Some people practice it to help deepen their understanding of what they consider to be the sacred and mystical forces of life. Many use it for increasing their level of calmness and physical relaxation. Others use it for improving psychological balance. Some use it for coping with problems. Perhaps most use it for enhancing overall health and well-being. It appears that meditation for alcoholism as a therapy might be effective
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that there are many forms of meditation. Most have four things in common.
- Use of a quiet place with few or no distractions.
- A comfortable but specific position.
- A focus of attention. (A word, object the sensations of breath.)
- An open attitude. (Not judging distractions as they come and go.)1
A common goal is to achieve a relaxed state of being and inner peace. The procedure is easy to learn and can be performed virtually anywhere. This could make it easy to do meditation for alcoholism.
Ways to Meditate
The ways to meditate can include, among others, 2
Guided meditation involves forming mental images of relaxing places or situations, using as many senses as possible. This is sometimes called guided imagery or visualization.
Mantra meditation involves silently repeating a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
Mindfulness meditation involves an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. The goal is broaden conscious awareness by focusing on what is experienced during meditation, such as the flow of breath.
Qi gong generally involves combining meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises.
Tai chi involves performing a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
Transcendental meditation involves silently repeating a mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase, in a specific way.
Yoga involves performing a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a flexible body and a calm mind.
Effectiveness of Meditation for Alcoholism
There is some evidence that practicing meditation may be useful for reducing stress, improving sleep, relieving distress, reducing anger and hostility, improving coping ability, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the perception of pain.
The evidence is not good regarding any value of meditation for smoking cessation. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the evidence is not good regarding meditation for alcoholism.
Potential Problems with Yoga
Meditation for alcoholism can be practiced with yoga. However, yoga has been criticized for causing medical problems. In other cases, it may make them worse.
- Torn ligaments
- Back injuries
- Degenerative arthritis.
- Damage to major nerves
- Spinal stenosis
- Thoracic outlet syndrome.
- Torn muscles
- Torn retinas
- Knee injuries.
- Torn arteries in the neck.
- “Yoga foot drop.”3
Before beginning to practice yoga, many people choose to discuss the matter with their doctor.
1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Meditation.
2. Mayo Clinic. Meditation.
3. Broad, W. How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. New York Times Magazine, January 5, 2012. Also, Broad, W. The Science of Yoga: the Risks and the Rewards. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2012.
Bowen, S., et al. Mindfulness Meditation and Substance Use in an Incarcerated Population. Psych Addict Behav, 2006, 20(1), 343-347.
Carim-Todd, L., et al. Mind-body practices: an alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature. Drug Alc Depend, 2013, 132(3), 399-410.
Chiesa, A. Vipassana Meditation: Systematic Review of Current Evidence. J Alt Comp Med, 2010, 16(1), 37-46.
Chiesa, A., and Serretti, A. Are mindfulness-based interventions effective for substance use disorders? A systematic review of the evidence. Sub Use Misuse, 2014, 49(5), 492-512.
Garland, E., et al. Mindfulness training. J Psycho Drugs, 2010, 42(2), 177-192.
Gelderloos, P., et al. Effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation Program in Preventing and Treating Substance Misuse: A Review. Sub Use Misuse, 1991, 26(3), 293-325
Murphy, T., et al. Lifestyle modification with heavy alcohol drinkers: effects of aerobic exercise and meditation. Addict Behav, 1986, 11(2), 175-218.
Zgierska, A., et al. Mindfulness meditation for substance use disorders: a systematic review. Sub Abuse, 2009, 30(4), 266-294.