In addition to using relapse prevention techniques, individuals in addiction recovery can improve their mental and physical health by including meditation in their recovery program. Research indicates that recovering addicts who engage in meditation and mindfulness practices gain better cognitive control and understanding of past habits related to their addiction. Studies also show meditation significantly improves working memory and decision-making skills, in recovering addicts.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is focusing your thoughts and attention on just one idea, such as an image, a word, or a symbol, that you find calming and satisfying. Concentrating on the object of your choice removes all the “clutter” from your mind–negative thoughts about yourself, worrying about things that may or may not happen–so that you eventually feel calmer, more in control of your situation, and detached from the stress of living day-to-day.
Frequently incorporated into mental health treatment, meditation is now often taught by addiction counselors to patients in recovery. Similar to mindfulness, a Buddhist-type perspective that advocates for non-resistance and acceptance of occurrences that are beyond our control, meditation emphasizes the priority of focusing on the here and now, not the past or the future. Meditating in recovery nourishes that sense of self and meaning a substance abuser lost while addicted to drugs or alcohol. When done regularly, meditation can help control cravings and stabilize erratic moods and emotions that threaten to undermine recovery.
Meditation and Reducing Stress in Recovery
Patients in recovery at Baystate Recovery Center report feeling anxious and stressed once they complete their addiction treatment program. What will happen now that they are sober? Will they be able to handle what life throws at them?
During treatment, patients learn how the brain and body influence each other’s health. Allowing the mind to constantly dwell on negative thoughts puts stress on your psychological condition and your physiological systems as well–increased breathing, rapid heart rate, spiking blood pressure. Uncontrolled anxiety and stress make it impossible for people in recovery to stop, take a deep breath, and think about a triggering situation rationally.
Deep, rhythmic breathing while meditating enhances relaxation by expanding your lung’s air pathways and diaphragm muscle. Deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce significantly the release of adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones involved in feeling anxious and stressed. Learn more about deep breathing exercises here.
Meditation and Addiction Recovery: The Bottom Line
Addicts know that relief from negative thoughts and overwhelming anxiety is only a pill, injection, or drink away. The fact that addictive substances can provide such powerful and immediate detachment from the unpleasantness of life is what makes a recovery and abstinence for the addict so hard to achieve and sustain.
Meditating at least once a day gets you in the habit of stopping a knee-jerk reaction to a triggering situation by realizing that obsessing over one thought does not warrant your complete attention. Meditation helps you understand that thoughts can be ignored until they disappear or thoughts can be examined objectively to determine what they really mean. The fundamental self-transformation a recovering addict experiences from meditating can make all the difference in living the sober, satisfying life they deserve to live.
For information about addiction treatment and recovery programs, please call Baystate Recovery Center today for immediate assistance.