Can Mindfulness Meditation Help Recovery?

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What factors contribute to relapse when you’re in recovery? Availability of a substance certainly contributes. Difficulties in finding a job or a place to live may contribute to relapse. But what is the most common cause or factor that can trigger you to start using substances again? Stress. If you’ve ever relapsed or have been tempted to, it’s usually because there is some kind of extra stress in your life. That’s where meditation comes in and can help you cope.

What Kinds of Meditation Are There?

Maybe you’ve tried meditation before and found it difficult to sit still in the moment. Maybe you don’t think it will help. But studies have shown that meditation practice can be more effective than a treatment program for some people.

There are several different kinds of meditation, including guided and non-guided meditation. The former is where someone leads you in a live, group meditation or you might use an app for a guided meditation experience. Non-guided meditation is where you do it on your own. 

Some people engage in what’s known as a progressive body scan or progressive relaxation technique. That means they focus on consciously relaxing each muscle in their body in a progressive order. Others consider yoga a form of meditation that incorporates body movement with the mind. Still, others engage in spiritual meditation, such as Tibetan or Zen Buddhists, or even walking meditation. Meditation can involve visualization or trying to attain an emptiness of the mind.

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

The current trend in recovery focuses primarily on a practice known as Mindfulness Meditation. What is it? Mindfulness Meditation simply means sitting quietly and focusing on being in the moment. While the practice is simple, it’s not always easy, especially for beginners. Mindfulness meditation revolves around these five practices:

  • Be Present – focus on the present moment, not the future or past
  • Be Conscious of Your Breathing – focus on your breathing
  • Still Your Mind – clear your mind of worries
  • Let Intruding Thoughts Go – thoughts will come, but note them and let them go
  • Forget About Perfection – meditation takes practice

To start, find a comfortable, quiet space and focus on your breathing. It takes practice to just focus on that and not let thoughts intrude. You may find yourself thinking about what you need from the grocery store or appointments for the next week. When these thoughts arise, re-focus on your breathing. Let those mundane thoughts go and understand none of us are perfect–we all have intruding thoughts from time to time. Try to push these thoughts away and focus on breathing and staying in the present moment. It will get easier the more than you do it.

What Are the Benefits?

Mindfulness meditation can be beneficial to all of us, but it’s especially key to recovery for someone with substance abuse disorder and allows our brain time to rest from all the racing thoughts and stresses of the day. Normally, our minds jump from thought to thought all the time. Just as your body occasionally needs a break, so does your mind.

This technique can help you master emotions as well. When practiced regularly, meditation can help reduce stress, which we’ve already identified as a main contributor to relapse. One of the greatest things about mindfulness is it can work in conjunction with other programs or strategies in recovery.

How Does It Compare to Other Forms of Treatment?

A study by the University of Washington followed 286 people and divided them into three groups for their recovery. The three groups included a 12-Step program, a traditional substance abuse program, and mindfulness meditation. 

Guess which method was most effective? Not the 12-Step group or traditional treatment but mindfulness meditation. One year after treatment, the traditional treatment program had a relapse rate of 17 percent, which is pretty good. The 12-Step group did a little better with a 14 percent relapse rate. But only 9 percent of the mindfulness meditation group suffered a relapse. 

The results showed a greater contrast specific to alcohol use. While those in 12-Step programs and traditional treatment showed a 20 percent return to heavy drinking after a year, only 8 percent of people in the mindfulness program relapsed with alcohol use. These statistics make a compelling case for the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation that you can combine it with a 12-Step program or traditional forms of therapy.

For those with a substance abuse disorder, mindfulness meditation can be one of your greatest tools and you can carry that mindfulness into everyday life. We can’t change the past and worrying about the future is futile. Focusing on the present and allowing the mind to rest through meditation can not only reduce stress but can provide clarity about the behaviors that contribute to a substance abuse problem. One of the best things about mindfulness meditation is your ability to combine it with other programs such as 12-step or traditional treatment. It can supplement whatever treatment you chose or therapy techniques. Mindfulness is one of our treatment approaches at Everlast Recovery Center in Riverside, California. We offer detoxification, stabilization, and residential treatment services in a home-like atmosphere that supports you through that process and beyond with our aftercare programs. We also support your journey with holistic programs like yoga and meditation. To learn more, call Everlast Recovery Center at 866-DETOX-25

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