The power of the mind should not be underestimated. For people recovering from alcohol or drug misuse, our minds have both the ability to keep us sober and also the power to throw us into a relapse.
In the early stages of addiction recovery, everyday life without the use of alcohol is daunting. Mindful meditation is a tool that anyone can use to gain peace, clear thoughts of using alcohol or drug use and even counter cravings.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Meditation is an ancient technique that focuses on the breath to quiet the mind and connect with the present moment. To be 'mindful' simply means to be aware of the present moment. Together, mindfulness meditation is simply sitting still, paying attention to the present moment and being aware of your emotions and thoughts as they occur.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindful meditation is a common Buddhist practice but it also helps in the addiction recovery journey as well. There are many benefits associated with this type of meditation:
- Decreased stress. You experience less stress by focusing on the present and rather than the past or future. A master meditator will simply observe thoughts and not allow them to control her negatively.
- Decreased anxiety. Deep breathing is a relaxation technique used in mindfulness meditation that reduces anxiety.
- Connection with your body. Your body communicates with you all the time. An ache or a negative emotion signals that something is not right. It is important to notice these warning signs as they occur so you can seek the appropriate remedy for the situation.
- Reduced pain and/or higher pain tolerance. According to a popular Buddhist metaphor, an arrow hits you, you will experience immediate pain. Then you will probably start experiencing panic in your mind, which is like a second arrow of pain. The “second arrow” is what makes the experience worse and that’s where meditation comes in. Learning how to manage your thoughts and breath can eliminate any extra pain.
- Reduced symptoms of depression. Gaining mastery over your thoughts can help you say goodbye to negative ones, in turn embracing the positives.
- Increased mental clarity. As you meditate, your thought life becomes less cloudy and confused. This allows you to become more confident in your decision-making moving forward.
- Decreased chance of relapse. When you feel appreciative of your present life and have emotional balance, you’re much less likely to pick up a drink.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Meditating every day doesn’t have to be intimidating. Start off with just a few minutes at a time and increase as you go. Success is measured by quality rather than quantity. Two to three minutes of silent sitting and focus on your breath is already a great start. Here's what to do:
- To begin, find a quiet spot to sit or lie down.
- Take three to four deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling, while focusing on relaxing every part of your body. Feel completely relaxed.
- Then, focus on your normal breathing pattern. Really feel the air coming in and out of your lungs. As you do this, your thought life should start to slow down.
- As random thoughts come up, as they are sure to do, acknowledge them in a nonjudgmental way and then let them go and return to focusing on the present moment. (You can focus on your breathing to bring you back to the present moment, or even to sounds in the room. Keep presence in mind. Be present right then and there.)
- Continue to observe the moment and as your mind wanders, bring it back.
Today, many guided mediation apps today are available to help you on your journey. Calm and Headspace are two popular ones and both offer mindfulness mediation. InsightLA Mediation also offers online courses in mindfulness. You can also do a Google search to find an in-person class in your neighborhood.
As you make mindful meditation part of your daily life, you will grow personally, mentally, and spiritually. Living without drugs or alcohol will also become easier as you feel more clear-headed, focused, and appreciative. Make a commitment today to practice mindfulness meditation and enjoy a higher quality of life.