When someone is in addiction recovery from alcohol and other drug use, employing a wide variety of skills and techniques is a great way to establish a well-rounded treatment plan. For many, adding mindfulness-based activities like meditation for addiction recovery can promote sobriety and overall well-being.
What is Mindful Meditation?
Meditation is an act that aims to connect the mind and the body. For thousands of years, people have practiced meditation to produce a calm, relaxed and peaceful mind while improving their physical health. Now, people use meditation for many physical and mental ailments or to improve their general health.
Though various styles appear differently, they will share similar elements including:
- A soothing environment with limited distractions and interruptions
- A comfortable position achieved by sitting, standing or lying down
- Focused attention to help liberate the mind from stress, worry and tension
- Calm and relaxed breathing to increase the oxygen supply in the body
- An open mind to accept thoughts without judgment
All meditation uses certain aspects of mindfulness to accomplish the benefits, but one style of meditation, called mindfulness meditation, places an additional emphasis on being mindful. In mindfulness meditation, the person works to build their awareness of the current situation and the present moment.
Someone using mindful meditation will attend to their current experience by noticing the thoughts in their mind and the breath in their body. They will observe these sensations without labeling them as “good or bad” or “right or wrong.”
Someone new to meditation may find that a guided mindful meditation is helpful and a good way to get started with a meditation practice. In a guided meditation, a guide (usually someone experienced in practicing or leading meditation) will lead the person through a mental visualization to tap into the smells, tastes, touches, sounds and sights linked to the imagined setting.
Though meditation techniques may vary, they all produce helpful effects. Even better, the positive influence of mindfulness lasts long after the meditation ends.
Benefits of Mindful Meditation
Through research, studies and experiments, mindful meditation has developed the reputation of providing many reaching advantages to those who practice it. The benefits of meditation include treating physical health conditions like:
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
- Ulcerative colitis
Meditation has a positive influence over mental health as well. People who participate in mediation report:
- Lower levels of stress
- Less anxiety
- Improved mood with fewer symptoms of depression
- Increased feelings of mental relaxation
Although mindful meditation cannot cure cancer, it may help with the pain, stress, low self-esteem and fatigue in people with lung cancer and breast cancer. One study also found people with chronic pain who meditated were able to reduce their pain by 42%, which led to better sleep, improved mood and better activity levels.
More studies investigating the link between addiction recovery and meditation are happening consistently. Evidence has been found to suggest that mindfulness-based interventions, like meditation, could reduce the consumption of substances like alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines and that 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.
Many studies show the helpfulness of meditation on nicotine addictions with people who meditate reporting:
- A quick reduction in smoking
- Fewer cravings for cigarettes
- Longer periods of abstinence
With all of these benefits of meditation, it is no surprise more people are meditating in the U.S. According to meditation statistics:
- From 2012 to 2017, the rate of adults using meditation more than tripled from 4.1% to 14.2%
- During the same period, the rate of kids using meditation moved from 0.6% to 5.4%
A compelling aspect of mindfulness is that even with all the benefits, there are very few risks. Meditation is free, convenient and effective, so there is nothing to stop someone from incorporating meditation into their life.
Incorporating Mindful Meditation Into Recovery
Meditation has many benefits for overall wellness and recovery. Incorporating daily meditation into life may be especially helpful for those in addiction recovery, no matter how much time they have away from substances.
Stress, anxiety, poor sleep, pain and depression are common complaints of people in recovery as they adjust to life without substances. Left untreated, these complaints can become triggers that spark cravings and lead to relapse. Fortunately, mindful meditation can reduce these symptoms.
Another beneficial feature of meditation is that it can integrate into almost any treatment plan a person is using. No one has to choose between medication, therapy, support groups and meditation. Meditation can always be used as a complementary treatment to supplement their other forms of treatment.
Not only will meditation not take away from other interventions, but it will improve the outcomes. With lower stress, a person can benefit more from professional and nonprofessional recovery activities.
You can start to reap the benefits of daily meditation as soon as you start meditating. To begin practicing meditation for recovery, you can:
- Sign up a yoga or meditation class
- Download a meditation app
- Breath deeply
- Check in with the body to notice the sensations
- Repeat positive thoughts
- Take a relaxing walk
- Concentrate on love, gratitude and happiness
Someone in professional treatment can consult with their treatment providers to learn more advanced skills. Just remember, building new skills does not happen quickly, so be patient while learning and practicing this new coping technique.
If you need additional support in recovery, consider contacting The Recovery Village. Our caring representatives can discuss your specific needs and goals and help you create a plan that keeps you on the road to your recovery.
Bazarko, Dawn. “Mindful Meditation: A Promising Tool to Help Reduce Chronic Pain and Opioid Use.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, May 11, 2017. Accessed June 13, 2019.
National Center for Complementary and integrative Health. “Meditation: In Depth.” April 2016. Accessed June 13, 2019.
National Center for Complementary and integrative Health. “Mind and Body Approaches for Substance Use Disorders: What the Science Says.” April 2018. Accessed June 17, 2019