There are certain attitudes which form the foundation of mindfulness practice. Here are some ways in which these attitudes can reduce anxiety.
Beginners mind. So often we let our thinking and beliefs about what we know to prevent us from seeing things as they truly are. It is a way of seeing things as new and open to fresh perspective. When you can meet anxiety in this way, with curiosity, you can learn to be free of our expectations based on your past experiences, meaning that you are open to new experiences.
Acceptance means having a deep understanding of how things actually are. It is the opposite of denial, where we can bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is all right when it's not. Sooner or later you can bet that it rears its ugly head! If we can learn to accept the present moment when we are feeling anxious, we can find that those feelings of anxiety soon disappear by themselves. You don't have to pretend that you like it and you can still move towards change. Acceptance means accepting the present moment, so it's just accepting that in this present moment you are feeling anxious. If you can see things as they are, and not how you want them to be, you have a clearer picture of your present state, and are more able to change things for the better.
Non-striving is being willing to meet any experience as it is without trying to change it. Almost everything we do has purpose, to get something or get somewhere. Mindfulness meditation has no goal other than to be yourself. It can lead to judging our experience. For example, if practising mindfulness meditation with a sense of striving towards feeling relaxed, and you are instead feeling anxious, this can increase your suffering. You can get stressed more anxious that "it's not working"...
Letting go is similar to non-striving. It's a quality that gives space to whatever you encounter in the moment. For example, if anxiety comes up, you could choose to allow the feeling to be there. In time, you can learn to ride a wave of anxiety until it dissipates, just as a storm runs its course in the sky.
Self compassion. We can be very critical of ourselves, especially at times when our experience is not as we want it to be. Often we talk to ourselves in ways that we would not talk to others e.g. "you're so stupid for feeling anxious" or "I shouldn't feel like this". What would you say to a friend who is experiencing anxiety? Something much more compassionate I bet. If we can show this compassion towards ourselves, instead telling ourselves things such as "it's okay to feel like this right now" and asking ourselves what we need right now, it can break down anxiety.
Patience with ourselves supports perseverance when anxiety is challenging. It demonstrates that we understand and accept that sometimes things unfold in their own time. In the same way we can cultivate patience towards ourselves when we are in the state of anxiety, excepting it as our current temporary state, and patiently waiting for it to pass. Further to this, a deep understanding that all things change can also help us to see that moments of anxiety will soon pass.
Nonjudgement. Our tendency is to judge our experience as good or bad. We react to things according to what we think it's value is to us. When we experience anxiety we label it as bad and react by trying to repress it. However, this attitude leads to more suffering. When you find your mind judging, you don't have to stop it from doing that. All that is required is to be aware of it happening. Being less judgemental of our experience can loosen our struggle with anxiety, and you can find it fading away.
Maria Hancock,, Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist, Mindfulness Teacher, NLP Practitioner, MSc Health Psychology