Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation has been practiced for centuries and is known to have many benefits. These can include advantages to both your mental and physical health. Spending a few minutes per day meditating can prepare you to better cope with the rest of the day ahead.

Meditation is encouraged in many clinical settings, and treatment facilities are no exception. With benefits such as improved mood, better sleep, increased focus, and reduced stress, there is no question why facilities choose to incorporate meditation in their programs.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is a practice that involves evoking self-awareness and can promote mental clarity and calmness. Meditation has various forms: mindfulness meditation, movement meditation, and focused meditation, to name a few. While there are many different types of meditation, a few elements remain similar between them all.

First, and perhaps most importantly, you must have a quiet environment free of distractions and external stimuli. You must also be in a comfortable body position. This can certainly vary from person to person or by type of meditation. A few postures could include sitting, laying down, or even walking. Next, you must have a point of focus. This could be a word, phrase, or even your breath. Lastly, for any type of meditation to be effective, an open mind and attitude are a must. This allows you to explore and accept your thoughts and feelings without trying to suppress or judge them.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; it has been practiced for over 2,500 years. Simply put, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose. This involves making a conscious effort to be in and aware of the present moment while welcoming your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. We are so often conditioned to filter many of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations, making practicing mindfulness require just that – practice.

Mindfulness is an important component of meditation as it prepares the mind for the experience. It involves a moment-by-moment acceptance of – and focus on – what you are thinking, feeling, and sensing from the environment around you.

Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness

The benefits of meditating and practicing mindfulness can vary from individual to individual, depending on the needs of that person. As with many methods of holistic treatment, there can be both mental and physical benefits to practicing mindfulness and meditating during treatment and recovery. Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that can be very advantageous and can help you establish balance throughout your recovery journey.

Meditation has been said to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Reasons for this could vary. Meditation, as mentioned above, often involves focusing on one thing, such as your breathing, throughout the exercise. Breathwork in itself has been found to ease nerves and produce a calming effect, so implementing this during meditation could certainly reduce stress and serve as a coping technique outside of practice.

Meditation has also been found to benefit the physical health of those who practice regularly. One of the main benefits studied heavily is the impact on blood pressure. As one of the most widespread, least controlled diseases worldwide, hypertension poses a threat to adults from all cultures and lifestyles. Due to its calming and stress-reducing techniques, meditation, in turn, has been shown to reduce hypertension.

Additionally, meditation has been found to help reduce insomnia and improve sleep. Specifically, sleep meditation is typically performed shortly before bed and can help calm the mind and reduce thoughts of the past or the future that may be causing sleep disturbances. Other forms of meditation, even during the day, can benefit evening sleep by reducing cortisol, the stress hormone.

Meditation and Mindfulness During Treatment

Implementing meditation and practicing mindfulness as part of treatment for substance use disorders has many benefits. In addition to the advantages listed above, such as improved sleep and reduced symptoms of stress and anxiety, meditation can aid in preventing relapse. Multiple domains of research suggest that meditation practice promotes executive functioning and cognitive control over automatic habits, especially related to repeated substance use and addiction. Studies show that meditation and mindfulness can also improve working memory and decision-making abilities among treatment recipients.

Implementing meditation and practicing mindfulness during treatment and recovery can be extremely beneficial to your experience and overall journey. Establishing good, healthy habits that provide you with tools to utilize even outside of the practice can be very helpful and aid in your success. Spending a few minutes each day focusing on the present and being intentional with your thoughts can make all the difference.

Taking a few minutes to meditate or practice mindfulness throughout your day can make a positive difference. Meditation involves intentionally becoming aware of the present and focusing on what you feel, think, and sense in that moment. You may be tasked with concentrating on your breathing or fixating on a specific word, phrase, or even object. Meditation and practicing mindfulness can have a variety of benefits. These benefits can include mental advantages such as reduced symptoms of stress and anxiety, or even improved mood. Meditation is known to have a calming effect and can help improve sleep and reduce stress as a result. Meditation can also have physical benefits and improve things such as blood pressure for some. Enlightened Solutions provides a holistic approach to treatment and encourages meditation and mindfulness as part of your recovery. If you are battling drug or alcohol addiction, call Enlightened Solutions today at (833) 801-LIVE


urge surfing and meditation

Urge Surfing: Riding Out the Craving

They walked across the sand in the early morning light, surfboards under their arms. They strode into the surf. As the water grew deeper, they stretched out on their boards and paddled out. They turned to face the shore, waiting for a wave. A wave came, and they rode it to shore, feeling the ocean’s power beneath them.

Surfing is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. In 2019, the International Surfing Association estimated that 35 million people worldwide surfed and anticipated that the number would rise. Surfing has captured our imaginations and been the subject or backdrop for many movies and songs. It has also inspired a method called “urge surfing” to “ride out” a craving.

Background of “Urge Surfing”

“Urge surfing” is a type of mini-meditation. The term is ascribed to G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., founder and director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington.

