There are many things you can do to enrich your spiritual life while in recovery from an addiction. And I’ve found that without doing so, the stress of learning to live without drugs and alcohol can be so intense that I can’t stay sober unless I find some suitable resources to cope.
I wasn’t a big fan of the idea of holistic therapy at first. However, over time I’ve really developed an appreciation for meditation and yoga. They’ve both really contributed to the quality of my recovery. I’m going to explore the benefits of both in detail below.
In the context of addiction recovery, yoga is best utilized alongside traditional treatment options that emphasize professional therapy and participation in support groups.
Yoga can help individuals in early recovery a great deal by providing them with:
Improved mindfulness and self-awareness
Increase in energy
Increase in physical/mental health
Yoga is used as a way to counteract the way that drugs and alcohol alter the brain. Yoga relieves symptoms of stress such as heightened heart rate, blood pressure and raised body temperature by regulating and balancing some of the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Yoga also is useful for an addict going through withdrawal. The reason being, it can increase the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain which manages anxiety and stress, both being large mental side effects of withdrawal. Physically, yoga is a good way to get in shape, increase energy levels, and improve the quality of sleep. So yoga helps in both the mind and body.
One of the best things about yoga is its availability. A person doesn’t have to buy a bunch of expensive equipment and it can be done anytime, anywhere. Aside from the optional expense of taking a class, there are plenty of online yoga resources to learn from, and it is an incredibly cost-effective form of self-care.
In recovery, it’s important to have a coping mechanism that can be done at will. A person can’t really be sure whenever triggers will occur. Of course, you can minimize the amount of triggering stimuli in your life but something as simple as not getting enough sleep can cause an addict to begin to go down a dark path in their mind. So being able to take even five minutes to do some yoga can be what keeps you from getting in a negative headspace for the rest of the day.
Meditation is a potent way to increase mindfulness, which for an addict in recovery is crucial. Meditation is a way of training yourself to be completely present and observe your thoughts almost as a third party looking in. The goal is to experience nonjudgement of whatever thoughts or feelings arise. Research shows that meditation even changes the physiology of the brain, building up areas associated with optimism and compassion, as well as weakening the areas associated with fear, pessimism, and depression.
For someone starting out sitting still and observing thoughts and feelings can be hard and even uncomfortable. But the practice of doing so is very helpful in relapse prevention.
Some of the benefits of meditation include:
Immune System Enhancement
Decrease of Depressive Feelings
Types of Meditation
There are numerous ways to practice meditation. Some of the most popular practices include the following:
Guided Meditations - A meditation that is verbally led by someone else. It could be a person in the same room or one of the many online guided meditations. Typically they will walk you through a scenario and have you follow along. This is very helpful for someone who is new to meditation and might be overwhelmed with learning, or a person who has a particularly cluttered mind and needs something to focus on.
Breathing Meditations - Practiced through natural deep breathing and focusing on your breath. Many experts recommend box breathing which is counting out how long you inhale and hold the breath in, and then exhale and hold the breath out.
Muscle Relaxation Meditation - Practiced by progressing awareness from your toes to your head, aiming to let every part of your body relax.
Movement Meditations - These are other activities that are meditative and allow more free-range exploration and not confined to traditional seated meditation. Some examples are yoga, hiking, and swimming. Whatever best helps a person get in touch with their body and mind, counts as a form of meditation.
Similar to yoga, meditation is also complementary to treatment. For a person in recovery, each day brings its own struggles and blessings. Being aware and present every day is one of the best ways to increase your chances of long term sobriety. Incorporating healthy habits such as yoga and meditation will help tremendously as a person navigates the world of recovery.
By Jack Agatston
Jack Agatston lives in Atlanta, GA. He has a passion for addiction recovery and is dedicated to sharing his message of hope with others through his writing and his daily work as a tech at The Summit Wellness Group.
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