Anxiety is the cognitive state related to the inability to control emotional responses to perceived threats. Anxiety is inversely related to brain activity associated with the cognitive regulation of emotions. Mindfulness meditation has been found to regulate anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation is premised on stabilising attention, acknowledging discursive sensory events as ‘momentary’ and ‘releasing’ them without affective reaction. Training in mindfulness meditation has been found to significantly reduce anxiety in clinical and experimental settings. Mindfulness meditation is hypothesised to regulate emotions by modifying cognitive and affective evaluations to sensory events by cognitive reappraisal processes. Long-term training in mindfulness meditation has been found to improve cognitive processes that subsequently improve a wide spectrum of health outcomes.
In this study, 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation significantly reduced state anxiety in each session that meditation was practiced. Anxiety was found to be inversely related to activity in a brain network involved in cognitive and affective control. Meditation-related anxiety relief was associated with greater activity in a distinct network of brain regions involved in cognitive reappraisal processes.
Zeidan F et al. Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Jun; 9(6): 751–759.