According to Marlatt’s interview in the magazine Inquiring Mind, Marlatt worked with a man who wanted to quit smoking. The man happened to be a surfer, so Marlatt used surfing terminology in conversation with the man. Marlatt explained that urges, like ocean waves, grow bigger and bigger as they near the shore, and then they dissipate. Urges don’t last forever, and neither do waves; both dissipate. The smoker was learning to meditate as part of the center’s program; Marlatt encouraged him to think of his breath as a surfboard that would enable him to “ride out” the urge. The smoker used the surfing analogy as he worked to ride out the urge to smoke, and after about five weeks, he had stopped smoking completely.

How to Urge Surf

If you want to try urge surfing, remember that it is a form of mindfulness. Urges will pass by themselves, but urge surfing gives you a different way of outlasting the craving.

As you begin to experience an urge for whatever substance or behavior you have given up, imagine that the urge is a wave in the ocean that will start, crest, and subside. Urges generally start small before growing in size or strength and then go away. To practice urge surfing the next time a craving comes up, follow the steps below:

  • Sit quietly and comfortably
  • Observe your breath without trying to change it
  • Notice your thoughts
  • Bring your attention back to your breath without judging, feeding, or fighting your thoughts
  • Notice where the craving affects your body. Where in your body are you experiencing the craving?
  • Bring your attention to an area of the body where you feel the craving and notice what is happening in your body; see if these bodily sensations change as you inhale or exhale
  • Bring your attention to another part of your body where you are feeling the urge and repeat the process
  • Be curious about the urge of craving and how it changes 

Why You Should Practice Urge Surfing

Urge surfing is another tool to use in maintaining sobriety. The key to urge surfing is that instead of wishing the craving would go away, trying to suppress the craving, or fighting the urge, you are exploring the urge; you are becoming curious about the urge. You are going into the urge and are interested in the experience. As you study the craving and changes in it over time, you might find that the urge subsides.

In the interview with Marlatt that appeared in Inquiring Mind, he described urges and cravings from a Buddhist perspective. He said that you cannot eliminate urges and cravings. They will happen, and you can find a way of recognizing what’s happening inside as you experience the cravings. By “riding the urge out,” you can accept the urge without giving in to your cravings.

As you practice urge surfing more, you will find that urges don’t last as long. If you fight an urge, however, you are giving it more energy or feeding it. Trying to fight a craving has been likened to trying to stop a wave or a waterfall.

Likewise, we are sometimes told not to think about whatever it is we are craving. The more you try not to think about something, like eating chocolate cake, the more you think about eating chocolate cake.

Consider our surfers from the opening of this post. They didn’t fight the wave, and they didn’t try to suppress or ignore the wave. Instead, they went with the wave. They used the immense power of the ocean to get them to the shore.

As people go through your journey of recovery, they will need to deal with urges and cravings. “Urge surfing” is another tool to use to maintain sobriety. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients different tools to use as they move forward in their sober lifestyle. We are a co-occurring treatment center, and, as such, we treat not only addictions but also mental health issues that frequently accompany substance abuse. Our programs are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy, and we focus on healing the whole person and treating the addiction. Our treatment modalities include talk therapy and group support. Also, we offer many holistic healing methods, including yoga and meditation, sound therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine therapy. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore, and we offer each client an individualized treatment program. If you seek relief from an addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483 to find out what we can offer you.

 


Yoga

The Role of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Treating Substance Abuse

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a disorder that affects the entire person--body, mind, and spirit. Because of this, the needs of the whole person must be considered for a treatment to be effective. It isn’t enough to treat the addiction and ignore the underlying depression or other mental health disorders.

Drug and alcohol treatment centers all offer therapy. Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as talk therapy, can be offered individually, in a group setting, or both. The therapy frequently focuses on providing the patient with coping strategies that don’t involve using drugs or alcohol, tools to maintain their sobriety, and education about drugs and alcohol. In the past, therapy was frequently limited to behavioral issues.

Many treatment facilities now go further and work to address mental health issues or unresolved trauma that may be underneath the addiction. Many treatment centers also offer complementary and alternative therapies that complement talk therapy.

What Is Alternative or Complementary Treatment?

Merriam-Webster defines alternative medicine as “systems of healing or treating disease...that is not included in the traditional medical curricula of the U.S. and Britain.” When talking about mental health issues and recovery from substance abuse, alternative therapies include treatments ranging from yoga to equine therapy to diet and nutrition. Using alternative therapies gives clinicians more ways to help people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues--another way to get to the root of the problem.

Alternative therapies are particularly helpful for people who have suffered from a trauma of one sort or another. The body is said to store memories just like the brain does, but the body cannot provide context for a memory. Alternative therapies, particularly those that make use of activities, like art and music therapy, or yoga and meditation, help people recovering from addiction to integrate their minds and bodies.

Alternative or Complementary Modalities That Rely on Touch

Facilities now use many different alternative modalities in treatment programs for patients. Massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are three treatment modalities that rely on touch and support the recovery process.

Massage therapists are trained to use touch to reduce pain and stress. As tension in our bodies is released, our minds relax and we are better able to cope with the stress of everyday life. 

