When most people think of mindfulness, they think of Hindu monks, mystics, and cultures of spiritualism. Yet, while meditation has its roots in the more than 1500-year-old Hindu traditions of Vedantism, the term has become a catch-all for a series of practices and exercises aimed at clearing the mind, living in the present moment, and relaxing. Today, meditation and meditation-derived practices like mindfulness are used in complementary medication and treatment, in addiction treatment, in stress management, and for health.
Meditation helps practitioners to build discipline, sense of self, and self-esteem, while taking time to relax, to destress, and to increase their own self-perception. The results can be a powerful sense of peace, reduced stress, better emotional regulation, and a better sense of the self. As a result, it can be a powerful tool for recovering addicts looking to reconnect with themselves, while finding ways to lower stress and improve life. Many rehabilitation programs include elements of meditation and mindfulness, but you can also seek meditation out on your own.
What Does Meditation Offer in Recovery?
Meditation, whether guided or unguided, is about connecting to the now, to the present moment, either by focusing on breathing, the body, mental imagery, or someone speaking. Its goal is to pull you out of day-to-day thoughts and stress and force you to concentrate on a specific thing for a period of 20 to 90+ minutes. Doing so, and doing so every day, shows direct and measurable results, many of which are extremely helpful to persons in recovery.
Building Discipline – Sitting down for an hour or going to a class every day requires discipline, building habits, and sticking to your decisions. People who regularly meditate are building skills that they can apply to many other things, including resisting cravings. Here, it’s important to keep in mind that meditation is not about “doing nothing”, it’s about focusing the mind, the attention, and the breath in a specific way, which often requires all of your focus and attention, especially at first. You also have to stay focused. You can’t let your mind slip or wander to think about something else, and if you do, you have to constantly direct your thoughts back to your focus, and constantly maintain that focus. It’s work, it requires discipline, and it will build skills that translate to other parts of recovery.
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Relieving Stress – Most of us spend a significant portion of our time worrying. This is especially true for individuals in recovery, who struggle with anxiety, trauma, nutrient deficiencies, and depression. Stress is one of the largest causes of substance abuse and relapse, and finding ways to effectively manage it can be critical to real recovery. Multiple studies show that even an 8-week meditation course can significantly reduce stress over the period, although results quickly fade if individuals don’t keep up the habit. Moving into mindfulness-based stress reduction further improves outcomes, but most individuals still have to keep up the habit over the long term to see results. In either case, long-term practitioners see drops in high blood pressure, report higher life satisfaction, report lower instances of stress, and report dealing with stress in more healthy ways. The destressing effects of meditation are also measurable over a single session, where most users show lowered blood pressure and reduced heart rate, a reduction in body temperature, and a reduction in active brain activity. In short, meditation is a break for your body, giving you time to consciously destress.
Emotional Regulation – Meditation and mindfulness are both very much about finding balance, grounding, and giving yourself time and space to process emotion. Meditation can help you to come to a point of recognizing and processing emotions, processing them from a place of quiet, and dealing with emotion in your own time instead of attempting to avoid it. Because meditation also encourages you to live in the moment and to find joy in it, meditation can help you to avoid stress and worry surrounding overthinking and being “stuck” in negative moods. Both will help you to regulate mood and emotion, improving happiness and contentment over time. In one study involving mindfulness meditation, patients who meditated daily alongside their substance abuse treatment saw improved emotional regulation, leading to reduced impulsivity, reduced periods of feeling negative, and reduced relapse rates.
Improving Sleep – Many people take time to meditate either before bed or before going about their day because it gives them time to relax, destress, and center. Before bed, meditation will help you to reach a place of calm and to reduce thoughts, worry, and anxiety. You will sleep better.
Meditation is a habit, much like exercise. You have to keep it up and continue to practice in order to see and maintain benefits. Many meditation courses last just 8 weeks, but it’s critical to continue practicing and to set aside time every day to do so. There are many organizations across the United States offering group meditation, apps like Headspace, and ongoing therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction opportunities with therapists. The more you practice, and the more regularly you practice, the more benefits you will see.
Meditation and Addiction Recovery
Is meditation a valuable addition to addiction recovery? Most studies say yes. Meditation isn’t a cure for addiction, but it can build complementary skills, improve outcomes, and reduce stress and other factors that might contribute to a relapse. One study shows that meditation, when used alongside counseling and therapy, can help individuals to absorb and follow treatment better. Reducing stress and improving mindfulness can help people to be more open and welcoming to treatment because their minds are less occupied. Another study posits meditation as a powerful tool in self-recognition and awareness, helping with both relapse prevention, functioning as a coping mechanism, and aiding individuals when they do relapse. And, an overview of available studies suggests that meditation is not a cure for substance use disorder, but that it can offer value and can improve the success of other treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
Most scientific research agrees that meditation offers value in the form of stress reduction and emotional regulation, which adds value to people in recovery. This holds true whether you’re taking meditation classes alongside addiction treatment or are moving into meditation after rehab.
If you have any questions concerning drug rehab for yourself or a loved one, contact us at Truvida Recovery. Call 877-228-1102 to speak in confidence with an experienced treatment advisor now.