People have used meditation to soothe anxious thoughts for thousands of years, and research shows it’s a promising treatment for those with anxiety.

Roughly 19% of U.S. adults live with an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA). But as common as anxiety disorders are, more than 60% don’t receive treatment to help manage their symptoms.

Meditation is only one of many approaches that can significantly help improve mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Some research has even suggested that meditation may be as effective as medication for managing long-term anxiety symptoms in some people.

We’ll explore what the research says about the benefits of meditation for anxiety, including how to start your meditation practice as a beginner.

Researchers have studied the benefits of meditation for mental health conditions for many years. And when it comes to meditation for anxiety, recent research has been promising.

One study from 2021 evaluated the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral group therapy (CBGT) versus mindfulness meditation in people with social anxiety disorder. In this study, participants in the meditation treatment group received 12 weekly meditation sessions.

According to the study results, mindfulness-based stress reduction helped reduce social anxiety symptoms and negative feelings. In particular, mindfulness meditation was more effective than CBGT at helping participants accept their anxious thoughts and feelings.

Another study published in 2022 explored the effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM) on stress in healthcare workers, including physicians, clinicians, nurses, and other professionals. Results of the study found that TM significantly reduced chronic stress, insomnia, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion in study participants.

In a concurrent study from 2022, researchers compared the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction, or meditation, to Lexapro for anxiety disorder treatment. For this study, participants in the meditation group underwent an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course.

Similar to previous studies comparing meditation to other treatment options, the study found that weekly meditation appeared to be as effective as medication for treating anxiety.

If you’re new to meditation, one of the easiest ways to begin is to intentionally practice being in the present moment.

This might look like focusing on your body and breath as you take a 15-minute walk on your lunch break. Or this might look like turning off your TV or phone and concentrating on the taste and texture of your food as you eat dinner.

Once you’re ready to try a formal meditation practice, here are a few types that you might find helpful for reducing your anxiety.

Mantra meditation

Mantra meditation focuses on using a mantra, or a specific thought or phrase, that you repeat throughout the session. Here’s how to perform this meditation:

  • Find a comfortable place to sit, such as on a cushion on the floor or on a chair.
  • Focus on the sensation of your breath as you begin to repeat your mantra.
  • Gently redirect any wandering thoughts you may have back to your mantra.
  • Finish the session by taking a few moments to check in with yourself.

Body scan meditation

Body scan meditation focuses on scanning your body and recognizing the sensations you’re feeling. Here’s how to perform this type of meditation:

  • Find a comfortable position, whether that’s sitting on a chair or lying on a yoga mat.
  • Take a few deep breaths as you find a place on your body to begin focusing on.
  • Notice any sensations in this part of your body, and then move on to the next area.
  • Continue scanning your body and being mindful about how it feels in the moment.
  • Finish the session by slowly bringing your focus back to your surroundings.

Guided imagery meditation

Guided imagery meditation focuses on visualizing calming, positive settings or scenarios to help your body and mind relax. Here’s how to perform this meditation:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to meditate, such as in bed or on the couch.
  • Visualize a place, object, or sound in your mind that you find peaceful and relaxing.
  • Continue to focus on this visualization as you allow your body and mind to relax.
  • Consider using a guided imagery video or app that you can follow along with.

Everyone’s treatment journey is different, so it’s difficult to say precisely how long it might take for meditation to help with anxiety. However, research suggests that many people see improvements in their anxiety and mental health in just a few weeks to a few months of consistent meditation.

For example, in one study published in 2022, researchers explored the effects of a 6-week online guided Isha Kriya meditation practice on depression and anxiety symptoms.

Results of the study found that participants experienced significant improvements in their depression and anxiety symptoms with as little as 2 weeks of daily practice. In addition, these improvements appeared to remain consistent throughout the remainder of the 6-week study.

Best guided meditation for anxiety

The idea of meditation as a beginner may seem daunting, but there are plenty of free online guided meditations for anxiety. Here are a few to get you started:

And if you’re interested in exploring more online guided meditation resources, check out our top 10 picks.

Was this helpful?

Over the years, studies have shown the benefits of meditation for mental health ― from reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety to improving mindfulness and acceptance and more.

For people living with anxiety, meditation may improve anxiety levels in a few short weeks, with many benefits continuing long term.

If you live with the symptoms of an anxiety disorder and want to try meditation, a free online guided meditation for beginners is a great place to start.