Acupuncture is an example of traditional alternative medicine that has been practiced for centuries. Acupuncture is used in recovery treatment to reduce stress and cravings, help with relaxation and sleep issues, lessen mood swings, promote energy, and calm emotional trauma. Chiropractic practitioners work to align the spine. This helps to restore balance in the body that has been harmed by addiction. As the range of motion is increased in the spine and adjacent muscles, tension and stress are reduced. Chiropractic care alleviates pain in many areas of the body and like massage therapy and acupuncture, supports recovery.

Meditation and Yoga

Meditation and yoga are frequently discussed together, perhaps because yoga classes frequently end with a guided meditation. The word “yoga” means “to yoke” and the goal of yoga is to yoke your mind and your body. Yoga lowers stress, reduces pain, reduces anxiety and depression, all of which can lessen a person’s impulse to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Yoga lowers the level of two hormones associated with stress, cortisol and adrenaline, and increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter associated with overall feelings of wellness and tends to be found at lower levels in people suffering from addiction and co-occurring disorders. 

There are many techniques for meditation and many articles have been written about the physical and mental benefits of meditation. Bear in mind, however, that meditation is not a replacement for therapy when coping with addiction or mental health issues, but it is a powerful addition to conventional treatment. Meditation is a way of becoming more aware of the present. Its benefits include stress reduction, increased self-awareness, and an improved ability to focus.

The Role of Diet in Recovery

Several treatment modalities focus on the role of diet and nutrition in recovery, including the use of dietary supplements, herbal medicine, and overall good nutrition. At Enlightened Solutions, all patients receive education in nutrition and wellness, and many patients elect to learn healthy cooking techniques using fresh, organic ingredients, many of them grown on Enlightened Solution’s farm.

Healing Through Energy Work

Many people recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol have found help through energy work, in which energy from outside the patient is used to aid in healing. Reiki is one type of energy work that has been used successfully to treat patients recovering from addiction. Reiki as it is known today was developed in Japan in the 1920s by a Buddhist monk and brought to the West in the 1980s. In addition to addiction, Reiki has been used to treat cancer, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and infertility.

Experiential Therapies

In experiential therapies, the client focuses on doing certain activities, and through the experience begins to explore their feelings, including anger, hurt, and shame. These therapies include art, music, and equine therapy, all of which are used successfully in drug and alcohol recovery. In art therapy, the patient will work on a piece of art--a painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, or any other medium. Afterward, the therapist encourages the patient to think about the psychological and emotional aspects of their piece. Art therapy is a tool to help patients access and process their feelings.

Music therapy is very similar but uses music instead of visual arts. According to an article on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, four major types of musical intervention are employed: lyric analysis, improvisational music playing, active music listening, and songwriting. Music therapy is a way for patients to reach emotions that have been buried under drug or alcohol abuse. Music therapy also decreases stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves sleep.

Because of the strong bond between horses and humans, equine therapy is also offered at some treatment facilities. Depending on the facility, equine therapy can include different activities. Some activities focus on caring for the animals, others focus on riding, and sometimes the activities focus on both caring and riding. Because horses sense the emotions of the people around them, horses can help people identify their feelings which is helpful because people recovering from addictions have often suppressed their feelings. Working with horses can also give people in recovery a sense of purpose.

Alternative treatment modalities aid in treating the whole patient, not just their addiction. These treatments can have powerful mental and physical benefits and enable the patient to heal on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

An addiction recovery treatment plan must address the needs of the whole person--mind, body, and spirit--not just their addictive behavior. In addition to traditional talk therapy and support groups, alternative treatment modalities can play a powerful role in treating the whole person. At Enlightened Solutions, we focus on treating the whole person and use a multidisciplinary approach to develop a custom treatment program for each patient. We offer treatment for a wide variety of substance dependencies as well as mental health disorders that can co-occur with substance abuse. In addition to talk therapy, we offer holistic treatment including yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, and equine therapy. Our life skills component includes thorough education in nutrition and wellness. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. If you or someone you love is ready to break free from substance abuse, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


coping with stress

Managing Stress: A Key Element of Addiction Recovery

Your heart beats faster. Your breathing becomes more rapid. Your muscles tense and you start to sweat. This is the body’s response to a perceived threat or stress. If you are faced with a physical threat--like fleeing a burning building, scaring away a mountain lion, or lifting a car off a child--the body’s flight-or-fight response can be life-saving. In day-to-day life, however, the stresses we face--deadlines, bills, jam-packed schedules--don’t require the same burst of adrenaline, and yet our bodies respond in the same way. In the long term, chronic stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, and a host of other health issues. In addition, we may use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress and this use can become an addiction. Part of recovery from any substance abuse problem includes learning healthy ways to cope with stress.

Deep Breathing and Body Scanning

Any number of deep breathing techniques can be used to de-stress quickly and a few are detailed below. For any of these techniques, it helps to get into a comfortable position.

  • Falling out breath: In this technique, inhale deeply and fill your lungs with as much air as possible. Exhale with an audible sigh.
  • Box breath: To use this technique, inhale for a count of four. Hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and then hold your breath out for four counts.
  • Emptying breath: For this breath technique, inhale for a count of three and exhale for a count of six. Release as much air as possible. 

