Meditation is a simple yet powerful practice that is proven to promote happiness, bring clarity, and reduce stress. More and more people are cultivating a meditation practice to protect their physical and mental health. Some people meditate just a few minutes a day, while others may spend their days meditating. So when it comes to meditation, can you do it too much, and can you be addicted to meditation?
You cannot be addicted to meditation. If you have cultivated a healthy meditation practice, you may often find yourself in a meditative state. Frequent meditation can be part of a healthy lifestyle and is a sign of your practice being naturally integrated into your life, not an addiction.
In this article, we will dive into understanding meditation and its benefits and discuss what a meditative lifestyle might look like. We will also discuss the definition of addiction and explore the contradictory idea of an addiction to meditation. Hopefully, by the end of this article, it will be clear to you the benefits of naturally occurring and inspired meditation practice.
Meditation is an ancient practice, being traced back to 5000 BC. Historically it was practiced to deepen the understanding of ancient and mystical forces but is now used for relaxation and stress reduction. It is considered a natural, mind-body “medicine” because it enhances relaxation, tranquility, and contentment.
During your meditation practice, you focus on a specific thing to eliminate overwhelming and overstimulating thoughts that may cause stress or negative emotions. Oftentimes, you will be focusing on your breath or body sensations. This deep connection to breath and body will allow you to better approach and cope with stressors.
Types of Meditation
Meditation comes in many forms; some of the most commonly practiced are:
- Guided meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Movement meditation
Some other types of meditation include transcendental meditation, spiritual meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and water meditation. Often, meditation practices may be introduced through yoga, which is a form of movement meditation.
Benefits of Meditation
All of these practices are dependent on the same elements:
- Focused attention
- Relaxed breathing
- A peaceful setting
- Open attitude
Research shows endless benefits related to healthy meditation practice. Some of the most noteworthy benefits include:
- Increased self-awareness
- Sharpened attention
- Increased imagination
- Increased resilience to stress
- Improved mental health
There are also clear physical health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, healing sleep problems, and curing tension headaches. People who meditate feel kinder, more compassionate, and experience more joy in their day-to-day tasks.
Addiction is a complex condition defined as an obsessive use of a substance or behavior that has a harmful consequence. As a body becomes addicted or dependent on a specific substance or behavior, it triggers physical reactions affecting our “feel good” hormones—dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline—to name a few. This cycle is what makes bodies seek more of whatever they are addicted to.
Addiction can also be triggered by genetics and, of course, environmental stressors. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction develops for a variety of reasons:
- To feel better (i.e., relieve stress)
- To feel good (feeling of pleasure, “high”)
- Curiosity and peer pressure
- To do better (improve performance)
As we understand what addiction is, it becomes clear that meditation would not fit parts of its definition. Addiction is dependent on the harmful consequence of obsessive behavior, but frequent, effective meditation is perhaps the opposite of harmful. In fact, meditation is frequently used to cure and treat addiction because of its physiological effect on brainwaves. We will dive more into this idea later on.
Although there might be some things similar to the outcome of addiction, like stress relief and the feeling of pleasure, we can recognize in meditation that these things are achieved naturally and healthily.
Meditation as a Lifestyle
As you start to commit to a regular meditation practice, you will quickly start noticing the benefits. As your body starts to feel better and your mind starts to feel clearer, you will soon become inspired to make meditation a regular part of your daily life, likely practicing several times a day until you practice effortlessly.
One of the fantastic benefits of frequent meditation is the constant opening of the heart chakra. The heart chakra is the fourth chakra, found at your heart center. This chakra is responsible for the feelings and actions of love, compassion, warmth, and joy.
Now, as some people may find false feelings, warmth, or joy through substances or unhealthy, addictive behaviors, meditation opens the heart chakra, allowing these things to flow authentically. As previously mentioned, meditation is considered a “natural medicine” for both the mind and body.
Once you have cultivated a strong, healthy practice, these are some ways you may experience effortless meditation:
- You may find simple daily tasks, like walking, cleaning, and cooking, as invitations and inspirations to meditate.
- Your meditation or yoga practice becomes a naturally integrated part of your daily routine, just as important as eating or hygiene tasks might be.
- You can go to a place of meditation, focusing on breath or body sensations, as you face a challenging situation.
- You do not allow mood or external stressors to keep you from meditating.
Lifelong meditators use their daily tasks to tune into their bodily senses, focus and control their breath, and even consider the deeper purpose of what others may be a mundane task. An example of this is water meditation, focusing on the sound of dripping water. Practicing meditation in this intentional way is healthy and helpful. It will be life-enhancing, contradicting the definition of addiction completely.
Welcome your body and mind’s invitation to practice meditation frequently and be confident, knowing there will be no such thing as too much. Know that adapting to this sort of lifestyle is a long journey from beginner yogi to the lifelong meditator.
Can Meditation Treat Addiction?
This, again, explains how meditation can help treat addictions. In fact, research is showing that meditation triggers the same brainwaves triggered by EEG biofeedback therapy. Biofeedback therapy is used to reorganize and train brain signals in those with psychiatric illnesses. By assessing and manipulating the alpha-theta brainwaves, this can be an effective but very timely and costly therapy to beat addiction.
However, meditation itself triggers and calms the same brain waves, the alpha-theta waves, as biofeedback therapy. In the past few years, there has been more exciting research supporting the way mindfulness-based interventions can help treat and reduce relapse to substance abuse disorders.
In fact, a 2006 study that examined 78 prison inmates for three months who had a substance abuse disorder were taught to meditate for 10 days and self-reported their substance abuse at day 1 and day 90. The inmates who practiced meditation for three months reported 89% less substance abuse. The meditation was six times more effective than the control group’s traditional substance abuse treatment plan.
The lack of harmful outcomes related to meditation and the research showing the positive neurological effects meditation has on addicts are all arguments that meditation cannot be addicting again.
Cultivating a healthy meditation practice is life-giving and enhancing. As research shows endless benefits and clear connections between mindfulness meditation and curing addiction and mental illnesses, it becomes easy to believe everyone could benefit from practicing regular meditation.
As your meditation practice becomes effortless and an integrated part of your lifestyle, welcome it. Know that you cannot be addicted to meditation, and there is no such thing as too much of this good practice.