Is Meditation On Par With Anti-Anxiety Medication?

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

This quote comes from the late Vietnamese Buddhist monk and influential mindfulness teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, from his book “The Miracle Of Mindfulness” (Goodreads). Besides being substantiated by his own personal and philosophical insights, that quote is also very substantiated by science. 

Deep breathing is clinically demonstrated to send calming signals from the nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, telling the body to wind down in times of great distress and panic. Furthermore, an ever-growing body of research into the overall health benefits of meditation appears to substantiate that mindful breathing exercises can help calm the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

One recent study even points toward meditation potentially being as effective as anti-anxiety medication. Beyond anxiety, a more wakeful practice can also improve your sleep health, and cultivate more surprising benefits than you might realize. If you wouldn’t mind paying more mind to how mindfulness can change your mind for the better, keep these health benefits and beneficial meditation apps in mind.

Will Meditation Help With Anxiety?

A focused meditation routine can help you become more aware of the thought patterns (positive, negative, or anywhere in between) continually running through the background of your every waking day-to-day moment. 

What’s more is that a new study, published in the JAMA Network’s Psychiatry journal, suggests that proper mindfulness-based stress reduction practices might even have equivalent effectiveness in treating anxiety as prescription anti-anxiety medication. This randomized clinical trial of 276 adult patients with anxiety disorder found that meditation had comparable effectiveness with escitalopram, a front-line anxiety medicine.

This exciting study came to these results over the course of 8 weeks, and is the latest in a years-long line of research supporting the efficacy of medication in treating anxiety. It’s the latest in a years-long line of notable studies and statistical findings on meditation in stress relief. For instance, you might be surprised to know that:

  • A meta-study of 1300 adults found that meditation reduced anxiety levels in those with the highest levels of anxiety. (PubMed)
  • People who meditate have a reduction in negative thoughts in response to viewing negative imagery. (PubMed)
  • About 153 adults reported reduced feelings of loneliness after using a meditation app for two weeks. (PubMed)
  • Studies have proven that meditation doesn’t only alleviate the symptoms of conditions like anxiety, but also depression and chronic pain. (PubMed)

But meditation won’t just help you cultivate a more pleasant, mindful, and aware experience during the day; it can also help you cultivate a more relaxed and restful night. Millions of Americans struggle with insomnia and sleep disorders each year, but if you’re one of them, you might be able to find natural relief in mindfulness-based insomnia therapy.

Will Meditation Help Me Sleep?

If you’re struggling with chronic insomnia and sleep disturbances, you might stand to benefit from mindfulness-based therapy. It’s imperative to be mindful of the things disturbing your sleep habits, as a healthy sleep regimen is crucial for not just your mental health, but your overall wellness at large. 

A randomized trial by Oxford Academic and the Sleep Research Society found that mindfulness-based sleep therapies had the potential to significantly reduce the severity of insomnia symptoms, with a 78% response after six months of treatment. So yes, just as meditation can help you have a more pleasant wakeful experience during the day, it also might help you have better rest at night.

Many popular meditation apps have guided meditation options specifically geared toward helping the listener fall asleep easier. If you need further support, you also might want to consider connecting with an online therapist who specializes in treating sleep disorders.  

Meditation Health Benefits

If you still aren’t sold on the scientific merits of mindfulness, you might be surprised to know that clinical research has attributed a routine meditation practice to potentially alleviating the symptoms of:

  • Chronic pain, according to a PubMed meta-analysis of 3,500 patients
  • Addiction, binge eating, and alcohol use disorder (Addict Sci. Clin. Pract.)
  • Hypertension, according to a PubMed meta-analysis of 1,000 patients 
  • Issues with attention span, memory loss, and cognition (Elsevier)

Of course, meditation may not resolve these issues in isolation, and we don’t want to suggest that they will. But when used in tandem with the right doctor, the right therapist, and the right pharmacist, meditation apps like Headspace might be a worthy resource to add to your wellness toolkit.

Best Meditation Apps

Follow our provider page to stay up to date on the best meditation apps!

HeadSpace review
Health Apps
Why We Like Them
Headspace is a mindfulness and meditation app that is based on the belief that mindfulness should be a part of every aspect of life that shouldn't be restricted to when you sit down and meditate. Headspace provides resources and unique tools to mindfulness which are based on authentic resources dating back 2000 years and are backed by modern science. Headspace offers guidance, inspiration, and sup...
More About These Providers
Sarah Ryan
Sarah Ryan