Body scan techniques can also reduce stress. To try any of these techniques, get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. In the first technique, start at the top of your head and mentally work your way down your body. Notice and release any tension you may be holding in your muscles. You may be surprised at where your body holds tension. In another method, you would begin by tensing up your right foot as tight as you can, hold the tension for a few seconds, and then release. Next tense and release your right calf, then your right thigh, and so on until you have tensed and relaxed every part of your body. In a similar technique, you mentally travel through your body and imagine that each part is being filled with warmth. (Note: These techniques can also be used to help you drift off to sleep.)

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress. You can opt for guided or unguided meditation. If you are interested in guided meditation, you can find a teacher or use an app like Headspace, Calm, or MyLife Meditation. If you prefer to meditate on your own, there are many techniques for you to try. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath. Don’t control your breath, just notice it. As thoughts arise (and they will), notice that you are thinking and let the thought drift away. Another method that some people find calming is breath counting. Count your breaths, going up to 10. Repeat, as many times as needed, until you feel tranquil. You could also try a moving meditation. In a walking meditation, for example, focus on each foot contacting the ground. Notice how the ground feels beneath your feet. Notice the sensations as your heel hits the ground,  rolls to the ball of your foot, and then to your toes. As your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to walking. These techniques allow your body to relax and your mind will follow.

Exercise

Exercise, in any form, is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety and elevate your mood. The key is to find a type of exercise that you enjoy. You could go for a walk or a run, or you might prefer swimming or bicycling. You may enjoy the dynamic of an exercise class. You could take up tennis or golf. Yoga, in particular, is a great stress reliever. No matter what you choose, make it a point to exercise several times per week. This will have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Nature

Spending time out of doors helps to relieve stress as well. Researchers in the field of ecotherapy suggest that being outdoors can elevate your mood, lower your anxiety, improve your ability to focus, improve your memory, boost creativity, relieve depression and anxiety, and help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Being outside for 120 minutes a week causes positive changes, and the time doesn’t need to be continuous. So go for a stroll on the beach, take a walk in the park, or a hike in the mountains. Plan a camping trip. Plant a garden. Take your work outside. Bring the outside in by keeping cut flowers or potted plants in the house. Use natural materials to decorate. Plant herbs in your kitchen. Arrange a comfortable seating space near a window with a view. Even something as simple as displaying photos of your favorite outdoor places can help reduce stress.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but the good news is that many healthy ways of coping with stress are available to us. While we cannot eliminate stress from our lives,  the techniques described above can help us manage stress, rather than stress managing us. At Enlightened Solutions, we focus on treating the whole person, not just his or her substance abuse. Using our multidisciplinary approach, we customize each patient’s treatment plan to meet his or her needs. We offer treatment for a wide variety of substance dependencies as well as mental health disorders that can co-occur with substance abuse. In addition to talk therapy and a 12-Step philosophy, we offer holistic treatment including yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, and equine therapy. We provide our patients with the life skills they need, including stress management, to achieve their goals in recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, call us at (833) 801-5483 today.

 


Meditation Isn’t Just One Thing

Meditation Isn’t Just One Thing

In the past 10 years or so, meditation has gone mainstream in a big way. Half the articles you see online about health and wellness are accompanied by a picture of someone sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed, looking very centered. This is due partially to the increasing popularity of yoga. Scientific research showing the benefits of meditation for both mental and physical health also validates it.

Meditation has increasingly been incorporated into treatment for addiction and other mental health challenges by forward-thinking therapists and treatment programs. However, there are also a lot of popular misconceptions about meditation. One is that meditation is one specific thing and there’s only one right way to do it.

In reality, there are many different meditation techniques and each one has different effects. Furthermore, many approaches to meditation combine different elements and different contemplative traditions emphasize different methods. If you’re incorporating meditation into your recovery plan, the important thing is to be aware of your own needs and how meditation can serve those most effectively.

Just relying on one method is a bit like going to the gym and just doing one exercise. For some people, that’s fine, especially if it’s a complex exercise, but it all depends on what you want out of it. The following are some common types of meditation and how they might help you when recovering from addiction.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is probably the most popular kind of meditation in the US today. It has been widely studied and incorporated into therapeutic methods, such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). It’s fairly easy to start learning and it has a lot of potential benefits in the context of addiction recovery.

While mindfulness itself really comprises several different techniques, the core of the practice is to bring your attention to the present moment and whatever you’re experiencing. This typically involves either focusing on your breath, scanning your body for physical sensations, or paying attention to something in your environment—typically sounds or some object in front of you—such as a flower or candle.

As noted, there are several ways mindfulness can aid your addiction recovery. Perhaps the biggest is that by keeping your mind in the present moment, you are not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness also lets you practice observing your thoughts and emotions nonjudgmentally, which diminishes their power to make you miserable.

For example, learning to simply observe feelings of shame rather than trying to push them away or bury them gives those feelings less control over you. With some practice, you may be able to treat drug and alcohol cravings in a similar way and “surf” them rather than feeling controlled by them.

