With the ongoing opioid crisis taking its toll on the United States – and indeed the entire world – more and more people are looking for alternative ways to deal with pain. There are over the counter medications, exercise, physical therapy, and various other more physical pursuits that can help, but experts are increasingly suggesting meditation. Believe it or not, it’s possible to alter the way your brain perceives pain through something called mindful meditation. Meditation can also be helpful for people who developed a substance use disorder in an attempt to deal with mental health issues or troublesome home or work lives, by allowing them to clear their minds and focus. But how do you even go about trying meditation, and does it really work?
Essentially, meditation is learning to train the mind. Even if you don’t have any mental or substance use disorders, there are probably times where you find yourself worrying endlessly about something you can’t control or dwelling on something that has made you angry. Through meditation, you learn to rein in your distracted thoughts and direct them to a single focus.
Meditation for beginners is as simple as sitting in a quiet, comfortable place, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breathing. It’s probably not going to be possible to clear your mind on your first try. Just focus on your breathing, feel the way your body expands and contracts, and if your mind starts wandering, let it go and try again. You can pause and acknowledge what you were thinking, but don’t let it pull you completely out of the exercise.
Another method is, instead of focusing on your breathing, focus on your body. Start at the top of your head and work your way down, and try to be mindful of every part. Concentrate on your scalp, your ears, your neck, and on down. You’ll notice sensations both pleasant and distracting. Maybe taking a deep breath has released the tension you always carry on your shoulders. On the other hand, maybe the way you’re sitting is making your back hurt. Again, acknowledge it, but keep moving. If you’re in actual pain, readjust, but otherwise try not to react. The point is to focus and keep your mind on this single task.
The question is, does this really work? The answer is, it depends. There are conflicting studies, as with everything, and some people will find it easier. If you have ADHD, for example, and find that calming your mind is difficult at the best of times, it might be a struggle. Some people swear by it and practice it multiples times a day. There’s no harm in trying, and if nothing else, sometimes just taking a few minutes to breathe and back away from a situation is enough to make you calm down or realize that you’re overreacting.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.