Mindfulness for anxiety

By Summer Guo

In today’s fast-paced world, anxiety has become an increasingly prevalent problem. From the pressures of work to the challenges of everyday life, it’s no wonder that so many people feel stressed and anxious. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage anxiety, and one of them is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a technique that involves being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It’s about paying attention to the present moment and observing it without judgment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). By doing so, we learn to observe our internal activities, like thoughts and emotions, without becoming overwhelmed by them.

Is mindfulness effective for managing anxiety?

There is evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of mindfulness at reducing anxiety for people of disparate backgrounds and across different contexts. In clinical research, evidence comes from the investigation of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. 

MBIs have been found to reduce anxiety for people with a broad range of medical and psychiatric conditions (Hofmann & Gómez, 2017). They have been found to outperform treatment components, such as supportive psychotherapy, psychoeducation, relaxation training, and imagery techniques.

Relative to physical or medical outcomes, MBIs seem to show stronger effects for state and trait anxiety (Khoury et al., 2013). Individuals diagnosed with generalized anxiety, panic, or social anxiety disorders reported the following experiences (Hazlett-Stevens, 2022):

  • Improved attention
  • Decentered relationship to thoughts and feelings
  • Increased self-compassion 
  • Reduced cognitive and emotional reactivity

However, heterogeneity across research is moderate and effect sizes are usually mixed when comparing MBIs to evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (Bhattacharya & Hofmann, 2023; Goldberg et al., 2022). MBIs might be on par (Li et al., 2021) or less effective than firstline psychotherapy for anxiety.

How might mindfulness reduce anxiety?

The treatment principles of MBIs may be consistent with that of cognitive therapy. Both aim to reduce avoidance (of emotional pain) and question the validity of cognitive processes (like thoughts and perceptions).

  1. In orienting our attention to the present moment, it’s likely that we will interrupt automatic patterns of future-focused worries or past-focused ruminations, which also serves as emotional avoidance. This might reduce our chance of becoming anxious.
  1. To observe non-judgmentally, we view our thoughts and emotions as they are, rather than as absolute truths that determine our character or actions. This helps us become less caught up or overwhelmed by them.
  1. Once we take a step back from our thoughts and emotions (decentred) – it might be more possible for us to become aware and understand more about ourselves or the situation we are in. It’s this increased awareness that provides us more space for empathy and for weighing up possibilities – especially when we feel reactive or hopeless at the felt sense of lack of options.

This new way of managing inner experiences becomes an important mindfulness skill for overcoming anxiety and psychological distress, to improve mental health and well-being.

Practicing mindfulness

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and how it can help with anxiety, there are many resources available including books, online courses, and apps that can help you develop and maintain your mindfulness practice. You can also consider working with a therapist who specializes in mindfulness-based therapies.

At the Centre for Clinical Psychology, we offer a range of evidence-based therapies, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Our team of compassionate psychologists can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that aims to help you manage anxiety and improve your quality of life. We encourage you to book an appointment by phone 03 9077 0122 or online https://ccp.net.au/booking/.


Bhattacharya, S., & Hofmann, S. G. (2023). Mindfulness-based interventions for anxiety and depression. Clinics in Integrated Care, 16, 100138. doi:10.1016/j.intcar.2023.100138

Goldberg, S. B., Riordan, K. M., Sun, S., & Davidson, R. J. (2022). The empirical status of mindfulness-based interventions: A systematic review of 44 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 17, 108-130. doi: 10.1177/1745691620968771

Hazlett-Stevens, H. (2022). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Clinical Anxiety and Depression. In Biopsychosocial Factors of Stress, and Mindfulness for Stress Reduction (pp. 201-223). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Hofmann SG, Gómez AF. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 40, 739-749. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008. 

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144–156. doi: 10.1093/clipsy.bpg016

Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., & Hofmann, S. G. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical psychology review, 33, 763-771. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005

Li, J., Cai, Z., Li, X., Du, R., Shi, Z., Hua, Q., & Zhan, X. (2021). Mindfulness-based therapy versus cognitive behavioral therapy for people with anxiety symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis of random controlled trials. Annals of palliative medicine, 10, 7596-7612. doi: 10.21037/apm-21-1212.