The recent trend toward a more holistic approach to alcohol and drug addiction recovery continues to gain traction. The concept behind this approach is the recognition that wellness is optimized when all aspects of the person—mind, body, and spirit—are in balance. Programs that acknowledge the importance of this crucial balance are equipping individuals with healthy coping tools, such as meditation, to help support recovery efforts.
Meditation is an ancient practice that involves the conscious choice to quiet the mind and tap into a deeper connection with the spiritual self. Meditation can be practiced through a variety of techniques, but each shares the common goal of cultivating a calm, peaceful mindset. In recovery, emotion regulation is essential, as stress can be a trigger for relapse. Meditation helps provide the skills to mitigate stress in a variety of ways. It costs nothing and can be practiced just about anywhere at any time.
3 Meditation Techniques to Use in Recovery
Meditation practice is all about individual preferences. Find the type of meditation that fits your personality for best results. To begin the practice of meditation, start small. Devote just a few quiet minutes a day until you work up to about 20 minutes. Here are three meditation styles to consider:
Rein in distracting negative or stressful thoughts and focus instead on the present sensory experience. For example, if you find yourself walking around feeling angry or stressed, stop and redirect attention to the smell of the eucalyptus tree, the bright yellow butterfly that crosses your path, the sound of the birds singing all the while paying attention to your breathing.
Find a quiet space where you can shut the door or to be alone in the outdoors. Find a comfortable sitting position. Close your eyes and take a few deep cleansing breaths. Focus on the breathing process. When your mind wanders, gently acknowledge the thought and guide your attention back to the breathing.
This type of meditation relies on an instructor that will guide you through the relaxation process. There are a variety of free downloads and phone apps that offer guided meditation through imagery described by the instructor. As you allow your mind to follow the visualization prompts, you gradually achieve a deeply relaxed state.
5 Benefits of Meditation
So, how does meditation assist people in recovery? There is actually scientific evidence that practicing meditation can have profound mental health benefits. These include:
1. Improves mood.
The meditation process activates the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which then releases endorphins and helps regulate neurotransmitters. This produces similar effects to the “runner’s high,” which occurs in the same way.
2. Reduces stress.
Stress is enemy number one in recovery. When the stress hormones are activated, practicing meditation helps to deflect the stress response and quiet the mind. This allows you to have a conscious choice in how you will react to the stressor, instead of an impulsive response.
3. Regulates emotions.
Meditation helps you get off the emotional roller coaster and smooth out some of those peaks and valleys experienced in recovery. It takes only a few minutes to focus on the breathing process and quiet the mind.
4. Promotes better sleep.
Once you learn the basics of meditation practice you can access it when you experience sleep difficulties. Using meditation techniques you can quiet the mind and the body, promoting overall calmness at bedtime.
5. Reduces relapse risk.
Meditation can help train the mind to observe thoughts, desires, and cravings without acting on them. While it is impossible to block disquieting thoughts, it is possible to choose not to respond to them.
All of these benefits are protective in substance use recovery. Add meditation to your aftercare activities to further solidify a sustained, healthy recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.