How can meditation reduce stress and anxiety, and promote sleep?

Imagine you found a way to feel less stressed, more able to focus and achieve, whilst reducing feelings of anxiety and stress and improving your sleep and well-being.


There is a growing amount of research showing that meditation can help you in these ways. Meditation can also help to train your mind, your focus and awareness. It can help you relax the body and the mind and gives you time to connect with yourself, your feelings and your needs. The NHS are now also recommending meditation as a helpful technique for stress reduction.

In her book, Stress Less: Accomplish More, author and meditation instructor Emily Fletcher discusses how meditation can help reduce anxiety, stress and depression as well as increase self-awareness and creativity. Mindful meditation can also help you create a level of acceptance of thoughts and feelings, allowing you to experience them without trying to change them. Often this acceptance can help you to move through your feelings and process them, supporting you to tolerate feelings that are uncomfortable whilst creating some distance so you do not feel consumed by them. This can help you to foster self-compassion and self-acceptance, allowing feelings to come and go rather than suppressing or avoiding them.

As meditation can aid rest and relaxation it can also help support you in improving your sleep. When the body experiences a high level of arousal due to excessive levels of stress and anxiety, it can make it harder to relax and get the restful sleep you need. As meditation helps you towards maintaining lower levels of stress and anxiety, a regular daytime meditation practice can help support a more restful night's sleep.

Many celebrities and athletes are well known for using meditation due to the fantastic benefits that can be gained from regular practice. Famous people like Julia Roberts, Kobe Bryant, Rai Dalio and Oprah Winfrey are all known to meditate.

Types of meditation

There are various meditations that you can try and it's important that you find one that works for you. Mindful meditation helps you focus on the moment and your experience in the moment. It helps you connect with yourself, your thoughts and feelings and the sensations in your body. It helps you accept your experience and notice what is happening for you.

Mindful meditation can be helpful as it helps to direct the mind to the experience of the present moment. The anxious mind is often worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. Mindfulness can help create some distance from these thoughts and help the mind focus on the now.

There are a range of other meditations you can also use. A loving kindness meditation helps you to have kindness and compassion towards yourself and others. Guided meditations can use visualisations, your imagination and guided imagery helping you to relax. Mantra meditations use chanting or the repetition of sounds in your head or out loud.

There are also gratitude meditations which focus the mind on the things you are grateful for and the positive things in your life. This can help create a wider perspective and recognition of the things that are working well for you, which in difficult and challenging times is often easy to lose sight of.

Meditation and trauma

Although meditation can have many positives, for those who have experienced trauma or are experiencing PTSD or CPTSD meditation may bring up difficult feelings or sensations.

Those who have experienced trauma should proceed with caution. Many counsellors and therapists are trained in meditation and trauma and can offer trauma-informed counselling alongside the use of meditation practices that are trauma-informed.

My experience of meditation

I have been meditating myself for several years now. To begin with, I found meditation difficult as my mind would constantly drift from thinking about the shopping list, what needs to be done in the house to what I am cooking for tea that evening and many other wandering thoughts. Little did I realise that this is normal, as everyone’s mind wanders from time to time, but you continue to bring it back to what you are focusing on i.e. the breath, a sound in the room, or a visualisation.

Although it was difficult and felt uncomfortable at times I persisted as I was curious about meditation and the benefits it can bring. Over time I have become better at focusing my mind, but as with everyone’s it still wanders but I have learnt to become better at bringing it back to the present.

One of the things that has amazed me about meditation is that by doing less and slowing down I have found I can do so much more. This is because meditation helps me to have more energy, and be more focused and productive. By allowing myself to slow down and experience my thoughts and feelings I have given myself the space to resolve problems and come up with solutions. After or during meditation I will often come up with insights or solutions and I find it also increases my energy levels.

What if it’s not for you?

Meditation is not for everyone. Some people love meditation and feel they experience many benefits from meditation, for others, they may try it but it doesn’t resonate with them and that’s OK. Many different activities can help the mind focus and create the same “flow state” or “mediative state” as in meditation.

Creative activities such as art, drawing, writing, playing a musical instrument, dancing, gardening, sewing etc. can help you help you in practising mindfulness and focus. These creative activities can also feel very therapeutic and many clients have told me how these creative activities can help them to express themselves, their personalities, emotions and feelings into a creative form which can be very empowering. It is about finding the things that work for you and are most helpful for you.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Birmingham, West Midlands, B43 5SB
Written by Sunflower Empowerment, Prof.DipPsyC, DipCST, CertHypCs, BA Hons Social Work
Birmingham, West Midlands, B43 5SB

Claire runs Sunflower Empowerment and is a qualified Counsellor, Hypnotherapist and Social Worker who specialises in working around anxiety, stress and sleep. Claire also uses elements of meditation and mindfulness in her work with clients. If you are interested in working with Claire please send her a message through Counselling Directory.

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