How Meditation Can Help You Stay Sober

Have you ever tried meditation? Many people have been using this method to achieve relaxation, but there are good reasons to try it if you’re struggling to stay sober.

Meditation is a practice that allows one to quiet the mind and regain focus. Used properly it can help you to center your life and find inner peace. For some, meditation can be a type of personal therapy that aids in sorting through their issues.

Meditation has been described as “experiencing the process of a state of pure awareness.” Many people have used some form of meditation as a means to improve their concentration and ability to relax. Here are some of the benefits that you can experience by practicing meditation.

Reduces stress and anxiety

Stress can be one of the main “triggers” that makes you tempted to drink or use, which means you must find non-chemical ways to deal with it. We can’t just make stress go away, because life is full of stressful events. Eliminating as much stress as possible is important, and so is dealing with what can’t be avoided.

For some, anxiety can be a crippling condition that brings on intense feelings of fear and dread. Meditation can aid in dealing with anxiety by helping you take a step back and focus on what’s really bothering you.

Stressful events have a negative effect on your body, as your sympathetic nervous system responds to a threat by increasing the heart and respiration rate along with a narrowing of the blood vessels. Meditation can help relieve this condition by increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in a lower pulse and respiration rate, lower blood pressure, improved blood flow, plus better digestion.

Meditation can’t make the stress totally go away, but with practice, you should be able to find relief for stressful episodes without resorting to medication.

Improves immune function

Years of drinking and/or drug abuse can really do a number on your immune system, leaving you feeling less than energetic as well as prone to catching every nasty little bug that goes around. A study by the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, Department of Psychology of the University of Wisconsin has shown that a few weeks of mindfulness meditation can improve your immune function as well as the way you feel. The study concluded: “These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function.”

Pain control

If you’ve conquered a dependency to opiates, you know how dangerous opiate analgesic drugs can be, so you need to find alternate methods to relieve pain. According to a study profiled in the Journal of Neuroscience, meditation can help people cope with pain and anxiety. In the study, 15 volunteers suffered minor burns before attending four daily 20-minute meditation classes. After taking the classes, the subjects were given the same pain stimulus. On average, the subjects then rated the pain as being 57% less unpleasant and 40% less intense.

The type of meditation used for this study was Shamantha, or “focused attention.” This form of meditation teaches how to observe what’s going on in your mind and body without judging while focusing on a chanted mantra and breathing. Robert Bonakdar, M.D., the director of pain management at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, in San Diego, explained to, “Sometimes pain is more about suffering than it is about pain. Sometimes that’s the hardest part of pain to treat. Maybe mindfulness meditation is just the right medicine for that problem.”

Lower blood pressure

Your heart may be in poor shape after years of drinking, smoking, drug abuse and poor diet, and one result is likely to be high blood pressure. Research has shown that practicing meditation regularly can actually lower your blood pressure and may help to prevent the development of heart disease.

A heightened sense of spirituality

For thousands of years, Buddhist monks as well as those of other spiritual persuasions have used meditation as a way to connect with higher powers and enhance personal spiritual awareness. According to Kevin Griffin, author of One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps and cofounder of the Buddhist Recovery Network (BRN), “Addiction itself can be a misguided spiritual search. Many people who don’t see themselves as particularly spiritual find that when they get sober they have some longing in them, and that their addiction, in one form or another, has been a longing for connection. This is a very common experience.”

One type of meditation recommended for recovering substance abusers is called mindfulness meditation, which involves becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings without being dragged into thinking about them. A common practice of mindfulness meditation is to sit quietly and become aware of what’s going through your mind without reacting to or getting involved in your thoughts, images or feelings. The goal of this exercise is a more calm, clear and non-reactive state of mind.

This type of meditation can help your recovery by making you able to act rather than react in a given situation rather than giving in to old habits. Mastering the art of concentration will allow you to gain control over your thoughts and feelings.

One of the great rewards of achieving sobriety is the development of serenity, a feeling of being calm and at peace. It’s not always easy to cultivate a mental state where you feel at peace, but meditation can be an important tool in maintaining your sobriety.

Have you tried any form of meditation?

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