Focused Attention

Focused attention is probably what most people think of when they think of meditation. This is the closest idea to the notion that meditation is “clearing your mind.” In reality, it’s almost impossible to “clear your mind” but you can learn to focus totally on your object of meditation—typically the breath—that you have the ability to exclude all other thoughts.

Few people develop their skills to this point, especially among casual practitioners. However, practicing this kind of meditation can help improve your concentration. There are two ways this can support your recovery. The first is if you have co-occurring ADHD, which is fairly common. Learning to better focus your attention can help reduce distractions and jumping thoughts and help you stick to important tasks.

Second, a lot of people find that when they first begin recovery, their concentration is terrible. There may be a number of reasons for this. If you’re quitting stimulants, for example, you may feel like you’re underwater and unable to focus.

Or, if your brain is mainly primed to look for drugs and alcohol, other things may just not seem that interesting and it’s harder to focus on them. By practicing focused attention meditation daily—such as feeling the breath as it passes in and out through your nose—you can gradually train your brain to focus.

Open Awareness

Open awareness is just what it sounds like: you accept whatever happens in the present, whether it’s an itch on your scalp or the sound of a truck outside your window. You let these sensations come and you let them go without judging them or following the train of thought they stimulate.

This sounds pretty easy, but it’s actually a more advanced mindfulness practice because it’s easy to start daydreaming and forget about the meditation entirely. If you can manage it, open awareness can be very good for helping reduce chronic pain and for becoming less sensitive to counterproductive thoughts.

Mantra

Mantra meditations involve reciting—either mentally or out loud—specific words or phrases. In a way, the mantra becomes the object of meditation and excludes other thoughts. However, there are two important ways mantra meditation is different.

First, when you are reciting a mantra—which, in some traditions is called a prayer—the parts of your brain that produce speech are busy, so it interferes with your mental chatter. If you struggle with critical thoughts or rumination, mantra meditation may be a way to turn down the volume of those.

Second, when you recite a mantra, even mentally, it tends to slow down your breathing patterns. One study found that participants who recited a mantra or the Ave Maria in Latin tended to stabilize their breathing at around six breaths per minute: an ideal rhythm for creating a sense of calmness and wellbeing.

Loving-kindness

Loving-kindness meditation, or metta, is one that tends to fall through the cracks but it can be very powerful. The idea is simple: you practice cultivating feelings of compassion for yourself and others. This has many benefits, including reducing stress, improving sleep, improving mood, and improving your relationships. You start by thinking of someone close to you, someone you feel genuinely grateful is in your life.

It could be a best friend or a relative. You direct positive feelings toward that person, perhaps with a thought like, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe,” and so on. You can notice whatever feelings this evokes and sit with those feelings for a few minutes. Then gradually try to apply those same feelings to people you feel less connected to, such as a work friend, someone you’ve seen but never spoken to.

Finally, you try to apply those feelings to someone who you find hard to like. There are a number of reasons this practice is excellent for addiction recovery, but perhaps two stand out among the others. First, you should be directing compassion toward yourself at some point in the process, and self-compassion is something many people with substance use disorders desperately need.

Second, having a strong support network is one of the most important aspects of recovery, and feeling genuine compassion for the people around you is one of the best ways to create that sense of connection. Keep in mind that any kind of meditation technique is just using your brain in a certain way and the more you use your brain in that way, the better you will get at that specific task.

This can help you overcome whatever weaknesses you happen to be dealing with. If you can’t focus, try a focused-attention technique. If you’re feeling isolated, try loving-kindness. The most important thing is for you to pay attention to your own needs and goals and figure out what works best for you.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that recovering from a substance use disorder is bigger than just abstaining from drugs and alcohol; it’s about living a more joyful, more fulfilling life. That’s why our program treats the whole person, using a variety of methods, including meditation and yoga. To learn more, call us today at (833) 801-5483.


What Most People Get Wrong About Meditation for Addiction Recovery

What Most People Get Wrong About Meditation for Addiction Recovery

Meditation has gone mainstream in recent decades. While it was once confined mainly to mystics and seekers, it is now fairly commonplace in Western life.

Entrepreneurs and executives meditate to get an edge in the market, professionals meditate to manage stress and boost productivity, and the health-conscious meditate to boost their general sense of peace and wellbeing. 

 

There is now quite a bit of scientific research supporting the various effects of meditation, including better concentration, better mood, less stress, and better relationships. That’s one reason meditation is now a common feature in various forms of therapy, including dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT, and addiction treatment programs.

However, despite the popularization of meditation, or perhaps because of it, a lot of people don’t really understand what it’s about and what it can do.  

 

Meditation Is Not a Replacement for Therapy

The first thing to understand is that meditation is not a replacement for therapy. This is a common mistake because meditation is so frequently discussed in the context of mental health.

In addition to being incorporated into the treatment modalities described above, much of the media coverage of meditation has focused on its role in helping people overcome challenges, like anxiety, depression, trauma, or substance use. However, these conditions are complicated and require professional help.

