From The Blog

How Meditation Can Change How We Live In Addiction Recovery

What Is Meditation, Exactly?

This is not an easy question to answer. In fact, there are as many definitions of meditation as there are practices to support it. However, we can think of meditation as a state of just “Being.”

Meditation is a state when you are not doing any activity on a physical or mental level. During meditation, all actions cease. Thinking, focusing on something, analyzing…these activities are calmed. When you are doing nothing, and focusing on one point, you can become completely relaxed, in a state of meditative calm or stillness. This generates what is known as the Relaxation Response. Once you understand and internalize this process and become used to such a state, you can easily insert meditation into your everyday actions without disturbance such as:

  • Cleaning
  • Eating
  • Reading
  • Walking

Note here that meditation is not “against” action per se, and surely is not a method used to escape from life. Instead, meditative practices can help optimize the experience of living in a way that brings more clarity, creativity, intensity and joy. Living in a meditative way helps you become more objective, simply seeing everything that is happening around you—released from prejudices, criticisms and judgments. It is a wonderful state of Being that allows you to enhance and develop your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual awareness and intelligence.

The Benefits Of Meditation

You have probably heard how meditation is good for you. But do you know the exact benefits of meditation? There are many scientific studies that cover many aspects of meditation’s health benefits. Here, we name few:

  • Amps up your immune system
  • Helps you have a good night’s sleep
  • Improves both physical and emotional responses to stress
  • Improves your ability to concentrate and focus
  • Improves and normalizes your metabolism
  • Increase levels of serotonin in the body which improves your mood and behavior
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces aging
  • Reduces anxiety attacks
  • Results in personal transformation

Meditating around 20 minutes per day for several weeks is enough time to start experiencing these benefits to some degree. Mindfulness techniques are also widely used as a surrogate for antidepressants in substance abuse therapy since they tend to decrease the effects of depression. This can be a big step forward in your path to addiction recovery.

Meditation Techniques In Addiction Recovery

Some meditative approaches can be used as complementary addiction treatment therapies to increase the effectiveness of the traditional ones. These therapies work by changing your attention and focus from banal, mindless, automatic mental and behavioral processes, to an attentional focus that cultivates greater mindfulness. Recent studies show that Mindfulness based therapy can be an effective remedy for the treatment of addictions. Here we briefly describe three (3) current exemplary clinical research programs used for addiction treatment:

  1. In the Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) model, mindful movement includes light stretching and other basic, gentle movements. Each movement is guided with physical safety and respect for the body as a primary concern, and participants are instructed to stay with the movement as it happening, observing physical sensations of moving and stretching, while also noticing striving, thoughts, and judgments about the body. During MBRP, formal asanas are not taught because instructors are typically not trained in yoga. Plus, people recovering from addiction often have physical limitations that preclude performing traditional asanas, and formal yoga can be seen as inaccessible.
  1. The Mindfulness Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) method is a 10-session, group-based, psychoeducational intervention designed to disrupt cognitive, affective, and physiological mechanisms implicated in alcohol dependence. Although MORE does not include yoga, it does include mindful breathing, body scans, mindfulness of perceptions & sensations, mindful walking, and compassion meditation (loving-kindness, or metta). MORE also includes a focus on meditative approaches to coping with cravings (“urge surfing”), as well as education & training about how to identify and skillfully change, or mindfully let be, mental processes like thought suppression, aversion, and attachment – all of which are theoretically and phenomenologically part of alcohol dependence and other forms of addiction.
  1. The Mindfulness Training for Smoking Cessation (MTSC) regimen includes regulating attention, cultivating an attitude of acceptance & non-judgment, and developing a specific set of meta-cognitive skills characterized by the ability to observe and discriminate one’s inner experience of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations with a sense of equanimity. Together, these core mindfulness skills and perspectives are expected to support smokers in quitting by helping them decrease avoidance, tolerate unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, and unlearn highly conditioned stimulus-response patterns by deliberately observing yet not reacting to impermanent feelings of stress or discomfort.

Achieving Balance In Life

Achieving balance in life really comes down to being in a good state of mind and body where you are able to focus on one aspect that requires your full attention at a time. Then, you’re more able to juggle all other aspects of life that are important to you. This is the opposite of a typical multi-tasking approach to getting things done that many of us take. Recent studies confirm that people who are the most effective and get the most important things done in a day—achieving outstanding results not just activity—use such a laser-like focus approach for task completion.

As priorities and circumstances change, your balance will also need a little tweaking. Our minds often put us into a more intense state of confusion and tension than actually we are in—thus heightening our feelings and perception of chaos. When we learn to relax, we can often make better decisions or realize that we have more choices in a situation than if we’re feeling under pressure. Meditation can help you adapt to new situations in your life by giving you the time and calmness to understand all aspects of that specific situation. Being objective or more specifically, not identifying with what is happening to you, can bring out the best in you.

So, it’s about being prepared to deal with the good and the bad times as they come. But also being open to learn as new situations test our views and comfort zones. In many ways, balance means growing and adapting.

Questions About Meditating In Recovery?

Meditation can really change the way we perceive life. It is not just about sitting for some amount of time with your eyes closed. There are a huge number of meditation techniques, and by experimenting, you can find what kind of meditation best fits your mind and body.

For any further questions or comments, please use the comments section below. We are happy to help you explore the meaning of meditation in addiction recovery or in life in general, by answering your questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources

PTSD: Mindfulness Practice in the Treatment of Traumatic Stress

NCBI: A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness as Complementary Therapies for Addiction

By Lee Weber