For most people coming into recovery, meditation is a four-letter word that they want no part in. The idea of sitting silently with their thoughts for any period of time sounds excruciating because their minds are awash with uncontrollable thoughts and guilt and shame that has built up from years of substance abuse. In fact, if you ask most people who are newly sober what they do in their car, or when they get home and they are alone, they will tell you that they blast music or instantly turn on the TV to blot out the thoughts in their head. Practicing meditation in recovery can help you learn to block out the negative thoughts instead of loud music or TV.
This is all understandable because after years of using substances in order to fight back against unwanted and intrusive thoughts, it cannot be expected that the mind will be cleared in a few days, weeks, or even months. Yet with that said, by practicing meditation in sobriety, especially in the beginning, an individual can begin to create space in their mind in which they can experience peace. While at first, it may be very difficult to sit for more than a minute or two without some form of stimulation to distract them, in time they will find just how beneficial practicing meditation in recovery can be.
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What is Meditation?
The practice of meditation goes back thousands of years, and some of the earliest written records of meditation date back to 1500 BCE in India. Meditation is defined as the “practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content.” In simpler terms, it is the practice of quieting the mind and minimizing thoughts. Breathing exercises are often times used in meditation in sobriety, where practitioners are encouraged to focus on their breath, so that they can lower their heart rate, allowing both mind and body to relax. There is no set amount of time that meditation needs to be practiced, as some people will meditate for a few minutes while other will do it for hours. On average most people who practice meditation will do so for about 10-20 minutes a day.
Benefits of Meditation in Recovery
Early recovery can be a very difficult time for many recovering addicts and alcoholics, as stress levels are high, emotions are all over the place and the ability to focus is minimal. If meditation is practiced it will help the individual’s ability to control and handle their emotions, which in turn can help improve their daily life and their overall sense of well-being. Daily meditation will not only help lower stress levels, but it will also help clear the mind, allowing an individual to think more freely and focus on certain tasks with greater ease. Meditation is not tied to any specific religion, but it can help with spirituality and connecting with a higher power.
There have been multiple studies done to help prove that meditation is beneficial to everyday life. These benefits are both physical and mental. Recent studies have proven that it can help reduce gray matter in the brain, which basically means that meditation in sobriety can help to reduce the aging process of the brain. This has been shown to help with both memory and decision-making.
Getting into a good routine with meditation can also help with many other aspects of your life, such as improved brain function and memory, greater inner calm throughout the day, reduced cortisol, normalized blood pressure, reduced insomnia, lower risk of heart attack/stroke and reduced anxiety and depression
Just a few minutes a day can do wonders, as “research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress.” Daily meditation will help you stay in a positive mood throughout the day, and it can help reduce the signs of aging and help you to manage stress much easier. You will notice an increase in your ability to concentrate, and it will also help with cardiovascular health and improve your immune system.
How to Practice Meditation in Recovery
Many people think that meditation takes years to learn, but that just isn’t true. In fact, many people who practice meditation will start feeling the benefits after just a few days. One can technically meditate anywhere, but for beginners, it is best to meditate in a comfortable area, with minimal distractions.
In order to start meditating, you should first find a place where you can sit or lay down and be comfortable—some people decide to sit on a pillow or use a meditation chair. Next, you have to decide if you want to meditate in silence or use soft music or guided imagery. If you are able to dim the lights it can make it easier to meditate. Once you have found a comfortable spot simply close your eyes. Focus on how you are breathing; try not to control the pattern of your breaths, just breathe freely. Now focus your attention on your breathing, notice how your body reacts and moves with each new breath. Focus on each individual part of your body, from your toes to your shoulders, to your head— notice how your breathing affects each part of your body different. You may notice your mind wandering a bit and this is normal. Just simply bring your attention back to your breathing. Try and do this for a few minutes, and as you get better at it, increase the amount of time that you dedicate to meditation.
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Are You or a Loved One Struggling?
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