Using Meditation to Help Change Addictive Behavior

Habits can be difficult to break. Behaviors like overeating, shopping, surfing the web and even negative thinking can become addictive and interfere with our lives.

When striving to be our best we need to face up to the challenge of changing behaviors that no longer serve us. Although there are many helpful options available like counseling and group meetings, sometimes we need additional assistance. Meditation can help.

The Challenge

Perhaps the biggest challenge in changing behavior is dealing with the endless opportunities to engage in it. When dealing with overeating for example there seems to be food everywhere; it’s constantly in your face as a reminder. When you’re not seeing it or eating it, then you’re probably thinking about it. And once you do overeat, you’re most likely feeling remorse afterwards. Thoughts like, “I can’t believe I did that again” come to mind. Eventually it seems like a vicious cycle!

That cycle eventually becomes automatic and then you exist on “auto pilot.” This action occurs almost unconsciously. The challenge is to get off that hamster wheel of behavior. Here’s where meditation comes in. It can help slow you down on that wheel to recognize what’s going on. Once you start to slow down then you can eventually stop.

When striving to be our best we need to face up to the challenge of changing behaviors that no longer serve us.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation can help you focus and increase awareness of yourself and your actions. While all forms of meditation can be useful, mindfulness meditation in particular is very successful. Clinical studies have shown its effectiveness as a tool in treating mental and behavioral issues like depression and addiction. The key factor in mindfulness is that it teaches you to focus on the present moment in a non judgmental way.

It may sound odd that you can change your future by focusing on the present. However when you focus on the present you can slow things down and understand that within every moment there is a choice. For example, you take the time to ask the question, “am I really hungry or am I just eating out of boredom?”

Mindfulness enables you to ponder rather than just grab the candy or chips without thinking. You begin to examine both your choices and your behavior. As you begin to understand what’s driving the behavior then you can take steps to change it.

Mindfulness also emphasizes the concept of non-judgment. It encourages you to observe your feelings and behavior from a neutral point of view. By looking at things this way you come to develop compassion for yourself. As you try to change you may stumble along the way and tend to beat yourself up over failures. Mindfulness can help you forgive those errors and consider them as part of your growth experience.

Practicing Mindfulness

How do you practice mindfulness? There are several techniques but a simple one involves focusing on your breath. To begin, sit quietly using a straight backed chair or meditation cushion. Close your eyes. Set your intent to be in the present moment without judging your experience or thoughts. Then focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale.

Don’t change its rhythm or anything, just observe. If any thoughts come up just be aware of them, let them go and continue focusing on your breath. If you try to avoid the thoughts they’ll just continue. It’s like an old trick that says “don’t think about a pink elephant.”

What happens? You end up thinking about a pink elephant. Let the thoughts drift on by like clouds. Keep up this exercise for one minute then return to normal consciousness. Try working your way up to five minutes. Strive for a goal of twenty minutes daily, but remember there’s no hurry.

Mindfulness is a very powerful tool to help change addictive behaviors. To make the most of it be sure to use it consistently. Better to meditate for five minutes every day than just once in awhile or not at all. The mindfulness practice is helping retrain your thought and behavior patterns. Best of all it helps you be aware of you. And remember you are a divine being!

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