Why is meditation an effective part of an addiction treatment plan?

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woman practicing meditation with legs crossed
Drug addiction
The Hader Clinic
The Hader Clinic
April 14, 2020
minute read

Find out how meditation helps with addiction treatment

When someone is going through treatment for addiction, it can be a difficult time, both mentally and physically, as the body and mind adjust to a new way of living.

Many of the thoughts and feelings a person goes thorough as they recover are deeply unpleasant, and often take the form of anxiety, depression, and intense physical sensations.

Previously, the addicted person would use their substance of choice to avoid unpleasant emotions or sensations. However, when choosing treatment and recovery, unpleasant sensations must be experienced and allowed to exist without trying to push them away.

Meditation can be a powerful component to any addiction treatment plan. After all, getting clean is a messy business fraught with emotional and physical pain which needs to be dealt with a new and less destructive way. In this article we're going to explore how meditation helps with recovery, how to get started, and also answer some frequently asked questions about meditation.

The Hader Clinic includes meditation and yoga as part of a holistic treatment plan, alongside counselling and therapy, as a way to best tackle addiction. Find out more about our residential treatment and how we can help you or your loved one recover from addition.

Why meditation?

One of the things that many addicts suffer from is a racing mind. This racing mind is a throwback from our time when we had less security and needed to be hypervigilant for threats.

  • This so called 'monkey mind' catapults backwards and forwards through the past and the future, worrying endlessly about consequences and creating worst-case scenarios.
  • People suffering from drug and alcohol dependency often blame their use of substances on their racing mind, saying that they use because: “It shuts my head up”.

Finding new ways to deal with a racing mind is an absolute necessity for addiction recovery treatment, and the practice of meditation is just one of the tools that can be employed.

Meditation as part of holistic treatment

It has been shown that mindful meditation may help to promote self-awareness and self-regulation of drug-use, helping people to become more aware of how their automatic reactions impact on substance use. Meditation has been further shown to be a useful treatment for reducing substance misuse and cravings by altering the self-regulation and reward centres of the mind.

  • Meditation is a form of active therapy in that it requires you to participate in the activity and engage in self-regulation.
  • In many rehabilitation centres meditation is practised first thing in the morning to develop a habit of daily meditation.

When incorporating meditation into addiction counselling, you take a holistic approach to your treatment, with the knowledge that psychological balance and wellbeing are essential for effective treatment and recovery.

Why meditation helps to calm a racing mind

As addiction takes hold it limits the physical and mental resources you have to deal with the challenges of life, until using drugs and alcohol becomes your answer to everything — good or bad.

  • Successful addiction recovery treatment teaches a variety of life skills to replace unhealthy coping strategies and an assortment of alternative practices have proven to be very effective in helping to facilitate this.
  • Meditation is just one of the alternative practices which are highly useful in treating addiction.

Along with meditation, there are also other forms of active therapy used at The Hader Clinic to help with recovery. We offer sport and recreation programs, art therapy, and yoga all as a way to provide patients with optimum support and treatment.

How to get started with a meditation practice

Meditation is a very useful tool for dealing with scattered mental focus.  The core idea of meditation is to be in the moment with yourself, your body, and the sensations you feel. The breath is one of the most popular things to focus on and its rhythm and quality have important consequences for our mental and emotional state.

There are a number of excellent meditation apps which can be downloaded; here are but a couple:

  • Headspace - a paid app which comes with a free trial
  • Insight timer - a free app which offers more than 30,000 free guided sessions
  • Calm - a paid app with a 30-day free trial
  • Smiling Mind - a free app with hundreds of meditations
  • 10% Happier - a paid app with a 7-day free trial

These apps all provide guidance on how to get started with meditation and provide short, mid length, and longer meditation sessions for all ages and needs.

You can also engage in a simple meditation practice by sitting quietly, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath. Any time a thought comes into your mind you can note the thought and then bring your awareness back to your breath.

Frequently asked questions about meditation

Am I doing it wrong?

Many clients come to the office asking for more information about the art of meditation, and are very concerned that they are not doing it properly.

We always just let them know the key is to sit comfortably, concentrate on the rhythm of your breath entering and leaving the body; and that's it! You are meditating.

With time and training, you can focus the mind for longer and longer periods of time, but at first it will be hard and you'll struggle with your thoughts. When you start it’s going to seem difficult and unnatural but so long as you keep trying you are not doing it wrong.

How should I sit?

For many people, lying down is way too comfortable for meditation and they find that they fall asleep. We recommend sitting in a chair or on a cushion on the floor as a way to stay alert, but relaxed and comfortable.

How long do I have to meditate for so that it is effective?

Any period of time spent in meditation is time spent training your mind to focus on breathing. If you can, spend at least five minutes every day meditation, either first thing when you wake up, on your lunch break, on the train coming home, or at night before bed. Every little bit helps and you will find that the more you practice the easier it gets to focus.

Should I meditate with my eyes open or closed?

We recommend starting off with your eyes open as you settle into your seated position, and then gently close your eyes as you slip into your meditation. By keeping your eyes closed you are limiting external distractions and allowing yourself to focus on your breath.

Why does meditation help with addiction recovery?

Meditation helps give you the time and space to step back from your thoughts and your feelings, and realise that you are more than that. With practice you can watch your emotions come and go, as it becomes apparent that everything passes – both good and bad.

The simple practice of following the rhythm of your breath brings order to the chaos of the mind. This helps you to develop the skill of being able to observe stress from a different point of view; with more detachment.

Repetitive actions like meditation actually help to build new neural pathways in the brain allowing addicts to respond in a more healthy way to troubling emotions and stress.

Choose an addiction recovery program that includes meditation

If you are reading this article the likelihood is that you or someone you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol. Once you recognise that addiction causes you problems in life, you naturally want to do something about it.

Know that there is plenty of help out there and initially, you might consider joining a self-help group or signing up to see a counsellor. Inpatient rehab is another great option for effective treatment of addition and at the Hader Clinic, we incorporate both meditation and yoga into our program.

Our holistic approach to addiction treatment has been helping people get well and stay well since 1997. It is never too early or too late to seek help.

Whether you are a family member or a person with a substance abuse issue, you can call one of our experienced and friendly addiction specialists in Melbourne.

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