What is Meditation?
“Meditation” means different things to different people. In the context of alcohol or substance use addiction recovery, meditation usually refers to mindfulness meditation, a method of clearing the mind in order to experience less stress and think more clearly, an essential step in alcohol or substance use addiction recovery.
Generally, beginners to mindfulness meditation are encouraged to sit still in an upright position with their eyes closed, paying attention to their breathing. In this quiet state, one is more easily able to bring awareness back to one’s breathing when the mind begins to wander. There is no correct way to practice meditation, however, and you may find that a different method feels more helpful to you.
The Proven Benefits of Meditation
Experts agree that sitting in meditation for 15-30 minutes a day can dramatically shift the way an individual sees the world and experiences stress, improving one’s odds at success in addiction recovery. Those who meditate regularly report feeling less stress and thinking more clearly.
Mindfulness is such a powerful tool that it can affect the way others, including complete strangers, perceive you. A recent 2019 study found that, when shown photographs of long-term meditators and non-meditators, people consistently judge the photos of meditators as appearing less neurotic, more conscientious, and more mindful than the photos of the non-meditators.
How does Meditation Affect the Brain?
Scientific research into neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new connections over time, validates the mental and emotional benefits experienced by people engaged in meditation.
The mind without meditation displays a strong connection between the part of the brain concerned with day-to-day experience and the part that experiences fear. To such a mind, stress and pain lead to fear and worry. Meditation lessens the connection between these two brain centers, allowing the individual to see stress and pain for what they are in the moment rather than indicators of something worse to come.
At the same time meditation causes the mind to form stronger ties between the part of the brain associated with logic and the part associated with fear. This allows the mind to interpret stresses and fears in a more measured, reasonable way. Overall stress levels go down, benefiting one’s substance abuse recovery, and the individual has a calmer, more balanced experience.
Can Meditation Help me Stay Sober?
Yes. Meditation improves your serenity and self-awareness and decreases your stress and anxiety, skills that can be indispensable to a program of recovery from alcohol or substance use addiction. Mindfulness mediation is often encouraged in 12-step groups and other recovery programs, and it can be an important tool to help you achieve sobriety and prevent relapse.