Meditation Therapy for Substance Abuse
For thousands of years, meditation has been an important spiritual practice in many cultures. However, meditation can be practiced apart from any religious beliefs, and many people today use it for the variety of ways it can support well-being. In the world of addiction recovery, meditation can help people establish a healthy balance that supports sobriety. Read on to learn about the benefit of meditation therapy for substance abuse.
Rewiring an Addicted Brain with Meditation Therapy for Substance Abuse
No matter what substance you use, if you do it regularly, some changes leading to addiction inevitably occur in your brain. To rewire an addicted brain, you need to undergo a treatment process that will heal not only the body, but mind as well. Reaching abstinence is a big victory. But the struggle will continue as you will face triggering situations in your life. Fortunately, there is a method that can help you stop reacting to such triggers.
This method is called meditation. For thousands of years, meditation has been an important spiritual practice in many cultures. However, meditation can be practiced apart from any religious beliefs, and many people today use it for the variety of ways it can support well-being. In the world of addiction recovery, meditation can help people establish a healthy balance that supports sobriety.
The brain is the only organ specifically designed to be shaped by experience and practice, much like a muscle gets stronger with exercise. In the past, when we repeatedly engaged in the thoughts and behaviors that propel addiction, we unknowingly shaped our brain in ways that worked against us and prevented us from being mindful.
Mindfulness exercises empower us to intentionally reshape our brain in ways that bring greater control, awareness, and happiness to our life.
The connection between mindfulness, exercises and recovery
The brain is the only organ that’s shaped by experience and practice, much like a muscle gets bigger and stronger with exercise. In the past, when you repeatedly engaged in specific thoughts and behaviors that propelled your addiction, you unknowingly shaped your brain in ways that worked against you and prevented you from being mindful.
Meditation and other mindfulness exercises work much the same way, and empower you to intentionally reshape your brain in ways that bring greater control, awareness, and happiness to your life.
There are HOW many ways to meditate?
According to Headspace, experienced meditators agree: a daily meditation therapy for substance abuse practice can have significant benefits for mental and physical health. But one thing they probably won’t agree on? The most effective types of meditation. That’s simply because it’s different for everyone. After all, there are literally hundreds of meditation techniques encompassing practices from different traditions, cultures, spiritual disciplines, and religions. There’s not a universally accepted “best” or “most effective” type; rather, it is our individual preference that helps us choose the one (or ones) that works best for us.
Three Common Elements of All Meditation
Most types of meditation have three common components that are the key to their effectiveness.
- An attention to the present moment. Detaching from thoughts about the future and the past allows you to reconnect with the world around you and your own body.
- Relaxation balanced with focus. When the body and mind are relaxed and present, new insights and ideas will flow to your awareness.
- A non-judgmental attitude towards others and yourself. Practicing non-judgment allows you to see yourself and the world with compassion and clarity.
Though this technique is one of the simplest, it’s still very effective. The goal is to reinforce your awareness and observe your thoughts and sensations – to do the things addicted people often don’t do. Here’s how you can practice it:
- Sit up straight. Your spine, neck, and head should be in one line. Put your hands where they are comfortable (if you’ve tried yoga or stretching, you may feel comfortable in the traditional cross-legged posture).
- Close your eyes.
- Sit quietly and still. Allow your thoughts and sensations to wander in and out of the body without labeling them as good or bad.
- You can open your eyes if you want. But you should direct them a few feet in front of the body, fixing your gaze on a fixed object on the ground.
- If you stop focusing on your thoughts and concentrate on your breath or some object, you are doing everything right. Now you can proceed to the next technique.
The purpose of breathing meditation therapy for substance abuse is to calm the mind and develop inner peace. It’s easy to practice:
- Sit in the same position as for the first technique and close your eyes.
- Concentrate on your breath. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly.
- Relax the muscles. Take the energy your brain spends on thinking about your cravings and divert it toward your body.
- Pay careful attention to breathing. Feel how air is coming in and out through your nostrils.
- If some thoughts start to distract you, return to your breathing.
A mantra is a simple phrase, sound, or word that you continually repeat during meditation. It can be said out loud or silently to yourself. This type of meditation helps you to achieve clarity and stillness as it calms the mind, reduces stress, and provides a deeper relaxation. It is important to find a mantra that you are comfortable with and that allows you to focus.
- Not all types of meditation involve sitting still. Moving meditation involves practicing mindfulness while engaging in focused movement.
- You can practice in your own home or in a peaceful place outdoors, such as near a lake, or in a garden, park, or forest. Choose an activity you like doing such as walking, tai chi, or swimming.
- Focus on the movements and how they feel and flow in your body.
- Pay attention to all of the information your senses are receiving from the environment such as the sounds of birds, the crashing of waves, or the smell of flowers.
The Benefits of Meditation Therapy for Substance Abuse
Studies investigating the link between substance use and meditation are ongoing. Recent evidence found mindfulness-based interventions like meditation could reduce the consumption of alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines. Mindfulness practice may also reduce the risk of relapse, as it teaches the practitioner coping methods for discomfort such as drug cravings or the negative effects of substances.
When we practice meditation, especially mindfulness, we train in remaining present and recognizing all feelings, from discomfort to joy, with equanimity and goodwill. And then we let them pass. This is one way meditation helps people work with addiction. Research confirms that meditation has been proven to counter addiction issues especially when combined with psychological methods, as in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Mindfulness-based practices can also be very effective in helping prevent relapse. Guided meditation is also recommended.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Better sleep: Studies suggest meditation may enhance sleep in insomniacs.
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