Mindfulness refers to a state of consciousness characterized by acute awareness of the present moment. The state of mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of their emotions, thoughts and health.
Mindfulness originated in Buddhist tradition, but the principles of mindfulness and meditation have been incorporated into modern psychiatric treatment since the 1970s.
The state of mindfulness is primarily learned through time spent in meditation. By focusing on breathing and posture, individuals can learn the ability to enter a state of calm observation. This process allows them to gain improved awareness of external stimuli, as well deeper insights into their own feelings.
Furthermore, research shows that mindful meditation can help heal damage to the brain caused by substance abuse. Learning more about the benefits of mindful meditation therapy is a huge advantage for those considering addiction treatment.
What Is Mindful Meditation Therapy?
Many of the most widely used therapies to treat mental health disorders, including mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, incorporate meditation and mindfulness to some degree. Though practiced meditation, patients recognize and accept negative stimuli like withdrawal symptoms and triggers without letting these stimuli distract from their state of mindfulness.
Ultimately, mindful meditation enhances the recovery process by teaching practitioners to accept the present for what it is. In a state of mindful meditation, those struggling with substance abuse are forced to acknowledge the reality of how their addiction has eroded relationships or derailed their personal dreams. These individuals can then make plans for improving their lives instead of living in a state of denial.
Mindful Meditation Opposes Addiction
Mindful meditation is more than just an effective form of treatment for substance abuse. In fact, mindful meditation techniques are ideal for getting to the core of a person’s addiction, instead of simply treating the symptoms.
The core of most addictions are based in intense emotional pain, feelings of rejection and deep insecurities. In a state of mindfulness, individuals struggling with addiction are better able to identify how their cravings and triggers are directly related to their underlying emotional pangs.
During recovery, this awareness is a huge advantage to patients as they develop healthier strategies for dealing with their problems.
Additionally, the lessons learned through mindful meditation therapy are a natural counter to the behavioral patterns that characterize addiction. For example, achieving a state of mindfulness requires individuals to recognize their circumstances for what they are. This approach goes directly against addicts’ tendency to deflect responsibility and rationalize their behavior.
Similarly, mindful mediation teaches the individual that lasting peace comes from daily meditation and personal discipline. This is a major shift from the attitude of a drug user, who prioritizes seeking instant satisfaction regardless of the long-term consequences.
Research Supports Mindful Meditation Therapy
Mindful meditation may have its origins in spirituality, but decades of clinical research have determined that the practice has plenty of measurable biological benefits.
For instance, an article published in the journal Counseling and Values identified mindful meditation as being ideal for playing a supplementary role in addiction recovery. The article emphasizes that the success of a recovery program depends on the individual’s ability to accept a myriad of changes in their lives. Mindful meditation is a uniquely helpful tool for helping patients to come to grips with this personal evolution.
Another article, published in JAMA Psychiatry, pointed out that participants in clinical trials who practice mindful meditation were significantly less likely to relapse than those who did not. Likewise, those who practiced mindful meditation and relapsed did so for a shorter time than those who relapsed and did not practice mindful meditation.
Mindful Meditation Can Heal the Brain
Research published in the journal NeuroReport revealed that mindful mediation can actually support a healthier brain. The study showed that individuals who participated in mindful meditation saw growth in brain regions related to focus and sensory processing.
Considering that substance abuse can affect the development of the brain in a destructive way, it is even more notable that mindful mediation techniques have the potential to repair the damage caused by addiction.
Addiction Treatment that Includes Mindful Meditation
Recovering from addiction requires more than simply flushing the drugs out of a person’s system. The individual must be willing and able to repair the damage – physical and emotional – that substance abuse has caused in their life. Mindful meditation can play an essential role in helping individuals achieve freedom from drugs and alcohol.
At Maryland Recovery, we recognize the risks of replacing one addiction with another. That’s why we support our patients with holistic therapies instead of asking them to take more medication. Our patients learn to embrace mindful meditation, along with yoga, acupuncture and other modalities, to free their mind and bodies from the grip of addiction.
Learn More About Mindfulness and Other Holistic Approaches to Addiction Recovery
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.