How Meditation is Helpful for Those in Addiction Recovery

Published by Joe Gilmore on

Mindfulness and meditative practices are becoming more mainstream across the world as people are recognizing the vast mental and physical health benefits associated with these exercises.

In fact, mindfulness has been shown to help improve cardiovascular health, reduce cognitive decline, improve the immune system, and reduce psychological pain. These are benefits which will help nearly anyone, but they may be even more beneficial to people in addiction recovery.

The use of meditative exercises in the addiction treatment industry has been growing over the last few years as many treatment centers and clinicians are recognizing mindfulness as a complementary form of treatment in the overall recovery process.

Meditation Defined

The most simple definition of mindfulness is: it is a term used to describe the mental state of being aware. More specifically, it helps people acknowledge and accept one’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions, essentially helping them become more comfortable in their own skin and feel more confident in daily situations.

Meditation for Mental Health

Freedom is a state of mind. Image courtesy of MENKAURE.

The use of mindfulness exercises like meditation have been shown to help with a number of problems regarding mental health. Specifically, it can improve symptoms of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety – two of the biggest mental health problems affecting those in addiction treatment.

Struggling with a mental health problem like depression or PTSD and a substance abuse problem is referred to as a dual diagnosis. Unfortunately, for those dealing with mental health disorders alongside their addiction, it makes the problem all the more difficult to solve.

In these situations, both problems need to be addressed in a dual diagnosis addiction treatment program, if you only take care of one a patient can easily relapse to the other. This is why meditation can prove to be such a powerful tool in recovery. While clinical programming, like therapy, will go a long way toward improving addiction and mental health related issues, meditation can go the extra mile to aid with these efforts.

Patients will learn meditative strategies to help them become more comfortable with themselves and confront their mental health disorders, coming out stronger on the other side.

Moreover, it will also help foster self-compassion, decrease self-criticism, promote more positive emotional responses, and more.

Mindfulness as a Relapse Prevention Tool

Never get discouraged. Even when a relapse happens. This is common and mindfulness trains this skill. Photo Courtesy of Ivan Radic

Along with improving problems related to mental health, mindfulness exercises can be a powerful tool used for relapse prevention efforts.

Relapse is a normal problem among people dealing with substance abuse issues. It is not uncommon for a person to experience a relapse to their addiction after going through a treatment program. It is important for patients to learn as many relapse prevention strategies as possible to give them the best chance for successful long-term recovery.

Oftentimes, when people leave addiction treatment programs they have a lot of free time with their newfound sobriety. During these stretches, it is common for someone to experience urges or cravings to use which can be overwhelming for some and lead to a relapse.

That said, learning strategies like mindfulness can provide patients an outlet to help them during these times. Meditation has been shown to help people reduce reactivity and repetitive negative thinking – both of which are problems which can lead to relapses in people who have struggled with addiction.

Meditation to Relieve Stress

Along with relapse prevention, meditation is a tool which can be used to help relieve a patient’s stress. Stress attacks in many different ways and unfortunately for those who are seeking help for an addiction related problem, stress may be one of the causes of their substance abuse in the first place.

Many people will begin using drugs or alcohol to deal with the stress which comes from professional or social struggles. They will use these substances as an escape and a way to get their mind off of these day-to-day problems.

Eventually, this substance use will get out of control and will evolve into a full-blown drug addiction or alcoholism. If a patient goes through a substance abuse treatment program and doesn’t learn different and effective ways to cope with these stresses, it will increase their chances of relapse.

Meditation is one positive coping mechanism which can be used to help those who are dealing with the stress of everyday life. In fact, there are certain subsets of mindfulness, including Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs which have been proven to help with mental disorders and reduce stress.

Learning to conquer stressful situations is vital if a person wants to conquer addiction.

Relax. Meditate. Enjoy the scenery. Photo courtesy of World’s Direction

Real-World Example of Mindfulness for Addiction Treatment

As meditation and mindfulness exercises have come more into the limelight, addiction treatment centers are following suit. One rehab in Arizona, The Hope House, is using these methods to help give patients additional tools to help them overcome addiction.

The Hope House has even partnered with Arizona State University to bring additional mindfulness and exercise programs to its facilities. By partnering with future clinicians, The Hope House remains on the cutting-edge of addiction treatment options.

Patients are guided through these programs with the help of trained clinicians and addiction experts. They are given the knowledge they need to continue with these strategies even after leaving the facility.

There is no doubting it: addiction is a hard thing to overcome. It is considered a disease and to get the best chance at recovery, a person needs to seek professional help like you would for any other disease.

During treatment, patients will develop as many tools and strategies as possible to help them win this fight, this can include meditation and mindfulness exercises. While this may seem foreign at first, learning these tools may be the difference between long, successful recovery and relapsing once more.

Meditation is more than just taking deep breaths. It can be the start of your new life.

Featured image courtesy of United Nations Photo.

Joe Gilmore

Joe Gilmore works for The Hope House, a drug and alcohol rehab in Scottsdale, Arizona, dedicated to providing patients with the highest quality care at an affordable price.