Meditation might be part of the solution but it’s just a part. Even experienced meditation instructors typically advise that you get treatment for any mental health issues before you begin an intensive meditation program, such as a meditation retreat.

 

Meditation Is Not a Form of Escapism

Another common misconception is that meditation is a form of escapism. It’s often thought of as blissing-out or distracting yourself with pleasant visualizations.

While experienced meditators do sometimes feel blissful when meditating, that’s typically not the real goal and it’s something most meditators won’t experience for a while, if ever. 

 

In a sense, meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, is the opposite of escapism. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to be fully aware of your experience-—what you’re sensing, thinking, and feeling.

This is often quite challenging. Rather than escaping your problems, the goal is to be aware of your problems—particularly physical discomfort, challenging emotions, and troubling thoughts—and engage with those in a more open, less judgmental, and less reflexive way. 

 

Meditation Is Not About Emptying Your Mind

A similar misconception to the idea that meditation is a form of escapism is that meditation is about clearing your mind of thoughts. This is a trope that is especially common on TV and in movies.

However, if you try to clear your mind, you’re only going to end up frustrated and disappointed. Your brain is an organ that thinks and that’s what it’s going to do.

You wouldn’t expect your heart to stop beating or your lungs to stop breathing while you meditate, so why is it reasonable to expect your brain to stop thinking? The goal of mindfulness meditation is rather to notice your thoughts without getting caught up in them. The trouble with thoughts is not that they exist, but that we take them too seriously.

 

There Are Many Ways to Meditate

This article is primarily concerned with mindfulness meditation, which currently has the most research behind it and is the form most commonly used in treatment. However, there are many ways to meditate and there’s really no right or wrong way.

There is a place for visualization, for example, and sometimes meditators do experience bliss. Another commonly used form of meditation is metta, or loving-kindness meditation, which is a method that specifically helps you cultivate compassion.

Relatively new research suggests it is particularly good for cultivating more positive emotions and improving relationships. 

 

The important thing to remember is that our brains adapt to what we consistently ask them to do. If you want to distract yourself by vividly imagining you’re lying in a sunny meadow, then you’ll get better at that with practice.

That might be a good strategy for some people in some circumstances. If you want to feel more compassionate and more connected, practice metta. If you want to take the power away from cravings and other challenging emotions, practicing observing them without judgment will help. 

 

Meditation Is About More Than Relaxation

Another common misconception about meditation is that it’s mainly a relaxation exercise. You just sit quietly and relax and it lowers stress and whatever else.

Per the discussion above, that’s a perfectly valid way to approach it. Most people would benefit from spending 20 to 30 minutes each day just quietly relaxing.

In fact, by doing so, you will sometimes be meditating. However, while relaxation is an integral part of most forms of meditation, it’s not the whole deal.

As noted above, there are many ways to meditate and they all have different effects. What’s important to keep in mind is that the real value of meditation is bringing its benefits into your regular life, whether you are trying to cultivate mindfulness, compassion, or focus. Meditation is a bit like a gym where you strengthen your mind for other parts of your life.

 

There Are Some Possible Downsides to Meditation

Much of the excitement around meditation has to do with its apparent safety. For example, you’ll often see media coverage of some new study showing that meditation has benefits comparable to antidepressants “but without the side effects!”

However, that’s not exactly true. Most people practicing mindfulness meditation for 20 or 30 minutes a day won’t have any problems unless they spend that whole time worrying or ruminating and not actually meditating, which can definitely happen. 

 

The problems tend to arise when people get deep into it or start experimenting with techniques they don’t understand. Most meditation techniques were developed in monasteries where monks would be guided by expert meditators for many years. In that environment, any problems could be easily corrected. 

 

Also, the goals of monks and the goals of average Americans are very different, and sometimes incompatible. As a result, devoted meditators sometimes suffer adverse effects.

The Brown University psychologist Willoughby Britton has spent years studying the various effects of meditation, including the downsides. These may include anhedonia or avolition, loss of a sense of agency, occupational impairment, and social impairment, among others. 

 

Meditation can play a valuable part in addiction treatment and recovery, but it’s important to realize what it is and what it isn’t. At its best, meditation can help make you calmer, wiser, and more compassionate. While it can offer some tactical advantages in addiction recovery, such as tolerating challenging emotions or “surfing” cravings, the real promise of meditation for recovery is that it helps you become a more aware and complete person.

At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that joy is the true path to healing from addiction and meditation is one element we incorporate into our holistic treatment programs. To learn more about our treatment options, call us at 833-801-LIVE.


How Binaural Beats Can Make a Difference in Mental Health

How Binaural Beats Can Make a Difference in Mental Health

You may want to have a nice sleep but are not in the right state of mind to do so from anxiety. In order to do so, you need to quiet your mind and be in a state of peace. Binaural beats can help your brain respond to sound to move you to a deep relaxation which can help you get better sleep.

Binaural Beats

Binaural beats are when you combine two different sound frequencies to create a new frequency tone. It is said that when you experience two different sound frequencies with one in each ear, the brain perceives it as one tone. If your left ear gets a 300-hertz tone and your right ear gets a 280-hertz tone, your brain will think of this as a 10-hertz tone which is a low-frequency sound that you cannot hear. Being exposed to these binaural beats can create low-frequency sounds to slow down brain activity to help you sleep better.

