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.


Ways to Relax at Night Without Wine

Ways to Relax at Night Without Wine

It is a common cliche that women tend to unwind with wine after a long day. It is important, however, for women to be conscious of their alcoholic levels. According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women drinking three drinks in a day or seven in a week is considered binge drinking and one bottle of wine is consider five glasses. By learning about healthier ways to relax after a long day, you will not have to worry about the health harms of binge drinking.

Calming Bath

Letting the hot water soak every inch of your body after a hard day will help soothe your mood. You can add bubbles or Epsom salts to better make the experience more enjoyable. Play some relaxing music in the background like classical, smooth jazz, or new age genres to put help you relax. Taking a bath is also a good opportunity to read a good book or listen to an audiobook as bath times are supposed to be private and uninterrupted where you can enjoy some peace and quiet.

Exercising

Exercising is a great way to experience those feel-good hormones every time you move your muscles, hands, or feet. You can either have a heavy workout at the gym or go for a nice walk. There are other relaxing exercises to do like going for a swim, walking the dog, hiking, yoga, or working out at home. When you exercise, you are alone in your thoughts and think more about what happened today and what tomorrow will be like. You can also do a variety of different activities every night so that your exercise routine does not become tedious. This will help you see which exercises help you relax more at the end of the day.

Brain Teasers

While it is important to make sure your body is active, the brain is a very important muscle that deserves exercise when the day is over. Getting your brain working on something challenging but fun at the end time is another way to help you relax. This may involve doing crossword puzzles, putting together a jigsaw puzzle, or doing brain teaser trivia on your own. This will help you avoid feeling sluggish, fatigued, and exercising your brain before it is time for you to sleep.

Creativity

While creativity may be stressful when you must use these skills for work, it can be more fun during your off hours. This can mean doing indoor activities as soon as you get off work like taking a painting class or knitting, sewing, or making a quilt at home. You can also be creative in the kitchen by trying out new recipes from a cookbook or a cooking show. You can even launch your creativity outdoors by going for a jog and taking pictures of the nature around you. Get those creative juices flowing to help reduce your end of the day anxiety.

Read a Book

Nothing like sitting on the couch, bathtub, or bed snuggling up to a book that you have been looking forward to finishing. It can be a good escape to listen to the voice of someone you enjoy or be transported to a new world. If your eyes are too tired to follow through with your book, listen to an audiobook to fall asleep to. You can also read from an ebook as you look at how much longer it tells you how long a chapter will take you to finish to have an idea of when to get some shut-eye.

Clean the House

You may be feeling too tired to worry about having to keep the house in order after a long day at work, but you will feel more depressed coming home to a mess. Your stressed levels will be reduced and you will sleep better knowing you have a clean room in a clean house. Take one room at a time and start rearranging your closets, cabinets, bookshelves, etc. You will feel like cleaning will help clear your mind by finding an activity that will distract you away from any issues you faced today or the urge to head for the bottle.

Communicate with Someone

Sometimes, we all just need to clear our heads after a long day of work by venting to someone. We tend to forget how good it feels to speak to someone via phone or video chat. You can talk about what is stressing you out or just be a good listener to someone else. You may realize that talking about your stresses out loud or hearing someone else’s will make you realize that your struggles are not worth struggling about. Even if you do not feel like talking, snuggle up with a pet as animals will relax as long as you are relaxed.

Alone Time

You may just want to unwind by yourself as you have been around people all day. This can mean going to a movie by yourself or to your local coffee shop with your book and beverage of choice. You can also use this opportunity to go to the grocery store alone without having to worry about anyone. Drinking a bottle of wine does not need to be your go-to solution to unwind. Finding healthy activities to do will make you feel good by the end of the day and will help you look forward to the next day.

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 be 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.


Sounds Are Healing For Recovery

Sounds and noises influence us from the moment we start developing in the womb. There is a reason mothers put headphones over their stomach bumps for the baby to hear. Parents start talking to their baby months before birth is due because the growing child will hear what is happening outside. Inside the womb there are all kinds of noises- the beating heart, the swoosh and gush of fluids, the movement in organs. Outside the womb there are all the noises of life, voices, music, and more.

Certain vibrations and collections of notes or sounds are calming while others induce anxiety. Metal rock, for example, has been proven to actually relax people, as has classical music and other forms of music. Our bodies react naturally to vibrations and sounds. Naturally, then, music or sound therapy makes sense as a healing modality.

What is Sound Therapy?

According to MNN, the Mother Nature Network, sound therapy is a form of holistic healing which “...can benefit the well-being of our bodies and minds, helping the body heal from mental stress and even physical pain.” The article explains that sound therapy is helpful for mind, spirit, and body. “Various studies have shown that the use of low-frequency sounds can lessen the pain and anxiety associated with fibromyalgia…”

How Is Sound Therapy Conducted?

All sound therapy needs to happen is sound. Sound therapy could include the use of specific instruments like acoustic guitar, violin, or Tibetan singing bowls, as well as the soundtrack to various natural sounds like birds, gurgling creeks, or the wind. “White noise” apps have a soundboard available to mixx all kinds of sounds to create the most perfect combination. Sound therapy is about helping clients get lost into a relaxing sensation of sound. Sometimes, clients can participate in creating that sound. Bringing treatment into the process can look like a sound therapy practitioner asking the clients about how they feel before and after the sound therapy, what kinds of feelings the sound therapy produces, and more. Sound can help balance the brain and the mind-body connection, bringing someone more into the present with themselves.

Why Is Relaxation Important For Addiction Treatment?

Cravings are high during the treatment phase of addiction recovery. Nerves and anxiety are usually coupled with cravings, as can depression. Relaxation is helpful for detaching the association between relief and one’s substance of choice. The more one relaxes, the more they can go with the flow of their feelings and experiences in treatment, without returning to old coping behaviors like substance abuse.

Enlightened Solutions has created a holistic healing program of treatment which utilizes spiritual modalities with proven clinical treatment. Start your recovery with us. 833-801-5483.