Anxiety seems to be burdening so many of us these days. It creates an energetic short circuit in the mind, magnifying and intensifying all of life's challenges while crippling our ability to manage them. We lose all sense of perspective and can't see or think clearly.
When someone is stuck in fear, overwhelm, or anger, fixating on fears about the future or obsessing over the past, what helps in that moment is shifting to a "state of gratitude." I'm not talking about thinking happy thoughts, or trying to look on the bright side -- I'm talking about being in gratitude itself. It is not possible to be in gratitude and feel anxiety at the same time.
In this sense, gratitude is an energetic vibration related to the heart chakra where we experience love, connection, humility, and compassion. It is an expansive state.
One simple way to activate that energy is to put both hands over your heart chakra (between the breasts at the sternum), close your eyes and take a few deep breaths into that area. Say to yourself silently or out loud, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you." In any language that resonates with you. Say it sincerely and with reverence until you can feel the calm and warmth start to spread.
You don't need to have in mind a particular recipient of your gratitude. If it helps, you could imagine thanking your body for keeping you going, or a particular person who has offered love and support, or the planet for sustaining life, or the higher power of your choosing.
If you get hung up on wondering exactly who or what you are thanking, you can try instead saying, "I am grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful." Continue for as long as you need until you notice a shift.
You might find a smile coming to your lips, or you might find tears, but either way you are shifting your system out of the stress response and into a relaxation response. From there you can begin to see and think clearly again.
More Tips for Anxiety
Shifting out of the stress response is an important first step for countering the physiological effects of anxiety, and yoga provides some simple and effective tools.
* Child's pose and tree pose (in photo to the left) calm the mind and can be done by almost anyone anywhere. Read about the postures and one young man's experience using yoga and meditation to manage his anxiety here.
* Yoga mudras are symbolic gestures practiced with the hands and fingers that activate particular brain centers and facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body. Try using the Lotus Mudra (in photo to the right) while activating gratitude (details here).
In addition to quick-shift techniques, building a regular practice of cultivating gratitude has numerous benefits for our health and well-being. I wrote more about this and shared a few simple meditations in a previous blog post, "Gratitude, not just a platitude."