Since addiction is a biological disease that is in direct connection with mental health, it makes sense that a practice like mindful meditation can be useful when working through substance abuse. But how does it really help?
Meditation and mindfulness have been proven to be effective in addiction recovery. In an article from Psychology Today, Dr. Ronald Alexander explains that “mindfulness meditation practice is this process of creating new neural networks for self-observation, optimism, and well-being…As a result, our self-awareness and mood stability increase as our harsh judgments of others and ourselves decrease.” Essentially all of these benefits from an overarching result: improved self-awareness. The rewards of self-awareness are countless, but here are a few specific ones that can lead to significant power over addiction.
6 Addiction-Specific Meditation Benefits:
- Improved Self Control
Another Psychology Today article by Dr. Adi Jaffe explains how mindfulness can lead to improved self-control: “…by increasing your ability to accept and tolerate the present moment, you become more able to make needed changes in your life.”Acknowledging that you cannot fight addiction solely through willpower can lead you to seek help from an addiction recovery center like the Aviary. This letting-go process is crucial to addiction recovery because, paradoxically, seeking help is the first step towards gaining control over your addiction.
- Improved Self Confidence
As Dr. Alexander mentions, meditation can lead to self-observation and optimism: a recipe for improved self-confidence! While mindfulness helps to develop a clear and positive perspective toward yourself and others, it can also improve how you view your addiction.For many people, addiction can be traced back to trying to fulfill or fix a need that feels lacking. Dr. Alexander describes this as the “wanting mind” and explains how meditation “helps us develop the capacity to see clearly exactly what we’re attached to so that we can let go of it and end our suffering.” Healing these inner parts of ourselves can greatly improve how we view ourselves as a whole.
- Improved Mental Health (Anxiety, Insomnia, Depression, etc.)
According to both articles, meditation has been proven to also assist in fighting other mental illnesses that often underlie addiction. Just as the Aviary uses a comprehensive treatment approach that treats both psychological issues and addiction recovery, so does meditation aid in conquering mental illnesses and addiction.
- Enhanced Patience and Acceptance:
Recovery is a process that requires patience and self-acceptance. Meditation cultivates these qualities, allowing individuals to embrace the journey of recovery without being too harsh on themselves for setbacks or mistakes.
- Strengthening Support Networks:
Group meditation sessions or retreats can foster a sense of camaraderie and shared experience among individuals in recovery, creating a supportive network that encourages each other’s progress.
- Mindfulness in Relapse Prevention:
Mindfulness, often cultivated through meditation, plays a crucial role in relapse prevention. It helps individuals stay attuned to their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, making it easier to recognize early warning signs of potential relapse and intervene effectively.
6 Tips for Meditating:
- You Can’t Force It
You cannot force meditation. It is not a challenge that can be muscled through and then dropped once you have been given the reward. It is the opposite: meditation is about letting go of that “action reward” mindset and being aware of the process, the journey. This process-oriented mindset is difficult to achieve because it is not how our society functions; developing a meditation practice takes time, practice, and patience with yourself.While it is not all about the reward, one advantage of mastering a process-oriented mindset is that it can also be applied to the addiction recovery process. Focusing solely on the “reward” of sobriety might keep you from taking the time to deal with any emotional trauma that might have contributed to your addiction. Looking at recovery as a process helps you understand that it’s never over, that it requires attention to all areas of your health.
- It Will Not Be a Waste of Time
Even if after finishing a thirty minute meditation video, you do not feel more self-aware or in control of your addiction, the time spent listening to the guide was not a waste. Taking thirty minutes out of your day to deeply breathe, check in with yourself, and relax is extremely valuable to your physical health–even if you do not feel immediate emotional improvement, your body will be grateful.
- The Hardest Part is Starting
Knowing that these mental benefits take time and patience can make mindfulness feel like a task, but dwelling on that will simply make the entire process less successful. The hardest part about meditation is choosing to set aside some time to work on yourself simply for the process, and not because of the reward.
- Be Patient with Your Mind
It’s normal for your mind to wander during meditation. When you notice your thoughts drifting, gently and non-judgmentally bring your focus back to your breath or chosen point of concentration.
- Let Go of Expectations
Meditation is not about achieving a particular outcome or experience. Let go of any preconceived notions or goals, and simply observe what arises during the practice.
- Explore Different Techniques
There are various meditation techniques, such as mindfulness, loving-kindness, body scan, and visualization. Experiment with different methods to find what resonates best with you.
Three Guided Meditation Suggestions:
1. Guided Mindfulness Meditation for the Morning: Starting the Day (15 minutes)
If meditation is a new concept for you or sounds like a daunting task, this guide could be a nice place to start. It’s short, calming, and could put you in the right mindset to conquer the obstacles and temptations that you face throughout the day.
2. Before Sleep | Beginners Spoken Guided Meditation | Chakra Alignment |How to Chakra Balance
Sleep is critical to getting through everyday life, and even more so for getting through something as physically and mentally strenuous as addiction recovery. Many people turn to sedative substances in order to calm anxiety or fall asleep, but this thirty minute meditation could be a more natural, safe, and healing alternative.
I have used this meditation guide myself but I have never listened to the whole video because I always fall asleep before it ends; this is impressive because it usually takes me longer than thirty minutes to really relax and fall asleep.
3. Spoken Meditation for Addiction: Help for Substance, Gambling, Alcohol, drugs, depression, asmr
This guide has an abundance of views and positive feedback in the comments. Some of the honest and personal reviews encouraged adding meditation to the addiction recovery process. Christy King9 said “I noticed that you chose your words very carefully and your unbiased concern really came through.” Lisa Sheehan1 said: “I gave up smoking…nearly 4 years ago now, and it was a challenging and painful experience. If ONLY I’d known of you back then. This meditation would have eased the path to freedom.”
Remember that meditation is not a substitute for comprehensive addiction treatment, but it can be a valuable complement to a holistic recovery plan. For individuals seeking to incorporate meditation into their recovery process, it’s advisable to work with professionals experienced in both meditation practices and addiction recovery to tailor the approach to individual needs and circumstances.