Four Types of Brainwaves

There are four different types of brainwaves that determine our state of consciousness, emotion, and mental state. Beta waves are where we are the most alert. This helps us focus, concentrate, make decisions, and be analytical thinkers. These waves are fast with high frequencies between 10-15 hertz which are associated with anxiety. Alpha brainwaves are when you are alert but still relaxed. With hertz between 9-14, alpha waves are associated with meditation and to be creative. 

Theta waves are associated with deep relaxation and non-REM sleep. They are of lower frequency between 5-10 hertz in the state where we feel we are drifting in and out of sleep. Delta waves are slow frequency waves of 1.5-4 hertz that dominate deep sleep. Being exposed to binaural beats can influence brainwaves that achieve slower frequencies that put you in deep relaxation.

Improving Sleep

Being exposed to binaural beats can change three hormones that are associated with sleep. One hormone is DHEA which strengthens your immune system and fights disease. DHEA suppresses cortisol which stimulates alertness and provokes stress. Binaural beats help with cortisol production in that this hormone at high levels normally causes insomnia. Melatonin levels tend to rise dramatically in the evening by relaxing your body and mind to fall asleep. Listening to binaural beats will strengthen the hormones that make you relax and help you fall asleep more easily. 

Relieves Anxiety

One study showed how binaural beats can help beat anxiety. The study showed how binaural beats had an effect on those who felt anxiety going through surgery. For six months, patients would spend half an hour listening to binaural beats on the day of their surgery. Compared to those who listened to music without binaural beats and those who listened to no beats at all, the ones listening to binaural beats had greater decreases in anxiety levels. Another study showed how binaural beats helped reduce the anxiety and blood pressure levels of those about to undergo cataract surgery.   

Increases Meditation

In order to get into a meditative state, you have to calm the posterior cingulate cortex which is known as the non-focused state. When you listen to binaural beats, it accomplishes the job of calming that part of the brain. It enhances the other part of the brain that easily brings you to a flow state. Using binaural beats will give you the same effects of meditation but done much faster.

How to Use Binaural Beats

All you need to have with you is binaural beat audio and a pair of headphones or earplugs. You can find online audio files of binaural beats music on YouTube or Spotify. There are also CDs you can purchase that you can download to your phone or MP3 player. In order for binaural beats to work, the two tones have to have frequencies of less than 1000 hertz with the difference not being more than 30 hertz. Look for beats based on which soundwaves you are trying to influence. Find a comfortable place to listen free of distraction and listen for half an hour every day to make sure that the rhythm is synched in your brain. How much you listen to all depends on your mental health symptoms. For example, those experiencing high anxiety symptoms can try listening for an hour to binaural beats or longer. You can also try closing your eyes to avoid any distractions. 

Binaural Beats Versus Meditation

While meditation is a good practice to help yourself be calm and live in the moment, you may want to use binaural beats to achieve a faster effect. Meditation can provide a lot of obstacles like having trouble focusing or taking too long to achieve the desired effect. Binaural beats are simple in that you put on your headphones, relax, and listen.

Side Effects of Binaural Beats

There are no known side effects other than making sure that the volume in your headphones is not too high to hurt your ears. Listening to these sounds at or above 85 decibels, which can equate to heavy traffic, can cause hearing loss over time. If you have epilepsy, it is best to speak to your doctor before trying it. If you are having trouble sleeping or need to quiet your mind of anxious thoughts, binaural beats are the way to go in order to teach your brainwaves to calm down which in turn will make you calm enough to sleep.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Creating Space for Healing

Creating Space for Healing

When working towards recovery, one of the challenges we can find ourselves confronted with is feeling totally overwhelmed by the turmoil and chaos in our lives. Sometimes this tumult is internal, coming from deeply rooted fears, unhealed trauma and unresolved issues. Sometimes our conflict is interpersonal, and we struggle with toxicity in our relationships and endless cycles of unhealthy relationships. For many of us, the turmoil is both internal and external, with both playing off of each other and exacerbating one another. One way we can remedy this conflict is to create space within ourselves and our lives. When we create space, we distance ourselves from the healthy patterns we’ve become embroiled in and make room for healthier patterns to take root.

Creating space can be challenging because it asks us to shed things we’ve become accustomed to, things we’re familiar and comfortable with. Take a look at what is causing the overwhelm in your life. Is it a toxic thought pattern causing you to obsess about unnecessary things and bringing you down? Is it a relationship that leaves you feeling drained and depleted of your energy? Is it someone in your life who is toxic for you, who encroaches upon your space and doesn’t allow you the solitude you need to heal? Taking inventory of all the things taking up your mental and emotional space is an important first step in creating more room for yourself.

We can create space for ourselves in different ways. We can remove the relationships that are harmful to our well-being. We can work to heal the thought patterns occupying our minds. We can give ourselves plenty of time for solitude. Mindfulness practices help us to access the space within us that offers us peace, tranquility and stillness. Meditate and learn to reach for that silence. Journal to help you process the thoughts and emotions that are cluttering your mind and overwhelming your heart. Practice visualizing yourself liberated from the constraints and limitations that were robbing you of your internal space and freedom.

