Meditation and mindfulness have become popular topics, promoted for their stress-reducing benefits. For people in recovery from a substance use disorder, meditation acts as a tool for managing complex thoughts and feelings. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found that mindfulness training improves outcomes for people treated for substance use disorders. The terms “meditation” and “mindfulness” often get used interchangeably, even though they mean somewhat different things. Mindfulness meditation is a popular type of meditation practice. This form of meditation has become very popular, but any type of meditation can have mental and physical benefits.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation usually means practicing awareness and focus, allowing thoughts to pass through without paying too much attention to them, and cultivating a sense of peace. However, different types of meditation may define it differently. Some of the most common types of meditation include:
- Mindfulness Meditation: This type of meditation focuses on being present in the moment, letting thoughts move on without responding with emotion or attention. Mindfulness means focusing the attention and senses on the experiences of a present moment and being fully aware. People can practice mindfulness during any activity at any time, from walking to eating to repairing broken plumbing.
- Loving-Kindness Meditation: This form of meditation cultivates a peaceful acceptance, kindness, and non-judgment of oneself and others. This type of meditation often finds its way into other practices rather than being the sole focus. By learning to accept and feel kindness toward others, people learn to accept and cultivate kind, loving feelings towards themselves.
- Body Scanning Meditation: Also called progressive relaxation, this form of meditation asks the person to move through the body, identifying physical sensations and relaxing groups of muscles. Because many people carry tension throughout the body that they do not realize they have, body scanning can help people discover where they physically carry the most tension when distressed.
- Transcendental Meditation: Made famous by several gurus, this highly structured form of meditation gives a person special words or phrases to repeat during meditation. Images of people in robes and lotus positions chanting “ommm” probably come from this practice. Some people benefit from the structure and intensity of this practice, but those considering it should research the requirements.
- Visualization Meditation: Often guided, this meditation technique asks the person to visualize positive, pleasant scenes or experiences, making them as vivid as possible and using these scenes as a moment of escape when stressed or upset. This type of meditation appears in many sleep stories and other guided meditations designed to help people achieve a specific mental or emotional goal.
- Religious or Spiritual Meditation: People use meditation as a tool to feel closer to or find a connection with a deity, higher power, or other universal forces. These meditations may, but do not have to, involve rituals or props like candles or symbols. People of many religions and belief systems practice some form of meditation for this purpose.
Why Is Meditation Important in Recovery?
The SMART Recovery program advocates both meditation and mindfulness as critical tools in anyone’s recovery toolkit. What makes these practices so effective in helping people during recovery? Anyone can benefit from the centering, awareness-enhancing techniques of mindfulness meditation, although there is no wrong way to meditate. However, mindfulness meditation has shown unique benefits for people with substance use disorders, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse has found. Mindfulness meditation also finds a place in many types of mental health therapy, including dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
The Partnership to End Addiction reports that several studies found a significant decrease in relapse rates for people who received mindfulness meditation training with treatment, better than 12-Step or traditional types of programs without this training. Why has mindfulness meditation been referenced so often in studies and used so often in different kinds of therapy? It has several benefits over other types of meditation for this purpose:
- No religious or spiritual ties that might make people uncomfortable.
- It does not require any special tools.
- A person can practice mindfulness anywhere at any time.
- Mindfulness helps people focus on daily activities with more attention.
- It keeps people from operating on “auto-pilot” without attending to anything.
If this practice can benefit almost anyone, what makes it so crucial in substance use disorder therapy? Research from the Journal of Substance Abuse found that people with these disorders are more likely to have a “mindfulness deficit” compared to others. People with a mindfulness deficit spend less time experiencing the present and more time contemplating past or present concerns. They may have more trouble separating themselves from their emotions, and they may have less self-awareness. As with many treatments for substance use disorders, meditation and mindfulness form part of a puzzle that helps people build skills they may have lacked before entering treatment and recovery.
Meditation as a practice can help many people with substance use disorders maintain their recovery and experience other valuable benefits. Many different types of meditation exist, but mindfulness meditation or simply mindfulness has become the most studied in scientific research on the subject. Research has demonstrated that not only can mindfulness meditation help people in recovery avoid relapse, but it can help them build skills in areas where they lacked them before treatment. At Lakehouse Recovery Center, we use several types of scientifically validated meditation and mindfulness activities in our therapeutic programs. We can offer people the kind of meditation techniques they find most beneficial due to our highly individualized programming. We urge people to use these skills daily in their recovery process to reinforce the self-awareness they learn during their therapy sessions. Lakehouse Recovery Center remains committed to providing the best possible care through our unique 100% virtual recovery platform. Call (877) 762-3707 to find out more about our program.