Addicts often turn to harmful substances when they long for an escape, release, or just something fun to do. Drugs and alcohol provide new ways to experience everyday life, but their abuse comes with consequences. Sadly, when addiction takes hold, addicts begin to do everything they can to experience that escape, at the expense of their own wellbeing. An addictive drive is difficult to overcome, but yoga and meditation can change the way people act by changing the way they think. These practices originate from Buddhist traditions, but they are helpful for people of all backgrounds. When an addict practices yoga or meditation, they become more mindful of their thoughts and feelings, which is an important step towards recovery.
Why Desire Causes Suffering
Think about anything that is bothering you right now. It could be as insignificant as an itch on the back of your neck or as destructive as an addiction. No matter what you are experiencing, your desire for the situatoin to be different is the real source of suffering. Recognizing this desire might seem simple enough, but many people go through their days on autopilot. An addict often forgets that what they desire isn’t always what’s best for them. This can lead to thoughts, feelings and actions that are out of their control. Yoga and meditation help addicts understand and accept their desires, instead of ignoring or rejecting them.
Why Living in the Present Matters
Mindfulness practices, such as yoga and meditation, give people the skills to “check into” the present moment. Very few people naturally focus on the present moment, and it makes sense why – humans evolved to constantly think about the next possible threat. What was once a survival instinct has stuck with us until today, and it can cause problems. Our natural “on guard” mentality causes many of us to overthink upcoming harmless situations. An addict may worry how they’ll make it through a party, big speech or just a normal day while sober. Mindfulness allows them to focus on their present experience, and manage each craving as it occurs.
How Mindfulness Stays With Addicts
When an addict practices yoga or meditation, they are devoting their entire focus to present experience, but these thinking patterns continue well after each session. Mindfulness practices actually change the way the brain works. After a few months of mindfulness practices, the brain’s stress-related “fight or flight” region, the amygdala, actually shrinks and its connections with other parts of the brain weaken. Conversely, the pre-frontal cortex, a region associated with awareness and concentration, becomes larger and develops stronger connections with other regions in the brain. The more often people practice meditation or yoga, the more obvious these changes become. For an addict, mindfulness can help provide a clearer perspective of their actions, and avoid stress-induced relapses.
Meditation and yoga may have originated in Eastern teachings, but Western medicine is beginning to incorporate these practices for addiction treatment. As mindfulness practices gain popularity, researchers have devoted even more resources to studying their benefits. It’s already a certainty that mindfulness can have a positive effect on someone suffering addiction, and Design for Change is here to help you or someone you know overcome the disease using these practices. It’s just one approach, but we combine it with other programs to increase the chances of a full recovery. Take a look at our facility page to see why our campus is the perfect place to become more mindful.