It is no secret that addiction messes with your mind. This is because of the prolonged, excessive use of drugs and alcohol causes significant changes in the brain.
Mind-altering chemicals (like those found in alcohol or drugs like meth, cocaine, or opioids) disrupts the brain’s neurobiology for those afflicted with a substance use disorder. This affects the way neurons send, receive, and interpret messages. When your neurobiology is out of whack, it can feel virtually impossible to function as a healthy, well-adjusted human being.
If you are recovering from this disease, it can take months for your brain’s circuitry to return to a place of wellness. In fact, it can take a full year for the brain to fully heal itself and be restored to a place of total normalcy.
In the meantime, you might experience severe depression, extreme anxiety, dramatic moods swings, racing thoughts, obsessive-compulsive thought patterns, and other unpleasant after-effects during the healing process. (All while managing cravings and navigating triggers!)
Now for some good news – studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation can positively affect the brain during addiction recovery. Let’s go deeper.
What Is Mindfulness? How is It Beneficial Addiction Recovery?
There are countless definitions of mindfulness out there. And, if you set out in search of a definition, you might end up being more confused about it than when you started.
The truth is, this is not a complicated concept. However; it is difficult to describe with words. Most metaphysical concepts transcend human language and mindfulness is no exception! Nevertheless, in simple terms, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment. This is perhaps the best explanation available when discussing this blissful state of being.
The human mind is a tricky place. It bombards each one of us with an endless stream of “what if” thoughts and “shoulda, coulda, wouldas.” It manufactures uncomfortable emotions to go along with these thoughts. In early recovery, we can spend a lot of our thought life worrying about the future or feeling guilt and shame about the past. Mindfulness allows us to live in the moment, just for today and comes with many benefits.
One of the best ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life is to engage in a yoga routine. This ancient healing practice allows you to be fully present. It gives you the opportunity to orient your thinking toward mindfulness and the experience of being in touch with your body. It also calms the mind and quiets the incessant chattering of the recovering brain.
At Harbor Recovery Sober Living, we offer yoga and other mindfulness activities for our residents to aid in the process of addiction recovery.
Meditation and Addiction Recovery
Many people in early recovery feel intimidated by meditation. This is not uncommon. The idea of sitting alone, quietly with one’s own thoughts can be terrifying for some! However, working a 12-Step program ultimately incorporates meditation as a spiritual practice that is vital to ongoing sobriety. Research studies have shown that meditation aids in the process of addiction recovery in the following ways:
- Reduces stress
- Calms anxiety
- Lowers blood pressure
- Quiets the chattering of the mind
- Has lasting positive effects that continue long after meditation has ended
- Promotes mental clarity
- Enhances a sense of emotional well-being
- Lessens cravings and reduces withdrawal symptoms
- Produces healthy sleep
- Can create an overwhelming experience of serenity
Meditation, like mindfulness, is simple. It is really just about closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and focusing on inhaling and exhaling. You don’t have to read a book, go to a class, or seek the wisdom of a Zen master to enjoy meditation. You can do it right now. You don’t even need any special equipment.
The most difficult aspect of meditation in addiction recovery is sitting still, quietly, and allowing your thoughts to “do their thing.” It’s about letting go. Drug and alcohol addiction is about life in the fast lane, continuous movement and activity, and constant chaos. Meditation is the antidote to an addicted state of mind.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. You just have to do it. It gets much more comfortable with continued practice. Start with five minutes. Then try ten minutes. With time, you will find that you actually want to meditate for thirty minutes or longer because you enjoy it so much!
If you are new to meditation, you might benefit from experiencing a guided meditation in the beginning. You can find plenty of these on YouTube.
Get Mindful. Start Meditating. Improve Your Life.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation in addiction recovery will change your life. You will gain a new perspective on your inner world and respond differently to the world around you. This allows you to feel much more comfortable in your own skin. You will experience a deeper level of peace and a greater level of personal freedom.
Trying something new can sometimes feel overwhelming. However; when you are in recovery, you will have to try new things if you want to learn how to enjoy a sober lifestyle. After all – if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.
If you will make the commitment to start practicing mindfulness and incorporating meditation into your addiction recovery routine, you will be amazed at the results. You will begin to experience life in a whole new way. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or depression, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.