Meditation can be used for many things: increasing your productivity, making you healthier, improve focus… In this article, we will look how to lessen social anxiety through meditation.
Before we look at certain exercises, we have to look at what meditation or meditative practices actually are and what they contain.
Inside of meditative traditions, we oftentimes have to two types of practices: Practices that release blockages and practices that build certain patterns or habits inside your mind or body. For our goal, less social anxiety or complete freedom of it, we don´t have to look at the second type of exercise in the sense of meditation, there are faster ways to build certain habits, mindsets,etc. But the practices of release can help us a lot in letting go of old fears and traumata.
So, what does an exercise to release contain and what are we actually releasing?
What the exercise contains are:
- Some type of body awareness
- Principles in terms of breathing and body shape that help the muscles and nerves to let go
- The Quality of your focus
All these three factors are important and necessary so your body and mind can go into the release and let go of old patterns. You can train each one of them separately, and it´s a good idea to do this every now and then, but for the best result those principles need to come together. So, let´s look at those principles separately and then how to combine them in one exercise.
Simple question: Are you able to feel your body? You´re probably very good in feeling and moving your hands,you´re using them constantly anyway.But how is it with your feet? Your back? Your belly? Are you able to feel them easily? If you are, that means that you also can move them with ease? Because, if you can´t move them, it means you´re not really able to feel them.
Simple exercise like yoga, qi gong, and every moving exercise are good to increase your body awareness. Also, things like cold showers and sauna, or a massage, can be of big help.
Without being too technical about your breath, the quality of your breathing should be very quiet and soft. Also, if possible, it´s important to breath through your nose, rather than your mouth. A quiet and soft breath will, over time, release nervous tension inside your body and calm your mind.
Something that is overlooked pretty much in todays meditative circles is the shape or posture of your body. When meditating, your tounge should be on the roof of your mouth, behind the front of your upper teeth.
Your spine shouldn´t be leaning to either side, and your chest should be opened and relaxed at the same time. Certain body principles can take a lot of time, and you can work on them your whole life. What´s important though, is that your body opens up through the exercise instead of closing down. Gently stretching and releasing the tissues inside your body.
Quality of your focus
The quality of your focus should, like your breath, be very soft and gentle. The harder and tense your focus, the more tension you will build inside your system. Making it harder and more uncomfortable to practice.
However, there is a big correlation between your breathing and your the state of your mind. If you can soften your breath, your focus will also soften while becoming even more present and aware.
Also, it´s very important to have a playful attitude with the exercise. Try not to beat yourself up if you have a problem to focus. Just come back to the exercise, over and over again. This way, you will build the habit into your system, without building even more tension and resistence inside your body and mind.
One simple exercise
At the end of this article, I want to give you one simple exercise you can try:
Just at the edge of a chair, back straight, hands on the knees. If you have back problems, you can also lean in the back of the chair, but make sure to press your back softly into it, to give it a little stretch.
Then close your eyes and start bringing your focus to your breath. Try to make it quiet and soft. It doesn´t matter how long your breath is or where it goes, just concentrate on making it softer and softer.
Then, try to recognize your body. Is there a part of your body that is tense? Maybe your neck, your jaw or your arm? Try to feel how this body part responds when you soften your breath. Try to stay with the body, with a soft focus, while softening your breath.
Does the tension subside in that body part? Does it not? How do the nerves in this area feel? Are they letting go a bit? Or, if not, is it easier to stay with the body part the more you relax your breathing?
Just try to be aware of this process for a few minutes. As soon as you feel like there is no way you can relax any further, just let it go. Open your eyes and start coming back to your surrounding. That´s it your first step into releasing your body from old habits.
How and Why does this exercise help with my anxiety?
The answer to that is actually pretty simple:
As soon as you get nervous, your body is tensening up. The more you can relax your body, the less nervous you will get. However, it´s a process that takes time and you can work on it your whole life (if you decide to do so).
It´s the same with other, “negative“, emotions. Have you ever felt shame or anger before? Also here, your body is going into tension, it´s closing down to protect you. One way in meditative traditions to deal with those emotions, is the process I just described to you. Letting go of the tension, and over time, the emotions will also lose a lot of their grip on you.
If you tried the exercise, or have a question, let me know in the comment section below. Also, if you´re interested into going deeper into the methods and exercises I use, take a look here