What Are The Benefits of Meditation in Early Recovery?

Meditation is strongly suggested as a tool for recovery, with many treatment centers offering classes allowing those in recovery to gain a basic understanding of the practice. Meditation offers a reprieve from the stressors of life and decreases anxiety. It even has scientifically proven health benefits that may be particularly helpful to those in early sobriety.
Many men and women in early recovery feel mentally foggy. They may have problems associated with memory, attention, and self-control. Meditation has been shown to physically alter the brain in ways which promote healing of areas associated with these specific cognitive function. In a 2010 Consciousness and Cognition article entitled “Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training”, researchers found that after only four sessions of meditation, participants reported” reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness”, and had significant improvements in “visuo-spacial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.
A study on long-term meditation found even greater physical and cognitive results. A 2005 Neuroreport article, “Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness”, found that participants with extensive meditation experience had physical changes to their brains. The study found that “brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula”.
At the beginning stages of our recovery, we often feel run-down and are highly susceptible to illness due to our weakened immune system. Daily practice of meditation may be helpful in this area as well. In a 2003 article for Psychosomatic Medicine, scientists studied the effects of meditation on the brain and immune system. They reported “significant increases in left-sided anterior activation, a pattern previously associated with positive affect”, as well as “significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects”. These findings suggest that meditation not only improves mood, but also has major positive health implications related to immune system functions.
The practice of meditation is suggested in the 11th Step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The incorporation of this practice has very real physical and mental effects that may be extremely helpful in early recovery. Finding moments of stillness and silence may provide a brief respite from our daily struggles while allowing our brains to heal. As Lao Tzu once said, “silence is a source of great strength.”
 
 
 

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