Prior to receiving addiction treatment, many people believe that abstinence is the ultimate goal of recovery. However, without achieving balance, inner peace, and an understanding of your self-worth, maintaining abstinence could prove near impossible. Addiction leads to significant changes in how the brain and body work.
Thus, after you’ve detoxed, you’ll need to spend time learning how to listen to yourself. You’ll also need to learn how to respond in positive ways to the different cues that your body sends. With prolonged substance abuse, people are conditioned to address their discomfort by getting intoxicated or high.
In addiction recovery, you’ll discover a vast range of tools for alleviating discomfort without turning to drugs or alcohol. One of these tools is meditation. It is an excellent practice for quieting the mind, tuning into yourself, and making calm, rational decisions.
You can use meditation to fully lean into your recovery by becoming more connected with yourself, and by muting negative and counterproductive thoughts. As you progress, this practice will help you become a better listener, and make you more thoughtful all-around.
With regular meditation, you’ll become more focused, and more in touch with the world around you. There are multiple ways to meditate, and each has the ability to quiet, center, and focus the mind. Best of all, the benefits of meditation can span across all areas of your life, and for decades after your formal addiction treatment has ended.
Is Meditation Good for Addiction?
Meditation can be an invaluable component of the recovery process. Once your body has stopped exhibiting the initial, physical symptoms of withdrawal, you’ll find yourself experiencing post-acute withdrawal symptoms or (PAWS). These largely psychological effects of abstinence can leave you feeling:
They are an indication that your brain is still struggling to heal from the effects of prolonged substance abuse. When you get high or intoxicated, your brain releases “feel good” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for the feelings of relaxation, relief, and euphoria that substance use often promotes.
Although these chemicals are naturally produced by your brain as part of its reward system, constantly triggering them disrupts their normal output. With addiction, many people eventually find that they are no longer able to experience feelings of relaxation and happiness without using substances.
It takes time for the body to resume its normal patterns, and for the brain to balance and normalize its reward pathway. As this portion of your healing occurs, you can use meditation to still your thoughts, counteract negative thoughts, and achieve a sense of rest and peace.
As a recovery tool, meditation has proven effective for combating PAWS on its own, and without requiring excessive use of supplementary medications. As such, it can be especially helpful for high-risk individuals in addiction recovery who have a history of misusing pain-relieving or mood-elevating medications.
Meditation for addiction recovery helps patients step outside of their discomfort so that they can apply their whole focus to their objectives. When entering group or personal therapy, you may find your mind racing with fears of where you’ll live after treatment. Or how you’ll resolve problems in your personal relationships, and what might happen with your job or career. Taking a few minutes to sit quietly and meditate will allow you to push these worries out of your mind. You can focus on the information being presented.
Types of Meditation for Addiction
With prolonged substance use, you’ve trained your brain and body to expect immediate pleasure, solutions, and rewards. Meditation is a critical tool for learning how to wait for the natural release of neurotransmitters, and how to achieve peace and happiness without them.
With regular efforts in meditation, when you feel discomfort, you can calm your angst or take the time to find a healthy, sustainable way of addressing it. Best of all, there are four types of meditation, and a way to meditate for every challenge and state of mind. These include:
- Moving meditation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Breathing meditation
- Water meditation
Have you ever taken a long walk to clear your head? This is actually movement meditation. When you engage in a focused and repetitive activity, your brain applies its full attention to coordinating your movements and keeping you safe. Cycling, running, rollerblading, and any other form of exercise are effective to this end. The type of movements that you make are less important than your brain activity while performing them.
During movement meditation, try to center your focus on a single aspect of your actions. This may include your feet hitting the pavement or the repetitive swing of your arms. This will in turn take your focus off of any emotional stress that you’re feeling.
Just as people take long walks to deal with stress, many also submerge themselves in hot baths or stand under hot showers for relief. This is water meditation and it relaxes the entire body and promotes a sense of calm. This form of meditation can be paired with breathwork (diaphragmatic or focused breathing), aromatherapy, or even scented candles. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to soothe your mind whenever you feel overwhelmed.
Mindfulness meditation draws your entire focus into the moment that you’re currently living in. You aren’t being mentally burdened by the shame or guilt of your past, or attacked by fear and anxiety concerning your future. When you are fully present in the moment, not only can you avoid these unnecessary and counterproductive feelings, but you can also completely enjoy the richness and fullness of life.
To practice mindfulness meditation, simply sit up straight while holding your hands in a relaxed position, shut your eyes, and remain still. Focus on your breathing and gradually let your thoughts of everything that lies behind and before you fall away.
Breathing meditation or breathwork is the most important form of meditation that you can use. You can perform breathing meditation anywhere. Unlike movement and water meditation, you don’t need a bicycle, a pair of running shoes or a bathtub to get started. Fully leaning into and experiencing your breathing will clear and center your thoughts.
Certain forms of breathing meditation can even alter your brain wave patterns and make other physiological changes that force an improved state of mind. For instance, deep, diaphragmatic breathing or breathing with the diaphragm has been shown to promote positive improvements in mood due to its impact on brain functions.
Incorporating Meditation Into Your Daily Routine
The more you practice meditation; the easier it will slip into a calm, meditative state. In fact, some people are so adept at meditating that they can quiet their thoughts even when they’re in loud, chaotic environments. Both during and after addiction treatment, meditation is a great way to start your day.
Try practicing mindfulness meditation early in the morning to tune in. Leave your cares about the past and future behind you, and truly appreciate all that the day has to offer. You can pair this with breathing meditation to put your brain into a relaxed focused state that supports both brain healing and your overall recovery.
Water and movement meditation can be used throughout the day to combat feelings of stress, fatigue, anger, and other negative emotions. When you feel empty, overwhelmed, or driven to use, you can jump into a hot bath, get out your skates or bicycle, or even go for a swim to beat the temptation. There are many ways to leverage meditation to kick-start your recovery and keep it on track.
At Recovery Bay Center, we offer a diverse range of mental health services, detox services, and addiction treatments. Our staff is skilled in teaching people how to meditate, and how to use meditation to achieve their wellness goals. If you’re ready to get on the path to lasting sobriety and to experience the benefits of meditation for yourself, we can help. Get in touch with us now by calling 833-991-2955 to learn more about our programs or to schedule a consultation appointment.