When we’ve learned how to access our inner stillness, silence and spaciousness, we create room for new and healthier things to develop. We can practice habits that lead to better health. We can take better care of our minds, hearts and bodies. We can form relationships that bolster our well-being rather than detract from it. We can start develop new patterns that reflect self-love and healing rather than conflict and turmoil.

Holistic healing is an important part of recovery here at Enlightened Solutions. We work with you to heal mind, body and spirit. Call (833) 801-LIVE for more information on our effective and transformative treatment programs.


Changing Our Misconceptions about Meditation

Changing Our Misconceptions about Meditation

Meditation offers countless benefits for our mental and emotional health, including helping us calm our thoughts, manage our emotions, change our limiting beliefs, and react to life with more calm, patience and love. Unfortunately, though, many of us don’t meditate and take advantage of everything it can offer us because we have misconceptions about meditation. These misconceptions are widespread and keep people from even wanting to try to meditate. Here are some of those misconceptions, as well as new ways to think about meditating that will hopefully encourage you to start.

The goal of meditation is to have zero thoughts.

Our minds are complex thinking machines. We think an average of 60,000 thoughts a day. To experience moments of total silence isn’t impossible, but it does take time and practice. New meditators are intimidated by this lofty goal and think that because they can’t shut their minds off, they can’t meditate.

Rather than trying to stop thoughts altogether, a better goal is to slow down our thoughts, calm our minds, deepen our breathing and relax our heart rates. Forcibly trying to remove thoughts can create resistance in the form of mental backlash and our thoughts going into overdrive. Beginning meditators might find that their racing thoughts are even worse than before they tried to meditate, another factor that can dissuade people from practicing.

Rather than trying to remove our thoughts, we can choose something to focus on- our breath or a breathing exercise, a visualization, a mantra or affirmation, or a single focal point such as a candle flame. When the thoughts pop up as they inevitably will, we can practice returning, again and again, to our chosen focus. That is the practice.  That is meditation, not the total absence of thoughts.

You have to sit still to meditate.

Many people don’t find it comfortable to sit, let alone to sit still. Walking meditation can be just as beneficial. The practice is the same, just walk as you meditate rather than sitting. You might find this to be both calming and rejuvenating, especially when walking in nature. It’s no wonder people go for a long walk when they need to clear their minds- it helps!

There is a “perfect” way to meditate, with the end goal being enlightenment.

The beauty of meditation lies in the practice. The healing and enlightenment are in the process itself, not in some distant, abstract concept. The growth is in doing the work- returning to our practice even when it’s difficult, even when we’re depressed, tired, busy or stressed, committing to meditate even when we don’t feel like it. There is no perfect way to meditate, and no certain specific milestone when it comes to meditation. The goal is deepening our practice and allowing the healing to come to us.

Holistic healing is an important part of the recovery process at Enlightened Solutions. Call (833) 801-LIVE for more information.


Meditation for Obsessing and OCD

Meditation for Obsessing and OCD

One thing many of us with mental health problems and addictions have in common is our tendency to obsess. We obsess about the argument we just had, or the hurtful thing someone said last year. We obsess about our insecurities and mistakes. We obsess about our drug of choice and how we’re going to get more. Maybe we fearfully obsess about how long we’ve been clean, when we relapsed, and how much longer we can hold out.

Obsessing is essentially anxious and fearful thoughts on a constant playback loop, repeating themselves continuously, causing you tension and anxiety every time they pop up. Perhaps you obsess only occasionally when something is really bothering you. Perhaps your obsessing has taken over your life and you’ve been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. However much you obsess, whatever it is you obsess about, there are things you can do to help.

Meditate

Meditating helps you learn how to have more control over your thoughts. It teaches you how to focus on your breathing, which can be critically important when your thoughts feel as though they’re out of control. OCD is considered an anxiety disorder, and there are many wonderful breathing exercises for anxiety, including 1:2 breathing, where you make your exhale twice as long as your inhale.

Repeat Affirmations

What are you obsessing about? Find statements or words that help you to calm down. If you’re obsessing about a fight you had, you could try repeating “we are going to get through this.” If you’re in turmoil about that fight, try “I choose to be at peace within myself, before, during and after this situation.” Whatever you can say to yourself to feel better, say it. The more we can direct our thoughts to peace, the more we will feel at peace. Because our energy helps to manifest our reality, we can affirm the outcomes we want by repeating things like “we will come to an understanding,” and that energy can help us to manifest that desired outcome.

As we practice meditation and repeating affirmations, we often find that our anxiety and obsessiveness begin to calm down. We start to feel more at peace. The mental, emotional and physical nervousness start to subside. As we continue to practice, we start to find even more healing solutions for our mental and emotional challenges and addictions.

Our thoughts can make us feel like we’ve lost our minds, like there’s no hope. Enlightened Solutions can help you figure out ways to heal. Call (833) 801-LIVE.