Meditation is a practice which induces a focused, calm, concentrated state of mind. It can be practiced in a group or alone, with or without a teacher. Some modalities have a spiritual component and tradition (as in Buddhist meditation practice), while others are not affiliated with a particular tradition and focus solely on concentration and awareness.
Mindfulness meditation helps people learn to be ‘present’ in any situation, meaning to be aware of and focused on the thoughts and sensations of the immediate moment. Being fully present allows a person to become aware of emotional and physical feelings so that they can learn to respond, not react, to them. Meditation can help people access subconscious thoughts and feelings, which can help them to better understand their own fears, obstacles and motivations. The calming of the mind necessary for meditation practice helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Meditation is sometimes combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy to help people with alcohol dependence. This modality is called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. By increasing mental focus, the meditating person becomes more aware of both mind and body, and develops the ability to ‘stay with’ and think through recurring negative thoughts. Through this process, the negative thoughts are diffused and they lose their power. Many times these negative thoughts are related to a ‘trigger’ (an experience or association that leads to a craving for alcohol), and processing them helps prevent the trigger experience from building to a relapse. The goal of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is to help people observe and accept their emotions, positive or negative, so they can use them for positive change in their lives.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a specific kind of meditation practice involving the use of a mantra or sound. It aims to produce a feeling of harmony and calm in the body. TM is practiced while seated with eyes closed, twice a day for twenty minutes each session. Practitioners report that TM creates a state of restful alertness that decreases anxiety, stress and fatigue. It can also foster a sense of control in situations that trigger anxiety.
For some, seated, still meditation is not a good fit. Active modalities that achieve similar effects—namely, disciplining and calming the mind and increasing feelings of self-esteem and control—are martial arts such as tai chi, quigong, and karate. Yoga also achieves a similar effect.
Individuals who would benefit from improved mental focus as a means of combating their addiction.
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