Meditation For Addiction Recovery

What is Meditation

Meditation is a generally safe exercise that focuses on the mind-body connection with the goal of inducing relaxation and serenity. It has been shown to improve physical and mental health.

Meditation practices can vary greatly. But there are a few common components or guidelines [1]:

  • Find a quiet and distraction-free setting
  • Sit or lie down comfortably
  • Focus on your breathing, a repeated sound or word (mantra), or a single idea
  • Keep an open mind

Meditation does not need to take place over a set duration of time. Beginners can start meditating for a few minutes at a time and work up to longer sessions. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to participate.

The activity focuses on mindfulness, or awareness of present feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, and surroundings. Mindfulness also involves accepting feelings and thoughts as they are without judging or labeling them. 

Although meditation, along with other CAM treatments, has been received with some skepticism by addiction and medical professionals, a growing amount of research supports its effectiveness for addiction recovery and relapse prevention.

Benefits of Meditation

In general, meditation helps promote a sense of inner peace and calm, increases self-awareness, improves mental functioning, and helps the person detach from thoughts and impulses, which can help reduce cravings and prevent relapse.

Meditation can provide a person in recovery with numerous psychological and physical benefits, such as:

  • Decreased blood pressure: Studies suggest meditating can lower the blood pressure of those at risk for hypertension[2]. 
  • Immune system enhancement: A mindful meditation program may improve immune system functioning. 
  • Pain relief: Meditation can decrease subjective pain ratings in practicing individuals. 
  • Anxiety relief: Meditative techniques can help individuals control anxiety[1]. 
  • Stress management: Meditation can produce small to moderate improvements in stress levels. 
  • Reduction in depressive symptoms: Some evidence suggests improvement of depression in those practicing meditation[2]. 
  • Better sleep: Studies suggest meditation may enhance sleep in insomniacs[1]. 

Additionally, some studies suggest that long-term meditation can have positive changes in brain structure and functioning. 

  • Increased gyrification, or the forming of folds on the cerebral cortex. This can speed up information processing, improve decision-making, and enhance memory formation. 
  • Slowed or reversed age-related changes in the brain. 
  • Decreased gray matter in the amygdala, which plays a role in anxiety and stress. 

Further research is needed to evaluate the therapeutic value of meditation and mindfulness, but it is a relatively risk-free practice, with reports of adverse effects being rare.

Meditation as Rehab Therapy

What fewer people realize is that meditation is sometimes used by recovering alcoholics as a means of getting and staying sober. Alcoholics Anonymous advocates meditation as a tool in the arsenal against relapse, and the American Journal of Psychiatry had already begun documenting studies that drew correlations between meditation and successful rehabilitation as long ago as the 1970s.

For anyone trying to overcome an addiction to alcohol or drugs, meditation for addiction recovery can be a useful practice for resisting cravings and avoiding relapse. It’s not a turnkey solution to alcoholism, but it does pair well with the sort of comprehensive treatments made available through alcohol and drug rehab centers.

Types Meditation for Rehabilitation

Meditation takes several forms, many of which have spiritual roots. Theraveda Buddhist, Vedic and Zen meditation are well-known (and highly diverse) practices that originate in the East. Some institutes have been formed under spiritual guidelines which encourage recovering alcoholics to embrace tenants of faith along with the mechanics of meditation. Even Alcoholics Anonymous recommends “subscribing to a higher power.” Faith as a rehab tool is certainly not a new idea.

Meditation For Addiction Recovery
We Level Up Meditation For Addiction Recovery

Some meditative practices encourage students to conjure up imagined images and focus on these. For example, Tibetan Buddhism is well-known for mandala visualization, designed to overload the mind to the point that it collapses in exhaustion and gives in to the void of detachment. Other meditative practices, particularly the Vedic variety, call for reciting mantras until emptiness sets in. Still, others rely on breathing exercises or intentional dismissal of thoughts to bring on a state of detachment.

In every case, objectivity is a central goal of meditation, and this can have liberating effects for a person who feels bogged down in a storm of addictive impulses.

How Is It Useful in Addiction Recovery?

