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Holistic Addiction Treatment: Meditation

Meditation is one of the best holistic treatments for promoting mindfulness, self-awareness, and mental, spiritual, and physical health. Many studies have been conducted on the benefits of meditation on different diseases and disorders, among them the issue of addiction. This method, which has been used for thousands of years, can often help individuals dealing with cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and the other consequences of addictive behavior.

What is Meditation?

meditation in recovery

Meditation helps people control cravings, reduce impulsiveness, and promotes relaxation and self-awareness in addiction recovery.

As stated by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.” The practice has been used in different ways by different groups, cultures, and religions, as well as for the purposes of health.

There are four main elements of meditation, which are usually shared by all the different types of the practice. These include:

  • Comfort: Being in a comfortable position, casual clothes, and sometimes, even stretching your abilities through movement
  • Quiet: A calm, quiet atmosphere that minimizes the possibility for distraction
  • Openness: An attitude of acceptance and openness toward whatever you see or experience during your meditation and the ability to “let… distractions come and go naturally without judging them”
  • Focus: The use of a certain word, item, or focal point in order to allow you to concentrate on the task at hand

One of the most important benefits of meditation is mindfulness, or a complete sense of self-awareness and the ability to recognize one’s own thoughts and feelings without judgment. It can take time to truly hone one’s skills in the practice of meditation, but once you have, the benefits can be immense.

Is Meditation Beneficial for Addiction Recovery?

It is understood that meditation can have both physical and psychological advantages for an individual and that these benefits could help in minimizing the issues experienced during addiction recovery. Some of the possible benefits are listed below:

  • As stated by the NCCIH, “Some research suggests that meditation may physically change the brain.” Addictive substances often have this effect as well, but while they have negative effects on the brain, its development, and its abilities, meditation has been shown to have positive effects, such as possibly strengthening a person’s ability to empathize, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and improve an individual’s ability to deal with stressful feelings and situations. These issues in particular often lead to substance abuse, and the use of meditation can help an individual manage these feelings, which often occur with or lead to stress.
  • The teaching of mindfulness helps individuals have better control over their actions, allowing them to avoid the possibility of dangerous or unhealthy behavior more easily because they are more aware of triggers and cravings. They also learn how to avoid passing judgment on themselves for feeling these feelings and how to calmly decide to think about something else, reducing the chance of relapse.
  • According to a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a certain type of meditation called mindfulness-based stress reduction “may have an effect on subclinical mood and anxiety symptoms.” Feelings of depression and anxiety have been known to influence an individual’s tendency toward drug abuse, and this method could be helpful in minimizing the former issues to help a person avoid the latter.
  • Some meditative practices, such as yoga, involve movement and allow practicing individuals to exercise in addition to meditating. Exercise therapy has been proven to be extremely effective for individuals coping with addiction, and especially gentle programs have been known to be helpful in building a person’s strength back after drug abuse has diminished it.

Meditation has also been known to help many individuals in ways conventional medicine cannot. Many treatments, such as behavioral therapies and the use of pharmaceuticals, have been found to be very effective over a large number of studies, but holistic treatments like meditation can “provide an opportunity for patients to express thoughts and feelings” they otherwise might not have been able to (NCBI).

Why Do People Choose Meditation for Addiction Treatment?

This method is popular mostly because it is safe, soothing, and does not require insurance in order to practice. In some rehabilitation centers, meditation classes are offered, but you can attend low-cost or even free classes in your area that could present you with many of the same advantages as more expensive classes. And, as long as you understand the principles of meditation and what you are trying to accomplish, it can also be done alone.

What are the Drawbacks of Meditation for Addiction Treatment?

For the most part, there are none. Meditation can often be done in a way that is safe for anyone, even those whose movement is limited. However, this treatment is not guaranteed to be effective for every person. But because meditation causes no known side effects, there is no harm in trying it to see if it benefits you.

What is the Best Way to Use Meditation for Addiction Treatment?

Meditation should be implemented as a part of your overall treatment, not utilized as your sole rehabilitation effort. Holistic approaches can be very helpful for addiction syndromes and their side effects, but they cannot always help with every issue you will be facing in recovery. Therefore, you can follow these steps to ensure that you are using meditation for addiction recovery in the best way.

  • Talk to your doctor about the benefits of meditation and how it may help you to implement the practice into your treatment program.
  • Make sure that you are physically and psychologically healthy enough to participate in the practice and that you choose a meditation type that reflects your current abilities.
  • Start out slow.
  • Do not push yourself into poses or to concentrate harder but be open to all the possibilities the practice may bring.

According to the first study on the practice’s effect on individuals living with addiction, “Meditation’s mechanisms of action indicate a potential role in facilitating cue extinction, attenuating cravings, reducing maladaptive and compulsive behaviors, and promoting healthier and more resilient choices.” With these benefits, meditation can be a very helpful practice to those going through recovery and especially as a holistic element of a full treatment program.

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