“Connection is the opposite of addiction,” according to Johann Hari, “New York Times” best-selling author. Becoming better connected to your thoughts and feelings with meditation for substance use disorder can be helpful as you undergo comprehensive treatment.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is sitting still and noticing whatever comes into your mind without judgment. This means that instead of dwelling on these thoughts or feelings, you observe them and let them pass. Meditation was a religious practice once but has gone more mainstream. You don’t have to follow any particular religious tradition or be into “new age” practices to benefit from meditation.
Meditation therapy is a technique taught to individuals going through recovery treatment for substance use disorder or others wanting to improve their mental health.
While meditation is a calming practice, it is not inactive. On the contrary, by meditating, you increase your focus, concentration, and awareness by evoking a state of mindfulness.
During meditation, you focus on a sensory object — often breathing — while acknowledging and disengaging from your emotions. This focus leads to open monitoring. Monitoring is an awareness characterized by attentive and nonjudgmental monitoring of feelings, emotions, sensations, and perceptions.
Meditation doesn’t replace comprehensive treatment, but it can be a valuable holistic tool as you heal. It’s a behavioral strategy to strengthen the areas of your brain hijacked by addiction.
Benefits of Meditation for Substance Use Disorder
There are many benefits of meditation for substance use disorder. The goal of meditation is to develop a habit called “trait mindfulness.” Trait mindfulness is the tendency to exhibit mindful qualities in daily life. Those with trait mindfulness become non-reactive to distressing thoughts and emotions. Instead, you simply observe your momentary thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations, then let them go. This ability can help you to better identify and cope with triggering substances and experiences.
Helps with Cravings and Triggers
People who practice meditation are less likely to relapse than those who don’t. This is because you can use mindfulness to create an awareness of when cues trigger substance use habits. Therefore, meditation provides greater control of cravings, avoidance of triggers, and reduces cravings.
Stress can cause changes in the brain like those caused by addictive substances. Some people who experience stress may be more vulnerable to substance use disorder. Those with substance use disorder may be hypersensitive to stress.
Meditation can relieve stress and give you a sense of deep calm, peace, and balance. By focusing your attention and eliminating the jumbled thoughts crowding your mind, you can breathe easier and regulate your heart rate. Meditation lowers levels of your body’s stress hormones.
Lengthens Attention Span
Issues with attention span and memory loss often occur in those with substance abuse disorder.
Substance use floods the brain with chemicals that interfere with regular brain function. These chemicals can lead to a shortened attention span and memory.
Meditation can help boost your attention span — even without a long-term commitment to the practice. Even brief meditation sessions can have a demonstrable effect on improving attention spans.
Reduces Withdrawal Symptoms
It’s typical for those with a substance use disorder to experience withdrawal symptoms. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms are when symptoms last for months or sometimes up to a year. These symptoms are primarily psychological and mood-related. But they can be uncomfortable and make you feel like you’re out of control. They also can put a person at risk of relapse. As a result, people return to substance use in an attempt to stop the discomfort.
Meditation helps alter brainwaves, which contributes to improved psychological function and cortisol reduction. Mindfulness reduces fear and increases motivation and motor control.
Helps with Insomnia
Difficulty sleeping is one of the most common complaints among those with a substance use disorder. Insomnia can persist for months or even years, despite continued abstinence.
While it’s not guaranteed to improve your rest immediately, experts say meditation provokes brain changes that positively impact sleep. Therefore people who meditate get more restful sleep and experience fewer nighttime awakenings.
Dopamine is an important chemical messenger to the brain. When the brain releases dopamine in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward and motivates you to repeat a behavior. Conversely, low dopamine levels are linked to reduced motivation and decreased enthusiasm for things that were once exciting.
Those with substance use disorder seek out dopamine or “feel-good chemicals,” which meditation releases. Substance use causes the brain to shut down dopamine receptors. Meditation boosts dopamine, helping improve mood.
Meditation for Substance Use Disorder at ILC
Substance use disorder is a severe and life-threatening disorder that requires professional treatment. Integrative Life Center is a nationally recognized treatment center for mental health and substance use disorders. Here, you can reclaim the life that you need and deserve. You can participate in an addiction treatment that treats causes, not symptoms.
Contact ILC today to talk with a specialist about how meditation can complement your comprehensive treatment program.