Meditation carries a significant value for individuals recovering from addiction to drugs and alcoholism. Generally, meditation promotes a sense of inner peace and calmness, improves mental health functioning, increases self-awareness, and helps detect impulses and thoughts that make you have cravings, hence preventing relapses.

Improves self-esteem and acceptance

You are more likely to be harsh on yourself than on others, especially when you are on your journey to addiction recovery. Being mindful in meditation encourages attentiveness and observation of your feelings and thoughts, making it easier to be patient with yourself. After a few meditation sessions, you will be able to treat yourself better with the same acceptance and patience that you would likely extend to others in similar situations.

Improved mental and physical health

Meditation for addiction recovery is not only good for your mental health but also excellent for physical fitness. When you develop self-awareness through meditation, you are likely to experience a positive impact on your anxiety and stress levels, which can significantly reduce the chances of developing medical-related illnesses like hypertension and heart problems. It has also been found to improve sleep quality.

Increases attention and resilience

Being mindful means not dwelling in the past or worrying about the future, but concentrating on the present. Mindful meditation helps you enjoy the current moment without getting distracted by the situation around you. People who practice meditation as a way of assisting them to cope with the symptoms of addiction recovery are known to be resilient. They have the power to bounce back even after a challenging situation, adapt to the new changes around them, and enjoy their new life in sobriety.

Tips to Get You Started

If you have never practiced meditation before, you may find it strange at first, but when you learn to be mindful and aware of your senses, thoughts, and feelings, you will reap wholesomely the rewards that come along with it. The practice will help you in your recovery journey and throughout your new life. You don’t need to be a pro to start meditating; you can begin with simple meditative exercises as you learn which ones work best for you. Here are a few tips you can use:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation: To bring awareness to every part of your body, you need to have your muscles relax from head to toe progressively.
  • Breathing practice: Relax and breathe naturally while focusing on inhalation and exhalation.
  • Mantra-based: This form of meditation involves repeating a phrase or word out loud or internally. This helps to bring your mind back to meditation in case it wanders, and you lose attention.
  • Movement meditation: This involves incorporating physical activities such as hikes, yoga, walking, or surfing while still being mindful of your body movements.

Meditation is a personal treatment plan. That means that what may work for you may not work for someone else. Trying new techniques is the best way to identify which ones work best for you.

Meditation Exercises for Addiction

Many different meditative exercises are available. Trying each technique will allow you to choose which one works best for you. Different exercises include:

  • Breathing: Breathe naturally, focusing on inhalation and exhalation.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This form of meditation brings awareness to each part of your body, ultimately relaxing you from head to toe.
  • Mantra-based: Repeat a word or phrase out loud or internally. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the mantra.
  • Guided: A trained teacher verbally guides you through the meditation process.
  • Movement meditation: This involves physical activity, such as walking, yoga, hiking, and surfing, being mindful of each part of your body as it moves.

What works for one person may not work for another, so if you’re interested in trying meditation to curb cravings and prevent relapse, it’s important to keep an open mind when trying new techniques.

Many recovery centers have begun to incorporate meditation into their treatment programs. Meditation isn’t meant to be used as a standalone treatment, but rather as a complementary treatment. Drug rehab programs use meditation in combination with traditional forms of treatment, such as group counseling, individual therapy, addiction education, medication, and any other recovery services.

The addiction treatment programs that offer meditation typically have classes led by therapists or other certified staff members. These leaders guide participants through the exercise, with everyone sitting quietly and following instructions.

Many people encounter meditation and mindful practices for the first time upon entering a treatment program and find that they continue to do it after they leave rehab. This healthy habit can promote long-term abstinence for those in recovery.

Let Us Help You

If you or a loved one is struggling to stay sober, it is essential to seek professional help from a holistic rehabilitation program like We Level Up. At We Level Up, we are a certified luxury detox and drug rehab program. Our expert doctors will review your medical history, ask you a few questions about yourself, the substance you have been abusing, and how long you have been abusing it to help us come up with a personalized treatment plan. To learn more about our Meditation for Addiction Recovery program or other services and how we can best help you, please contact our recovery support specialists today! We hope to hear from you soon.

Sources

[1] We Level Up Drug & Alcohol Addiction Center

[2]. National Institutes of Health: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016). Meditation: In Depth.