Are you working hard to free yourself from the clutches of alcohol addiction or heavy drinking?
You could probably use a tool that helps you cope with alcohol cravings, find calm in the emotional turbulence that almost always accompanies early recovery, and reclaim your life.
OK, one tool won’t be enough, but mindfulness meditation can be a helpful addition to your recovery toolkit. Discover what mindfulness meditation is, how it can help with recovery, and why it might have a place in your life.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Do you conjure a mental image of someone sitting in the lotus position and chanting “Ohm” when you think about meditation? You’re not alone — but meditation is a broad concept that encompasses numerous different practices.
At the most basic level, “meditation” can be defined as any practice that enhances your sense of calm and harmony with yourself and the wider world. That can involve relaxing poses, mantras, chanting, breathing exercises, visual exercises, and even doodling.
Mindfulness meditation is a relatively modern practice that has roots in ancient traditions (including Hinduism and Buddhism). It helps people achieve two aims:
- Paying full attention to the present. This portion involves observing what is. That can include your body (health, posture, breath), thoughts, and environment. Setting the past and future aside and living in the here and now can have a calming effect.
- Accepting things as they are. This portion is about acknowledging your thoughts and situation. Part of that is learning that not every thought has to trigger a reaction. You can also simply note what you’re thinking and feeling and move on.
Many therapists now incorporate mindfulness techniques in their sessions, but anyone can learn more about mindfulness and practice it in daily life, too.
Why Might Mindfulness Be Helpful to People Recovering From Alcohol Addiction?
Hundreds of studies have looked into the potential benefits of mindfulness meditation, and many have uncovered general health benefits that can also help people at any stage of recovery
. They include reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, a stronger immune system, and better sleep.
Interventions based on mindfulness meditation have also been shown to reduce alcohol cravings and reduce the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.
Beyond scientific research, this approach to everyday life has obvious benefits for sober alcoholics and other former problem drinkers. Alcohol is one way to avoid the past, present, and future through numbing, but mindfulness meditation guides you through a calm and healthy way to do the complete opposite.
Rather than drowning the world and yourself out, as you do when you drink, mindfulness invites you to fully embrace what is. However, the non-judgmental components of this practice free you from the need to have all the answers. Every positive step you take now matters, and mindfulness allows your mind and body to start working together. Rather than allowing your emotions to lead you, mindfulness helps you connect and master them so you are in charge.
How to Get Started with Mindfulness Meditation
Would you like to try mindfulness meditation? If you have never meditated before, you may be surprised to discover that meditation is hard. Try a short five-minute meditation session to get you started.
- Choose a comfortable place to sit — your office chair, the floor, and a park bench are all viable options. Sit down, ideally in comfy and non-restrictive clothing, and keep your back straight. (It’s best if your environment is free from distractions like people yelling and loud music.)
- Set a timer. You may be the kind of person who gets lost in meditation, or you might be impatient for the session to be over. The timer helps in both cases.
- Notice your body and your surroundings. Breathe deeply (but there’s no need to learn specific breathing techniques). Take note of the smells and sounds you observe around you. Do you hear any birds chirping? Is the air fresh?
- Allow yourself to observe your thoughts without judgment. If you’re thinking about problems, don’t try to come up with solutions. Simply notice your thoughts, almost in the same way you’d notice a coffee stain on a desk.
- Wait for the timer to go off and try another session later.
This works as a daily routine, but you can also use mindfulness meditation to deal with cravings or worries. Think of meditation as a way to become more connected with yourself and your environment.
Other Mindfulness Practices
Mindfulness is ultimately about being fully present in the moment. That translates to many different situations — beyond meditation sessions. Other common mindfulness practices people in recovery may find helpful include:
- Mindful breathing. You can do this anywhere, anytime. High-stress situations and moments of boredom provide opportunities.
- Mindful walks. Take a leisurely stroll and notice how you feel and what you see. Take special notice of interesting things like leaves, clouds, street art, or the sound of a cat meowing.
- Mindful eating. You savor every bite and observe the flavors, textures, and temperatures of the food you enjoy in this practice.
It doesn’t end there — you can apply the same principles to any activity, including brushing your teeth, driving, or doing boring tasks at work.
I’m Not Convinced: Should I Still Try Mindfulness?
We understand. It seems unlikely that a practice that sounds so simple on paper could have such a profound impact. Also, some people might find the idea a little silly.
When you think about it, mindfulness does make sense. We have no control over the past, and the future is wide open. All we have is the present — and what’s it for, if not to fully experience it? Ruminations and worries have a lot to answer for, including the part they likely played in your drinking.
We wrote another interesting article on Mindfulness and Meditation To Quit Drinking, You will find some videos here as well that might help.
Mindfulness meditation turns noticing the present into a habit and allows us (sometimes for the first time) to notice ourselves non-judgmentally.
Why not try? Five minutes of your time doesn’t cost much, and you may just discover that mindfulness is very helpful to you.