Like with anything, understanding how something works, in general, helps you to determine how it could help you in any life situation. In order to understand how meditation can help treat addiction and maintain recovery, it’s important to understand meditation and its health benefits as a whole.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a core practice in a variety of cultures and religions. Yoga, which is believed to be a primarily physical-based practice, emphasizes the importance of meditation in its practice, while many religions use meditation as a way to interact with their respective higher powers.
A common misconception about meditation is that it requires hours of quiet contemplation while sitting criss-cross until you can no longer feel your legs and feet. The truth is, mediation can actually manifest in many different forms. It can include taking a quiet walk on a nature trail or taking a second to breathe and focus on your day’s intention while waking up in the morning.
The main goal of meditation is to take a second to focus on your breathing, energy, and self-reflection. As with any practice or method, it may prove effective for many but may not always work for everyone.
How Effective Is Meditation?
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) tells us that there is a lot of history showing meditation’s ability to increase calmness, help psychological issues, boost the immune system, and overall physical health. The most common elements of meditation according to the NCCIH include:
- Quiet locations with few distractions
- Comfortable posture, whether it be sitting, laying down, or moving around
- Focusing by directing one’s attention to their breath or calming mantras
- Open attitude allowing distractions to pass without intense acknowledgment or judgment
The NCCIH has also taken an in-depth look at meditation and its benefits. Studies have been conducted to evaluate meditation’s effectiveness for helping high blood pressure, psychological disorders, and how it can affect the brain. That research showed meditation’s ability to reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, and even insomnia.
A significant positive factor about meditation is that anyone can do it. Some meditation does make use of movement, for instance, with yoga, but for the most part, it can be done with minimal movement, making it perfect for anyone to do.
Additionally, the NCCIH reference data published by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) in 2017, reported that “U.S. adults’ use of meditation in the past 12 months tripled between 2012 and 2017,” and that children’s use, aged 4 to 17 years, also increased from 0.6% to 5.4% in 2017.
Meditation From a Scientific Perspective
Much research has been being conducted on meditation for decades. Despite its nature of being a spiritually rooted practice, the benefits of meditation have been backed by scientific evidence.
Research has been conducted comparing the brain images of individuals who do meditate compared with those who don’t. Those who practiced meditation were shown to have more folds in the outer layer of their brain, which can lead to an increased ability to process information. Studies have also shown that meditation can slow the changes in the brain affected by the aging process and affect activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for processing emotions.
The NCCIH is currently researching meditation’s effectiveness on teens with chronic pain, reducing stress for people with multiple sclerosis, and treating PTSD and headaches. The NCCIH also does not recommend using meditation to replace conventional treatment. Due to the lack of research on all areas of health, they recommend reaching out to medical professionals for medical problems.
Meditation and Addiction
The research on using meditation as a way to treat addiction and maintain recovery has yet to prove 100% successful. However, those who practice meditation are able to practice mindfulness, and a mindful approach to treatment can be incredibly beneficial.
According to Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, mindfulness-based interventions have been studied as a means of treating addictive behaviors, whether it be drinking, smoking, or using opioids or illicit substances. Their article on mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) of addiction references conceptualizing MBIs “as means of mental training designed to exercise a number of neurocognitive processes that become dysregulated during the process of addiction.”
Meditation and mindfulness have a lot in common. Practicing mindfulness every day helps to “cultivate durable changes in the trait-like propensity to be mindful in everyday life,” even when that mindfulness doesn’t include meditation. By repetitively practicing mindfulness, the brain learns the habits of mindfulness that help achieve the positive results of meditation.
Meditation has proven to have an array of health benefits on a person’s mind and body. Research has shown that those who practice meditation experience lower levels of blood pressure, depression, anxiety, stress, and overall better quality of health and life. One of the best things about meditation is that anyone can do it. People who like to meditate through movement can practice yoga, or incorporate their meditation into walking and hiking. Those who struggle with physical movement can learn to practice stagnant meditation. Either way, the brain takes time to develop the mindful habits needed to maintain a positive recovery. Here at the Lakehouse Recovery Center, we offer a curriculum that can help you learn how to live mindfully with intent. People can often feel dissociated when first entering into treatment, and we can help you learn how to reconnect with your body. Reach out to us at (877) 762-3707 to get help today.