How Mindfulness Meditation Works
Many believe that meditation is simply about drowning out unwanted thoughts, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Proper mindfulness meditation often begins with focus on the breath. In a comfortable position, you focus on each breath as it enters and leaves your body. As you introduce thought into the meditation, you do not try to close your mind off but rather keep it open. When a thought enters, do not become distracted by it but simply acknowledge it and let it pass. The point of mindfulness is to become more aware of our feelings, both mental and physical, without passing judgments on them. Through meditative practice, we can learn to increase our sense of mindfulness even when we are not meditating. This allows us to notice our thoughts and feelings more quickly as they occur.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Numerous health benefits have been associated with meditation. These include fewer sleep disruptions, better stress management, reduced blood pressure, a higher-functioning immune system, control over anxiety and depression, and decreases in physical pain. Research also indicates that mindfulness meditation can improve the health of the amygdala, which may improve anxiety and depression in the long term. Meanwhile, positive changes found in the cerebral cortex indicate that those who engage in mindfulness practice can experience the benefits of better judgment and decision-making.
Meditation and Addiction Treatment
Due to the prevalence of co-occurring disorders, many recovering addicts and alcoholics use meditation to overcome symptoms of anxiety and depression. The promise of pain relief also helps opioid addicts who may suffer from chronic pain. While meditation alone will not suffice as a form of addiction treatment, it can be used to enhance recovery programs by allowing participants to become more in tune with their thoughts. Through present-moment awareness, recovering addicts can learn to recognize potentially dangerous thoughts and feelings as they arise. Once they have identified a thought that needs to be addressed, they can deal with it accordingly before it develops into an urge to use. Those who continue to engage in this practice may find themselves more able to achieve long-lasting abstinence from substance abuse as a result of their continued efforts to monitor their thoughts and filter out beliefs that could lead to relapse.