7 Meditation Tips to Supercharge Addiction Recovery
Meditation can be an excellent part of an addiction recovery plan. In recent decades, there has been a lot of research showing practical benefits of meditation including stress reduction, increased productivity, better sleep, better relationships, and a greater sense of well-being. These can all serve you well in recovery. Because of the popularity of meditation in recent years, there has been a flood of information about it. Unfortunately, much of it is well-intentioned but misleading and if you follow it, you might easily miss out on many of the benefits of meditation or conclude that meditation just isn’t for you. The following tips can help make your meditation practice a more effective part of your recovery plan.
1.) Know Your Needs
First, meditation has become part of the current zeitgeist. It’s in the media all the time and you often hear people talking about their meditation practices. It’s almost expected that if you’re living a healthy, balanced life, then, of course, you’re meditating. However, it’s important to have some idea of what you actually want from the practice. Do you want to reduce stress? Do you want to have more compassion for yourself and others? Do you want to improve your concentration? Do you want to become enlightened? There are no wrong answers, but your individual needs will guide your approach to meditation.
2.) Find a Style that Works for You
Next, it’s important to understand that meditation isn’t just one thing. There are many different styles, traditions, and techniques. Currently, mindfulness meditation is the most popular and well studied and it will be a good place for many people to start. However, it’s not the only game in town. You may want to try a different style of meditation based on what you want from your practice. For example, if you want to reduce stress, mindfulness or a relaxation-response style of meditation may be the best for you. If you want to cultivate compassion then loving-kindness meditation (metta meditation) is the way to go. If you want to improve your concentration then a meditation that builds focus on an object, such as the breath, may be the most helpful.
3.) Find a Teacher
As noted, there is a flood of information on meditation out there and much of it is second-hand, perhaps a copy of a copy of a copy. The fastest way to get into a meditation practice and figure out if it’s right for you is to find a teacher. Depending on where you live and your particular situation, this may be easy or it may be hard. If your options are limited, the best strategy might be to work with the best teacher you can find. Even if it’s not exactly the style you want to do, they can show you the basics and help you figure out where to go next. If there is no teacher available in your area, look into online options. You can take a mindfulness-based stress reduction course online, which lasts eight weeks and has been shown to be pretty effective. There are also many good teachers on YouTube who do guided meditations for beginners. Look for videos by qualified teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg.
4.) Be Consistent
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they decide to try meditation is that they only do it when they feel like they need it. Perhaps they feel stressed or unable to relax, so they decide to light some incense and sit on the floor for a while and be peaceful. While that’s not the worst thing you can do, it’s about like exercising once in a while or practicing the piano once in a while. You really only get the benefits from regular practice. Meditation is a way of training your mind and you won’t see lasting changes unless your practice is consistent. It’s much better to practice 10 minutes every day than to practice for an hour at random intervals.
5.) Stick With One Approach for a While
Once you start learning about all the different approaches to meditation, you may be tempted to try them all. However, as discussed above, consistency is important. Spend at least a month with one practice and see what happens. If you don’t feel like it’s a good fit for you or your priorities change, try something else.
6.) Don’t Try So Hard
Another common mistake people make is that they try too hard. A common misconception about meditation is that the goal is to clear your mind, which isn’t very practical. Some meditation styles advocate single-pointed concentration. However, most people try to achieve this through intense mental effort, which often backfires. Typically, it’s more effective to relax and approach your thoughts in the role of an observer rather than a bouncer. If you get caught up in trying too hard and constantly judging your meditation, it’s going to be counterproductive.
7.) Focus On the Process
There’s a paradox when it comes to meditation: There’s something you want from meditation or else you wouldn’t bother doing it, but the more you focus on the result you want, the less effective the meditation is. The reason is that you can’t simultaneously focus on the present, accepting your thoughts and emotions, and think about how great life will be in the future when your thoughts and emotions aren’t so irritating. The way out of this paradox is to focus on the process. Make meditation a regular part of your day, like brushing your teeth. When you do the practice, just do it and see what happens. Whether your experience that day is good or bad, it still counts.
Meditation isn’t a silver bullet but it is a practice that can enhance your recovery in many ways. For example, mindfulness meditation practice helps people be more aware of their emotions, less reactive to stress, and deal better with cravings. It’s a sort of safety valve for your mind. It relieves some of the tension so you can think a little more clearly and make better decisions. Having an experienced teacher is the best way to learn meditation. Consistency, patience, and being gentle with yourself are also crucial for getting the most out of your practice.
At Foundry, we incorporate mindfulness meditation and yoga into our treatment program because we know treatment is only effective if we treat the whole person--mind, body, and spirit. Meditation is one aspect of our overall approach to wellness. Long-term success in recovery means creating a life that feels purposeful and connected, with no need for drugs or alcohol. To learn more about our addiction treatment program, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
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