The Mental Health Remedy – Causal
It is alarming to see that 6.9 Americans struggle with chronic, daily anxiety. However, after considering the stressful lives we live in this society, it kind of makes sense. When you are faced with a problem, it is normal to experience feelings of stress or anxiety. For example, family or relationship problems, the loss of a loved one, or even work stress can cause someone to feel anxiety. However, people who have anxiety disorders have difficulty managing these feelings, getting rid of unwanted thoughts and emotions. A generalized anxiety disorder can cause significant issues in areas of life having to do with school, work, and even social interactions. Living in a constant state of anxiety can be extremely detrimental to a person’s mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a person with a generalized anxiety disorder also experiences irritability, muscle tension, fatigue, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty controlling feelings of worry. Leaving these symptoms untreated causes a person’s mental health and overall quality of life to decrease.
For some, medication can be very helpful. However, it is also said that medication can cause unwanted side effects. Jayne Leonard states that some possible side effects of anxiety medication can be blurry vision, dry mouth, drowsiness, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, tremors, weight loss or gain, etc; the list goes on and on. Patients can work with their doctors to find the right dosage of medication for them, which can help alleviate these side effects. But, this can be a long process and can take a while for the patient and doctor to decide what will work best. Luckily, meditation has proven itself to be equally as beneficial, but without the negative side effects. A study was conducted at Johns Hopkins that analyzed the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain. Alice G. Walton states that “Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good.”
Many people think positively about the idea of meditation, but when it comes to actually sitting with your thoughts, it can be difficult. In our society, we have so many things to use as distractions from our thoughts. For example, many use social media as a way to take up time, or to avoid thinking about things that can be stressful. It is easy to mindlessly scroll through Instagram or Tik Tok to keep your mind off of what you don’t want to give attention to. This mindless scrolling is easier to keep scrolling than to actually confront your thoughts.
However, it is problematic because pushing negative thoughts and emotions to the side does not make them go away. According to Ritu Ailani, it is said that the average person spends about three hours a day mindlessly scrolling through social media. Each time you scroll to another post, your brain receives a dopamine hit, and this cycle goes on and on until the decision is made to put down the phone. Psychologist Joshua Ehrlich explains “It really is an addiction and we’re wired for this. The same brain pathways get stimulated as they do in a chemical addiction.” Once you start this habit, like any addiction, it can be difficult to stop. According to Dr. Alber, “Too much time on any media or social media sites, whether the news is bad or not, has been linked with feelings of depression, burying your nose in a phone can exacerbate disconnection and loneliness. Being locked on a screen can zap your energy and leave you feeling drained.” However, you can replace bad habits by creating new and healthier ones such as practicing mindfulness and meditation.
For those who struggle with their mental health, the thought of sitting quietly with your thoughts is daunting. Some people will become frustrated at the fact that there is no immediate relief. But like all things, meditation requires time, patience, and most importantly practice. According to Sandra Casabianca, a 2020 review shows that people who practice meditation for a long time start showing changes in the areas of their brain that modulate the stress and anxiety response. “Specifically, the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus show increased activity. Also, the amygdala, which is involved in the fight, flight, or freeze response, shows decreased activity. All of this indicates improved emotional regulation, according to the review.” says Sandra.