How Can Meditation Help?
The practice of meditation helps you to gain inner calm and greater self-awareness by focusing your mind, attention, and thoughts. When a person is in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, calming and focusing the mind through meditation can play an important role in restoring health. Although there is no right or wrong way to meditate, finding a practice that suits your needs and personality will help ensure that you make it a regular part of your life. We review five popular styles of meditation below.
Also known as Metta meditation, the goal of loving-kindness meditation is to nurture a mindset of kindness and love toward everything, including the person’s sources of stress. This type of meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress while increasing positive emotions. It is helpful for people affected by frustration, anger, interpersonal conflict, or resentment. While practicing this style of meditation, practitioners breathe deeply and practice feeling the love of others as well as sending messages of loving-kindness to loved ones, acquaintances, and the world.
In the practice of mindfulness meditation, the focus is remaining in the present moment and being aware of the thoughts passing through the mind. You do not have any involvement with your thoughts regarding the past, present, or future. You are simply aware of them without judging them or reacting to them. Mindfulness meditation combines awareness with concentration. As you focus on your breathing or on an object, you observe any feelings, thoughts, or bodily sensations.
This style of meditation is incorporated in some form in many different types of meditation. Many research studies have found it can improve focus and memory, reduce fixation on negative emotions, improve relationship satisfaction, and lessen emotional, impulsive reactions.
Body Scan or Progressive Relaxation
Body scan meditation, also known as progressive relaxation, focuses on releasing tension from the body. When practicing progressive relaxation, you are asked to mentally scan your entire body, noticing any areas of tension, aches, pains, or general discomfort. The goal of body scan meditation is to become aware of the tension and allow it to release. Although progressive relaxation may not completely relieve bodily aches and pains, it allows you to better manage them.
During a session of body scan meditation, practitioners begin at one end of their body, generally their feet, and work their way through their entire body. Some forms of progressive relaxation incorporate visualization techniques, such as visualizing a wave flowing over each part of the body and washing away all tension. Other types of progressive relaxation involve tensing muscles and then relaxing them. Progressive relaxation promotes a general feeling of peace and calmness. Since it steadily and slowly relaxes the body, many people use this type of meditation to help fall asleep.
Also called concentrative meditation, focused meditation is when you direct your attention to a single object and continually refocus your attention on the object if your mind starts to wander. This type of meditation is helpful if you are overwhelmed, stressed, or distracted.
The object you focus on can be external, such as the flame of a candle, or internal, such as your breath. Additional examples of targets for focused attention include:
- A sound – listening to a chime or gong
- Visualization – focusing on a goal or picturing a place
- A mantra – repeating a sound, word, or phrase over and over
- A part of your body – focusing on a sensation in the body or a specific area of the body
- Mala beads – counting the beads on a mala
Zen meditation, also known as Zazen, is a seated form of meditation that involves specific postures and steps. The practitioner finds a comfortable, relaxed position and mindfully observes their thoughts without any judgment while focusing on their breathing. Practicing this style of meditation teaches you to concentrate. It improves mental and physical health by fostering an overall sense of well-being. Similar in many ways to mindfulness meditation, Zen meditation is a much more disciplined practice. It is often chosen by people who are looking for a new spiritual path.
Help Is Available
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, we can help. Call and speak to a caring professional at English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Our substance use treatment programs incorporate a variety of holistic therapies to address the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. We can help put your mind at ease as you begin your journey to living a clean and sober life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.