Using Meditation for Recovery
Addiction involves both the mind and the body.
That’s why treating addiction is never simple. If only the physical aspect of addiction is addressed and not the underlying emotional and mental issues, recovery will not be successful. If only the mind is treated, and not the body, that’s not good either. The best way to fight addiction is to fight it physically and mentally—which is why meditation can be a useful resource.
Meditation has a plethora of health benefits, including:
- Improved concentration
- Better self-awareness
- Reduced stress
- Better cardiovascular and immune health
- Possibly slowed aging
- Reduced loneliness and increased interest in social interaction
- Increased brain volume and memory retention
- Decreased inflammation
- Decreased depression
- A wiser perspective on life
Many of these benefits of meditation are useful for those who struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. Meditation can give better coping mechanisms, reduce stress that can trigger substance abuse, help connect the body to the mind, and overall lead to a healthier lifestyle.
For more information, check out Psychology Today’s post about how meditation can help addiction.
If you’re new to meditation, here are a few easy exercises to bring mindfulness into your life:
One Minute Breathing Exercise for Relaxation
This quick meditation quickly lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. All you have to do is close your eyes and take a deep breath. Count to five. Exhale and imagine the air moving from your lungs, to your throat, and out your mouth and nostrils. Imagine the air, along with your stress, leaving your body and floating away. Then repeat five times.
The one minute breathing exercise is great for stressful situations that you unexpectedly find yourself in, such as road rage, waiting for an important meeting, or anytime you feel panicked or stressed. Unexpected moments of stress can lead us back to old, unhealthy habits. If you have a history of drug or alcohol addiction, one minute of intentional breathing can calm you down, ground you, and help you address a situation more healthily.
Body Scan Meditation
Start in a sitting or lying down position. Take a few slow breaths. Start with the left toe and bring awareness to your toe. Take a couple breaths. Then move your awareness slowly upward, to your left foot, then left ankle, calf, knee, thigh, and hip. Then repeat with your right side. Next continue up your pelvis to your stomach, chest, neck, arms, hands, neck, mouth, nose, eyes, head, etc. until you have brought awareness to your entire body.
Use the body scan meditation to learn to become more connected to your body. It is also a useful exercise at the end of a long day or to help you fall asleep.
Bringing the World into Focus Meditation
Start with a few deep breaths. Once you feel like you are grounded in your breaths, focus on what you feel around you. What is your body touching? Does it feel hard/soft? Focus on the parts of your body that meet the ground. Is the air around you hot or cold? Next broaden your awareness further by focusing on what you hear around you. Focus first on the sounds that are close—maybe a cricket that is ten feet away. Then focus on sounds that are further away—maybe cars from a highway. Next, reverse the process and focuses on the world close to you. Then come back to yourself and focus on your breath.
This meditation is great for when you feel out of control or unsure of your place in the world. It realigns you and reminds you of what is out in the world and where your body and mind are in it.
These exercises are aimed for beginners who are looking for easy ways to bring meditation into their busy lives. These exercises are especially focused on connecting the mind to the body, since those in recovery often turn to substances to disconnect the mind from the body.
For a more information on meditation, check out the New York Time’s guide with guided meditations. There are so many resources online about meditation, including apps that can be downloaded on your phone.
Tips for beginning meditation:
- If you have a hard time concentrating, try lighting a candle and focusing on the light when you meditate. Having something to concentrate on can help.
- Visualize your breath as it moves through your respiratory system. Imagine it has a color, or imagine it floating away from your mouth.
- Find a mantra and repeat it over and over out loud while you meditate. It will help keep you focused. The most well-known mantra is “om” and there are many ancient Sanskrit mantras. But you can also pick an English phrase to repeat over and over such as “I am enough” or “I am exactly where I need to be right now” or “I change my thoughts, I change my world.”
At Victory Addiction Recovery Center, the physicians and licensed counselors believe in a holistic approach to recovery—meaning that they treat the body as well as the mind. If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, Victory can help you implement healthier steps towards a recovery that works for you.
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