Addiction recovery is difficult; this is part of the reason why some people never seem to really make it through recovery in the first place. Deciding to quit and improve your life instead requires some serious dedication and patience. It’s also immensely brave, extremely commendable, and one of the very best decisions you can make for yourself if you’re struggling with addiction. Even though the journey may be difficult, you don’t need to walk it alone; there’s help available when you’re ready.
Emotions and feelings often run high in both active and post-acute withdrawal. You’re dealing with so much at once that feeling a bit overwhelmed is very normal. When it’s difficult to think clearly, or you’re struggling with “brain fog,” clear your mind and find your center with these seven daily meditation routines.
Morning Affirmations + Meditation
Thomas Szasz once said, “Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.” If you struggle the most each morning when you arise, remind yourself that it’s okay to take 30 minutes to an hour to center yourself and fully wake up. Be gentle and loving towards yourself even if it seems like you’re headed for a challenging day.
Morning affirmations (preferably recited in a nice, warm patch of sunlight) encourage you to focus on the positive before you start your day. When you first wake up, get out of bed, grab a drink, splash some water on your face, and find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit.
Begin by sitting upright in a comfortable position. Breathe in to the count of three, hold for three, then release to the count of three. If this feels too short or long for you, free to adjust the count to whatever suits you best.
As you focus on your breath, gently begin stretching each part of your body; first your neck, then your shoulders, then your arms. As you stretch each part, say out loud one positive affirmation about yourself. This could include any of the following:
- I am strong.
- I am beautiful.
- I am capable.
- I am recovering.
- I am compassionate.
- I help others.
- I deserve love.
- Many people love me.
- I am appreciated.
- I appreciate my body.
Although these might seem a bit cheesy at first, affirmations and meditation are a powerful combination. They gently guide the body in the direction of positivity without making you feel forced. Spend about 15 to 30 minutes doing this routine, then follow it up with a shower and get started with your day.
Reading + Contemplating
If you’re spiritually minded (regardless of specific religion), be sure to make time out of each day to focus on your faith or belief system. Look for books that focus on healing and recovery while highlighting important spiritual lessons at the same time; dedicate 15 minutes or more to reading and contemplating what you’ve learned along the way.
Whenever possible, aim for positive, comforting reads over stressful, confrontational books. Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Apart,” for example, will have a much different impact on the stressed-out Buddhist’s mind, than, say, a book about death and its meaning.
Follow your reading session with a short sitting meditation or yoga. While you practice, focus on what you’ve learned and allow your mind time to mull it over as you stretch. Choose books that are particularly interesting and uplifting to you and you’ll find that it recenters your focus and helps you to think more clearly, too.
Writing + Visualizing
Guided visualization is immensely powerful. Research shows that those who visualize their success very often feel more confident and capable when it comes time for the actual event. Likewise, writing or journaling your problems can help you to get them out on paper instead of hyper-focusing or getting stuck in a loop of negative talk in your mind. Combining these two approaches boosts the benefits you experience from either one.
Start by taking 20 minutes out of your day to sit down and write out a short story; the main character is you. Write yourself into a scenario you’d normally struggle with, and finish the story with your ultimate success. Feel free to get as creative or bland as you want.
Then, read the story back to yourself and meditate on it for 10 minutes or more. Go over the story multiple times, visualizing your success in your mind as you focus on your breath.
This routine works best just before bed; anecdotal evidence shows that writing down a problem or visualizing it before you sleep can give your mind time to come up with practical solutions. This is where the term, “sleep on it” comes from.
Dance + Gentle Yoga
In places like New York, a new ecstatic dance movement that combines dancing with affirmations and movement is capitalizing on this concept. Practitioners believe that allowing yourself to move to music with abandon is not only good for the body, but is also excellent for relieving tension and clearing the mind. At its heart, dancing takes us back to our tribal history and makes us feel invigorated, healthy, and happy.
But wait; there’s more! There’s another reason why so many people love to dance; doing so can be entrancing and almost meditative, especially when it comes to interpretive and contemporary dance styles. It seems to allow us to process our thoughts and feelings in the same way as art or crafting.
To integrate this into your daily life, carefully watch yourself for signs of boredom, stress, and anxiety. When you’re feeling sluggish or restricted, find a private spot, pop in your favorite music, and dance your heart out while gently stretching your arms, legs, back, and torso. Allow yourself to become fully immersed in the music.
BONUS: dancing boosts endorphins, something that many recovering addicts struggle within the first one to two years of sobriety.
Walking Meditation + Nature
For centuries, Buddhist monks have practiced walking meditation in temples all over the world. As the name suggests, its only difference from standard sitting meditation is that the walker focuses not on the breath, but on the actual process of walking and everything it entails.
To practice walking meditation, start walking. As you take each step, you should focus on how the heel feels as it connects the ground, how the pressure spreads around the foot, and how you subconsciously pick up your other leg to move it forward again. Paying attention to these tiny little movements forces the brain to slow down and relax, improving clarity and cognition.
This activity works even better if you engage it in a peaceful, natural environment. Connecting with the natural world has its own benefits, so don’t be afraid to dive into a local park or go for a hike at the same time. If you do, try to reflect on and appreciate the beauty around you and your role within it.
Binaural Sounds + Sleep
Getting enough sleep is such a crucial part of recovery that it cannot be understated. Not getting enough sleep is a serious relapse trigger; feeling tired or run-down often cripples our productivity, so we turn to substances (be they caffeine or illegal drugs) to keep us going.
Listening to binaural sound as you fall asleep is a form of self-hypnosis. At its most basic, it causes a trance-like state of relaxation. Some believe that this state may induce deeper, more refreshing sleep, too.
What exactly is a binaural sound? Any sort of steady, hypnotic sound input with two different but complementary channels that has a marked and scientifically proven effect on brain waves. The brain’s response to binaural waves is clear; researchers have identified responses in the brain when listeners dialed in. If you’ve ever felt entranced by dance music or electronica, you have experienced a variation of binaural sound.
Theta sounds (between 4 – 8 Hz in frequency) that move into Delta sounds (4Hz and under) seem to be best for lulling yourself to sleep. While this won’t have an immediate effect on mental clarity, better sleep certainly will.
These wonderful meditation routines are simple, easy to integrate into your life, and widely beneficial regardless of what addiction you’re recovering from. Added on to an overall recovery plan, including one-on-one or group therapy and medical management, they are an effective way to reduce stress and improve mental clarity. If you find yourself still struggling with clarity, consider speaking with your therapist or physician. Certain medications may help.