Because daily stress or highly stressful life events are associated with an increased risk of relapse, learning how to better manage our emotional states becomes an essential tool in recovery. Mastering the skill of meditation, using any number of various techniques, can significantly reduce stress levels.
Meditation is a holistic practice that allows you to reach a heightened state of mental awareness while also calming the body. During recovery, meditation is a versatile and highly effective coping tool to induce relaxation without a substance.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a form of mental exercise that has been practiced for thousands of years. It involves being intentionally focused on a mental image or visualization that leads to enhanced awareness and spiritual growth. According to the National Institutes of Health, the practice of meditation has increased more than three-fold from 2012-2017, an indication that people now embrace holistic health methods to improve physical and mental health.
To meditate, you should find a quiet indoor or outdoor spot where you can sit in a comfortable position. Using any one of the various techniques below, you will teach your mind to minimize random or distracting thoughts and focus instead on present awareness.
As a result of practicing meditation, your body will become very relaxed. This happens as the meditation process reduces blood pressure and slows the heart rate.
Benefits of Meditation
There are many documented benefits of the regular practice of meditation, including mental health benefits. Physical health benefits might include relief of symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and high blood pressure. In substance use recovery, there are several notable benefits, including:
- Reduced stress
- Better sleep quality
- Improved mental discipline
- Less anxiety
- Less depression
When we feel stressed or afraid, the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol and adrenaline, an effect known as the fight or flight response. In recovery, practicing meditation complements other continuing care actions by its ability to help us control these stress hormone levels.
Five Meditation Types
While the concept of meditation may seem simple, mastering the practice takes time and practice. There are also numerous forms of meditation to experiment with. Consider these popular types of meditation and find which one works best for you:
- Basic Meditation. Meditation in its purest form involves sitting comfortably in a quiet location with your eyes closed while focusing on your breathing. When your mind starts to wander, gently return your attention back to your breathing process.
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and at any time of day. It involves training the mind to focus on the present moment by drawing attention away from distracted thoughts that evoke negative emotions and instead toward the sensory experience of the here and now.
- Guided Meditation. To practice guided meditation, you will use a scripted program, usually from a mobile app or downloaded audio, in which a facilitator walks you through the mental imagery that incrementally induces relaxation.
- Focused Meditation. During focused meditation you will select an object, a sound, or your breathing to help you keep your mind from interrupting the goal of achieving an altered state of consciousness.
- Activity-Based Meditation. Movement-based meditation may involve simply walking while meditating, practicing tai chi, or qigong or even yoga. All of these combine physical movement with focused breathing.
Whichever type of meditation you enjoy is the one you should continue to practice. Incorporate your favorite type of meditation into your regular routine to keep your stress in check, and your recovery on track.
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 holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.