miserable.
When we first sit down with no distractions and just try to be present and observe whatever arises, oftentimes suppressed emotions can bubble up to the surface. This is normal and allows for proper healing.
But luckily, there are some things to avoid and things you can do to overcome anxiety and other negative reactions. Here are the 6 common meditation mistakes that can cause anxiety and what you can do instead.
Meditation Mistake #1: Meditating for Too Long Can Cause Anxiety
Your daily practice of meditation is a marathon, not a sprint. You want sustainable, slow progress. If that sounds too slow for you, don’t worry, meditation is about learning patience. Forcing too much too soon is one of the most common meditation mistakes that can cause anxiety.
By making 1% progress every day, according to compounded interest, you’ll be 100% better at meditating in 70 days. You’ll also be 100% more peaceful, calm and joyful. All the benefits will exponentially grow.
But if you try to do too much too fast, you are more likely to quit. Not only that, trying to meditate for too long at a time early on is a mistake that will cause needless anxiety.
Meditation is a time to be gentle with yourself. To express self-love. To nurture and heal yourself. And also, most importantly, to listen to your body.
Start with just 1 to 5 minutes if meditation is causing a lot of anxiety. If you can, do it twice a day. But start small with something you can stick to and then make a commitment. Set a fixed time and do your best to never miss a day. However, if you do miss a day, don’t be hard on yourself either. Meditation is a beautiful process of love and healing.
Meditation Mistake #2: Starting Off with a Very Difficult Style of Meditation Can Cause Anxiety
There are many different ways of practicing meditation. From guided to mantra to breath and beyond. Some are easy while some are difficult. Some are incredibly beneficial and others are less so.
Here we’ll focus on the three main styles and also how to avoid the meditation mistakes that cause anxiety.
Guided meditation is the easiest style of meditation. It typically consists of beautiful music and a voice that guides you to focus on something you wish to improve.
You can think of guided meditation as hypnotherapy. You’re in a deeply relaxed state as a soothing voice guides you toward healing and self-improvement.
While it can be incredible for dealing with specific issues, it is not quite the same as meditation. True meditation allows time for introspection and self-examination. In this way, we become our own therapists. We can become more conscious of our thoughts and emotions. And we can also consciously let go of negative feelings.
If mantra meditation is too difficult, absolutely give guided meditation a try. Try to find videos online that provide some silence as well as guidance. Here is a great example of a guided meditation to start off your daily practice.
Mantra Meditation Can Help Prevent Anxiety
Mantra is the medium difficulty meditation and the one I highly recommend for beginners. As Buddha said, “Always take the middle path.” The path that’s not too easy, but also not too hard.
This style provides a myriad of benefits while producing a very pleasurable experience that everyone can enjoy.
To practice, simply choose a mantra. I recommend “Om” as it has no particular meaning. This way it can easily make your mind clear and free.
Then, repeat the mantra over and over in your mind for 1, 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes. You’ll know what is right for you.
Only use the mantra while sitting in meditation and not randomly throughout your day. This will build your muscle memory in your brain to recognize that meditation time is happening whenever you think the mantra.
Starting Out with Breath Meditation Can Cause Anxiety
In this meditation, we simply focus on our breath. It is also called mindfulness meditation because we are practicing being mindful of our breath.
While being the most beneficial, it is also the most difficult. If you have a very chaotic mind, it can be very difficult to simply focus on your breath.
After using mantra meditation for a few weeks or months, you may wish to advance to breath meditation. But starting out with breath meditation can cause anxiety.
If you would still like to start off with breath meditation, using soothing meditation music can help lower anxiety.
Meditation Mistake #3: Putting Too Much Pressure on Yourself Causes Anxiety
Meditation is about relieving stress, not adding to it. We’re so used to being perfectionists in our daily life that we put pressure on ourselves in meditation. It’s exactly that kind of habitual thinking that meditation can help us break free from.
It’s so important in meditation to go easy on yourself. Furthermore, meditation isn’t about any desired outcome. It’s about the here and now. If you are sitting in meditation, you are doing it perfectly.
Know that there is no “doing it wrong” when it comes to meditation. An effort is all that matters. What you put in, you get out. Being too hard on ourselves is also a big meditation mistake that causes anxiety.
Meditation Mistake #4: Sitting in an Uncomfortable Position Can Cause Anxiety
We all want to sit like a yogi in a perfect lotus position on the floor with no pillows at all. But it’s important to remember that many cultures in the East are used to sitting on the floor at all times. Additionally, many people in Asia don’t even have tables and chairs. This is how they grew up.
For Westerners, sitting cross-legged on the floor can be very difficult. Also, it can be downright painful for some. This can easily lead to anxiety and also make us toss in the towel on meditation.
When you’re starting out, feel free to sit in a comfortable chair or on the couch. Additionally, you can sit in a bed with your back up against the headboard or with pillows at a 45-degree angle.
Over time you can gradually work your way up to half-lotus and then full-lotus position. You can use pillows or no pillows. Whatever your body calls for. As long as you make sure you’re not lying down and that you won’t fall asleep, it’s all A-OK.
Meditation Mistake #5: Resisting Negative Emotions Can Cause Anxiety
Whether we stub our toe or feel intense emotional pain, our reaction is the same. We tend to want to look away from the pain. We actually fear and resist the pain, which causes more suffering.
In meditation, we practice looking at the pain. We explore it, we accept it, and we heal from it.
It’s important to remember that as negative thoughts and emotions come up to just allow them to be. Don’t fight them, because that will only make them stronger. Don’t ignore them, because that will only make them louder. Just let them be. Observe them. Notice they aren’t as bad as you thought when you were too scared to look.
Really look closely at the nature of these emotions and see what they truly are. Observe your thoughts without judgments. Simply accept them and they will diminish.
Meditation Mistake #6: Giving Up
Sometimes people have certain expectations about their meditation practice. They expect perfection right away or they think it’s not for them.
If suppressed emotions bubble to the surface, that is a wonderful thing. It means they’ve been pushed down for too long. That’s where they cause problems like illness, stress, anger and hot tempers.
Whatever comes up in meditation is good and healing. It’s like having a good cry at the therapist’s office.
Don’t rush your feelings or expect change overnight. Stick with it. If you’ve been suppressing emotions for decades, allow time for you to heal through meditation. Experiencing anxiety is just a sign that underlying your conscious mind is anxiety you have yet to deal with. Not letting go of expectations is one of the biggest meditation mistakes that can cause anxiety.
The more unpleasant meditation is at the start, the more necessary meditation is.
For More Meditation Resources, check out this guide for tips on getting started with meditation.
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How can we in meditation practice looking at the pain. How to explore it, accept it, and heal from it.