Mindfulness meditation is not only effective in decreasing substance abuse, but also improves general health and well being. It is very useful to those who struggle with addiction because it trains individuals to react in a different way to cravings as they did in the past.
It can also help anyone and everyone to properly manage their cravings, urges and intrusive thoughts.
Studies have been done on the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation and has been shown to decrease levels of stress, anxiety, depression and anger.1
Studies show that individuals who practice mindfulness mediation do not just feel less stressed, depressed or anxious, but instead these negative emotional states are replaced by feeling more happy, grateful, hopeful, content and satisfied.2
One of the most important tools in using mindfulness mediation for addiction recovery is the increased ability to recognize and manage destructive thoughts and emotions by becoming aware of them, observing them, analyzing them and then discrediting their validity.3
Because of this practice, people who have used mindfulness meditation have greater control over their emotional reactions and are better able to redirect their attention at will.4
Meditation used for addictions and compulsive behaviors are particularly effective because it employs the “non-reactivity” principle. This unusual technique teaches to just observe cravings as they happen, and to “not react,” but rather just acknowledge and observe.
This may sound strange at first, but think of it this way. When a recovering addict starts to crave something, they either give in or react to it in a panic or a defensive way. Many times, recovering addicts will try to suppress them but research shows it actually increases the craving’s intensity.5
Just acknowledging and observing these intrusive thoughts, then re-directing your attention at will, not only makes you have greater cognitive control on where you focus your attention, but dramatically lessens future cravings because the brain is rewiring through a process called Long-term Potentiation (or LTP). LTP is a “learning process” that strengthens the neural pathways in the brain. When neuropathways change and strenghten, it also affects the chemical and signal transmission in the brain.
Mindful meditation essentially wires the brain in a particular way by teaching you how to react properly to cravings differently than you did in the past.