As meditation has become more widely taught and practiced in the U.S. over the last decade, it has become a valued tool for addiction recovery. When cravings for drugs or alcohol arise, or when stress starts to overwhelm, meditation provides an opportunity to focus and turn inward. By giving attention to just one thing – the breath, a religious image, an affirming word or phrase, etc. – you can calm the body and mind, making it easier to face life’s challenges.
As one Olympic athlete explains: meditation is not necessarily about sitting cross-legged on a mountaintop in silence for hours at a time. Meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness has everything to do with seeing our thoughts and feelings for what they are: temporary. When we can get distance from our thoughts and feelings, we can choose how we react to them. Mindfulness gives us control over how we feel, how much stress affects us, and how we approach a difficult situation.
Another facet of mindfulness is self-awareness, a skill conducive to addiction recovery. Being self-aware means recognizing the thoughts and feelings that drive your behavior and whether they align with your values. Self-awareness boosts creativity and confidence; decision-making; relationships; and our ability to communicate our needs more effectively. Practicing meditation strengthens mindfulness and thus builds self-awareness. This makes us less likely to falter in the face of temptation and less likely to lie to ourselves and to others.
The Two Types of Self-Awareness That Meditation Bolsters
There are two types of self-awareness: internal and external.
Internal awareness means knowing what interests us, how well our different environments jive with these interests, the patterns of our emotional reactions, and the consequences of our behaviors on others. When our internal self-awareness skills are strong, we’re more in control and we combat anxiety, stress, and depression better.
When we’re exercising external awareness, we see clearly others’ interests, inherent value, how well they’re doing in their environment, their emotions, and the consequences of their behavior on us and others. This makes us much more savvy in navigating our day-to-day lives, managing triggers and cravings, and knowing when we and others have reached a limit.
Researched-Based Benefits of Meditation
In addition to promoting control over cravings and bolstering self-awareness, meditation has many more well documented benefits. Check them out!
- Reduces Pain
In heightened states of stress or anxiety, it’s common to experience higher levels of pain and discomfort. Because meditation works directly to quell stress and anxiety, it can indirectly decrease perceived pain.
- Increases Attention Span
Meditation is an excellent exercise for your attention-span muscle. It gives you the opportunity to detect and momentarily pause mind-wandering, worrying, and loss of focus.
- Reduces Anxiety and Depression
While it doesn’t cure anxiety permanently, it’s proven that meditation helps control anxiety and depression symptoms by encouraging positive self-talk, among other things.
- Potentially Reduces Age-Related Memory Loss
Certain kinds of meditation, like Kirtan Kriya, are proven to increase neuropsychological performance in the elderly. Additionally, many forms of meditation boost memory and mental processing speed.
- Promotes Kindness
Specific meditative approaches teach you to speak kindly to yourself. WIth regular practice, this internal kindness may be eventually channeled outwards toward others, enhancing your ability to foster strong bonds in sobriety.
- Improves Sleep Quality
A documented study shows that people who participated in a mindfulness-centered meditation program stayed asleep longer and experienced less severe insomnia, a common struggle for many undergoing substance abuse treatment.
Learn More About Meditation and Mindfulness with St. Gregory Recovery Center in Iowa
Meditation is highly accessible to anyone anywhere. Contact us today to learn how pairing meditation with nutrition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and adopting a virtuous lifestyle can enrich your recovery experience!