Meditation can be incorporated into addiction treatment programs and life in recovery to help people stay calm and cope with stress without relapsing.
Article at a Glance:
- Meditation is a mind-body practice that allows people to achieve a state of calmness and relaxation.
- Meditation can help people relieve stress and cope with triggers that might lead them to relapse and use drugs or alcohol again.
- A variety of meditation practices can be incorporated into an addiction treatment program.
Can Meditation Help You Beat Addiction?
The short answer: yes, meditation has been proven to support addiction recovery by helping you feel calm, cope with triggers and avoid relapse. While it does not replace a comprehensive addiction treatment program with professional medical support, meditation can be a valuable holistic tool. In fact, many rehabilitation facilities, including The Recovery Village, include meditation and mindfulness as therapy techniques. Whether you are still struggling with addiction, in treatment or many years sober, practicing meditation can have important benefits for your recovery.
What is Meditation?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation is a mind-body activity intended to promote calm and relaxation and help people cope with illnesses and improve well-being. It involves sitting comfortably in a quiet setting, focusing your attention and allowing thoughts and distractions to pass without assessing them. It generally involves deep and purposeful breathing.
Meditation can be guided or unguided. In guided meditation, you will work with a trained meditation or mental health professional. Unguided meditation is practiced on your own. There are apps available to assist you with unguided meditation.
What Kind of Meditation is Right for Me?
The best type of meditation for you will depend upon your preferences. If you enjoy being active, movement meditation might be a good choice for you. If you need to improve your focus and learn to identify body sensations, focused meditation might be suitable. Your treatment team can help you to select a type of meditation that will benefit your addiction recovery.
All meditation involves being mindful (or present in the moment), but mindfulness meditation emphasizes this. In mindfulness meditation, the person works to build his or her awareness of the current situation.
This type of meditation requires a person to examine thoughts, feelings, and experiences without labeling them as “good or bad” or “right or wrong.” The person allows sensations and thoughts to pass without judging them as they breathe deeply and rhythmically.
In spiritual meditation, the focus is on using silence to find your connection with God or the universe. It is commonly used in Hinduism, Daoism and Christianity. People often use essential oils, such as sage and frankincense, to heighten the experience.
In focused meditation, participants choose one of the five senses as the center point of meditation. For example, you may focus on the sound of a bell or the sight of a fire burning in the fireplace. Your mind may drift, but it is important to bring your focus back to which sense you’ve chosen to perceive.
Movement meditation involves gentle forms of moving, such as gardening or walking through the woods. Your focus is on steady, purposeful motion, and being present in your physical experience.
In mantra meditation, you would select a particular word or phrase and repeat it. This serves as an alternative to focusing on breathing. You can repeat the mantra loudly or quietly, and the repetition allows you to focus on the environment around you.
Transcendental meditation allows you to transcend above their current state by repeating a unique phrase or mantra. Often, a meditation instructor selects a mantra to allow you to achieve mindfulness and spiritual experience.
The Benefits of Meditation
Studies investigating the link between substance use and meditation are ongoing. Recent evidence found mindfulness-based interventions like meditation could reduce the consumption of alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines. Mindfulness practice may also reduce the risk of relapse, as it teaches the practitioner coping methods for discomfort such as drug cravings or the negative effects of substances.
Mental Health Benefits
Meditation also has a positive influence on people’s mental health. People who participate in meditation report:
- Lower levels of stress
- Less anxiety or worry
- Improved mood
- Increased feelings of calm and mental relaxation
Physical & Other Health Benefits
Recent studies by medical experts have found meditation can also support treatment for a variety of physical and mental health conditions like:
- High Blood Pressure
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Smoking Addiction
Meditation carries many other benefits. Although mindful meditation cannot cure cancer, studies have found it helps lung cancer and breast cancer patients deal with pain, stress, low self-esteem and fatigue. One study also found people with chronic pain who meditated were able to reduce their pain by up to 42%, which led to better sleep, improved mood and better activity levels.
How Meditation Can Help with Addiction
Drug and alcohol addiction can make it difficult for people to cope with everyday stressors without relapsing. Stress, anxiety, poor sleep, pain, depression and drug cravings are common complaints as people adjust to life without substances. These complaints can become triggers that lead to relapse. Multiple studies have found mindful meditation can reduce these symptoms. People who meditate may also feel more aware of their thoughts, less bothered by unpleasant experiences and better able to control their emotions.
Meditation can also help you deal with protracted withdrawal, which involves symptoms like anxiety, difficulty making decisions and strong drug cravings that last for several months after drug use is stopped. SAMHSA recommends that people find ways to exercise their minds and bodies to prevent themselves from relapsing during the protracted withdrawal phase. Meditation is an exercise for the mind.
Evidence on meditation’s effectiveness in addiction treatment has caused some addiction treatment centers to include it in their holistic offerings. One study found that meditation increased activity in brain areas associated with self-control among smokers. The study’s authors concluded that meditation could be useful for treating and preventing addiction.
Incorporating Meditation Into Recovery
Incorporating meditation into daily life can help you, whether you are days, months or years into recovery. You can start to reap the benefits of daily meditation as soon as you begin. To practice meditation for recovery, you can:
- Sign up for a yoga or meditation class
- Download a meditation app
- Breathe deeply
- Check in with the body to notice the sensations you experience
- Repeat positive thoughts
- Take a relaxing walk
- Concentrate on love, gratitude and happiness
If you’re in professional addiction treatment, you can consult with your care team to incorporate meditation into your treatment and even learn advanced skills. Building new skills does not happen quickly, so patience while learning and practicing this new coping technique is essential.
Seek Holistic Addiction Treatment That Includes Meditation
Effective, lifelong recovery starts by treating the whole person, not just the substance use disorder. This means treating the underlying mental health issues at the root of addiction and providing patients with tools they need for a healthier, more satisfying life.
At The Recovery Village, we offer a comprehensive addiction treatment program that includes holistic treatment options, including mindfulness meditation, recreational therapies, self-care activities, aftercare services and relapse prevention programs. Meditation is a valuable part of these services for interested clients. Contact The Recovery Village to learn about admissions, treatment options and how our programs can help you begin living a substance-free life.
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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Mindfulness meditation: A promising tool to help reduce chronic pain and opioid use.” May 11, 2017. Accessed September 20, 2020.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Mind and Body Approaches for Substance Use Disorders: What the Science Says.” April 2018. Accessed September 20, 2020.
Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Health Benefits: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, July 2004. Accessed September 20, 2020.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Protracted Withdrawal.” Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory, July 2010. Accessed September 20, 2020.
Tang, Y., Tang, R., & Posner, M.I. “Mindfulness Meditation Improves Emotion Regulation and Reduces Drug Abuse.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, June 2016. Accessed September 20, 2020.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.