A meditation practice can help you manage a number of aspects in life. Whether you need a moment of calm in an otherwise busy day or have a deeper intention for cultivating stillness, meditating provides a safe space.
When someone “practices” meditation, he or she is continually learning. It’s a never-ending journey, with many pivotal points along the way. This is why keeping a meditation journal can be a powerful tool for understanding what each session reveals and how you feel before and after practice.
How Meditation Helps People in Recovery
When people are in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), they may try a variety of wellness techniques. Because addiction is classified as a brain disease, it’s important to regain brain health after addiction by improving neural connections and recalibrating the natural response of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin.
You can do this any number of ways:
- Get mental exercise. Play games, read, do puzzles, and engage in hobbies.
- Stay physically active. Your body is designed to be in motion. Any form of regular movement oxygenates your brain and increases blood flow.
- Eat whole foods. It’s crucial to stay away from junk food and white sugar—also an addictive substance—and focus on fruits, vegetables, lean protein options, and other foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
- Create a support network. People who understand your journey and help you maintain wellness contribute greatly to brain health.
- Reduce stress. Meditation, quality sleep, breathing and relaxation exercises, and even a hot bath do wonders for reducing stress and cravings.
For people in recovery, medical studies indicate that meditation provides benefits such as:
- Improved mindfulness. One common characteristic of addictive behavior is the inability to stay in the present moment. By using meditation to enhance mindfulness, you’re able to accept and tolerate a single moment in time. This helps you develop better self-control.
- Better health management. Meditation calms the nervous system, so it helps you effectively deal with symptoms of chronic co-occurring conditions such as depression and anxiety. It can also reduce problems with compulsiveness and insomnia.
- Greater self-confidence. Too often, SUD develops from a traumatized emotional or mental state. In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Ronald Alexander refers this as the “wanting mind.” Since meditation improves the activity of the amygdala—a region of the brain that regulates emotional response—Alexander believes a person in recovery can develop a more realistic perspective. This makes you feel better about yourself and what you’ve overcome. As a result, you develop a healing path for the future.
How a Meditation Journal Helps You
Using a meditation journal before and after a session offers a clearer picture as to who you are in the present moment. This is especially beneficial for anyone trying to accept the past and embrace a future of new possibilities. It’s also helpful to understand how you really feel and to allow reflection on that existence without judgement.
The act of writing to express thoughts and emotions is helpful, too. It’s a private exploration of self—no correction, no tests. Just a channel to a better state of being.
Your journal may be a few lines you type in a computer file or handwritten in a bound notebook with a special pen. Either way, keep your intention manageable. A brief note will do if you don’t want to write a lengthy entry.
Over time, as you review your experiences, you may opt to change what you witness and record. Each entry should have the date, time, and your conditions—at work, at home, on the train, and so on.
Here are some examples to help you begin:
Observations after practice:
- Guided meditation: Tried a new version of about 20 minutes. Didn’t like the man’s voice, but managed to go off somewhere for a while. When it was over, I noticed my leg fell asleep, but otherwise felt okay.
- Breathing with visualization. Was grumpy when I started, but calmed down quickly. It was only 10 minutes long, so I was surprised I felt better after just a short while. I’ll do a longer version next time.
- Mantra meditation. This was about 15 minutes, and it worked well. I think the mantra helped me not focus so much on what I was thinking about before the session.
Observations before and after:
- Before: I feel forced to do this because my counselor suggested it. I’m not certain what to expect. After: I liked this particular meditation because it was short, and I almost fell asleep! Not sure that’s the point, but it was relaxing.
- Before: I feel really agitated because someone at work made some comments I didn’t like. But I’m looking forward to not thinking about all of that for a while. After: I still feel somewhat annoyed, but I know there’s no reason to worry about any of what was said. It has nothing to do with me.
- Before: In yesterday’s meditation, I couldn’t believe how calm I was afterward! I wonder if I’ll feel the same way today. After: My thoughts were racing a little more than usual. I tried to follow the visualization, but seemed to lose track of things quickly.
Remember, this is a private journal. It doesn’t matter what you observe except how it relates to your progress. Also, try not to let the act of journaling interfere with the art of meditation—in other words, don’t think about what you’re going to write while in the experience!
At the end of each week, create a summary of experiences. This helps you spot trends, potential triggers, and other characteristics that may be important to your new discoveries in wellness.
Holistic Healing Techniques at Cottonwood Tucson
The professionals at Cottonwood Tucson believe you can take back your life and heal SUD through deliberate physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual practices. Our therapeutic approach combines the necessary medical applications with holistic techniques, including meditation, yoga, EMDR, and mind-body therapy.
By Tracey L. Kelley