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The Effects of Mindfulness and Mind Body Techniques as Holistic Support For Changing Habits of Mind



Introduction


Using mindfulness and mind body techniques like massages, guided meditation, sound baths and infrared saunas while abstaining from narcotics to transition out of addiction is more effective in over coming addition than abstaining from the substance of choice alone.

Mindfulness, mind body techniques, massages, sauna detox and sound baths are supportive and necessary modalities to support the transition away from addiction. When we address the natural needs of the body, mind, and spirit we can overcome anything in our life.


Mindfulness trains our mind to focus on awareness, love, and the space between our thoughts. It allows us to observe our thoughts that are not in alignment with our true nature of bliss absolute without judgement. Massage increases circulation, blood flow and reduces pain in the body. Sauna’s help release toxins from our body and help to relax muscle tension. Sound baths reduce stress in the body by calming our nervous system and attunes it to our natural harmonious state. It is strengthening our mind, purifying our body, and staying connected to breathe (developing prana or chi) that will support leaving addiction behind more so than just abstaining from a substance alone.




Effects of Mindfulness on Creating New Habits


Mindfulness meditation allows us to observe the habit of the mind without judgement and allow us to make healthier decisions in the moment.

“Meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging suggests that increased practice of mindfulness meditation is associated with neuroplastic changes in brain.” (Garland & Howard, 2018)


When we are forming new habits in our life, we need to take into account the ways in which we can make this easier on ourselves to ensure our success. When one is overcoming addiction there are physical attachments to the substance, mental attachments, and emotional attachments to the substance itself. All of these levels of attachment need to be addressed if we are to support the transformation to a substance free life in a holistic way. If one were to just simple detox from a drug without addressing the needs of changing the mind body connection, the person is at a higher risk of relapse.


The mind and the body of a human being can change. The true nature of self is never changing. Ideally, when humans are running at optimal levels, we all feel a connection to love that allows us to feel free from the bonds of cultivating our needs (excluding basic needs of food and shelter) from the outside world. We remember the unchanging part of ourselves that knows we can cultivate love from the inside as we are all deserving of love regardless of circumstance.


Due to traumas that become stored in the body we can forget about this true nature. When our traumas cause cloudiness in the mind that is not addressed, we develop reactions in the body that seem out of our control, and when the flight, flight or freeze response it does become out of our control in a physical way to a degree. We begin to identify with these reactions as if they are who we are, which is untrue. The mind and body need to be addressed and supported in order to move through the stagnation of energy that trauma and attachment to that trauma can bring. Mindfulness techniques bring loving awareness to the traumas and allow the space for new habits of thought to come into our being.


“In contrast to trait mindfulness, which is associated with cognitive and behavioral flexibility, addiction may be characterized by mindlessness, i.e., habitual or stereotyped responses that may be executed automatically without conscious volition or strategic regard for distal consequences.” (Garland & Howard, 2018)



Addiction can stem from an attempt to fulfill unmet needs from outside of ourself. When a person has a thought in their mind that stems from a deep unmet need, without conscious awareness, the person will try to fulfill it in ways that may not serve themselves in a holistic way. We see this in many different reactions in human life, for instance; someone feels uncomfortable in their own skin so the choose to drink at a party for confidence, or someone is avoiding a hard conversation with a peer so instead of acting and expressing they choose to have a cigarette.


The unmet need is self love, and if there is no conscious awareness that they deserve that love and can cultivate it from the inside, then they will seek that need or sooth the perceived discomfort from the outside reality.


Who wants to feel a lack of confidence? No one, IF they are judging themselves for it, this feeling can be painful. Without mindfulness and proper support, this can result in choosing to self medicate. Mindfulness techniques like meditation work because when you invite loving awareness into your mind, and it creates the space in the mind to allow other possibilities of thought to be true. Because the mind is always able to change with loving awareness (without judgement), a person starts to notice their true nature is not their thoughts themselves. They begin to detach and notice they are the observer of their thoughts. When this awareness comes in through mindfulness practise, they are inviting the possibilities of new thought patterns to take place of the old ones. They can now fixate the mind on the only part of themselves that never changes, the connection to spirit, prana, love, or bliss absolute. From this place we are no longer in need of outside substances to medicate ourselves.


“According to operationalizations of the construct derived from factor analytic research, dispositional or trait mindfulness is characterized by the capacity to remain nonreactive to and accepting of distressing thoughts and emotions; observe interoceptive and exteroceptive experience; discriminate emotional states; and be aware of automaticity. These mindful qualities may serve as antidotes to addictive behavior; indeed, trait mindfulness, which has been correlated with enhanced cognitive control capacities.” (Garland & Howard, 2018)



The Importance of Honoring the Mind Body Connection


When the mind has a thought, the body has a physiological reaction. Depending on how we grew up, what kinds of behaviours and reactions were modeled to us, our personality, we can all develop different reactions to situations and habits of mind. Our thoughts then lead to emotions that begin to manifest in a physiological way. In general, the automatic responses to emotions in the body are the same for most of us. For instance, when we are sad, we cry or shrink our body posture, or when angry we get flush in the face and tense up or feel a sensation of fire in our body. We then may choose to form a habit of behaviour to medicate these feelings if we choose to perceive them as uncomfortable and are unable to release them.


This can lead us to patterns of behaviour that we do not want to experience, such as negative self talk to self medication, and over time we may become unconscious we are choosing this reality. We have formed an unconscious habit. It may start to feel like this is who we are when that is not true. When our nervous system is reacting strongly it can feel like our reactions are out of our control, and on one hand this is true as when the fight, flight or freeze response is engaged the prefrontal cortex shuts down and our ability to reason decreases. This is why a daily practise of mindfulness strengths and trains our minds as a preventative to automatic responses in the body and nervous system.


If one has the habit of negative self talk, then the body reacts accordingly. For example, a potential habit of self-talk a person struggling with addictions have could be, “I feel shame for using drugs, no one loves me and so I might as well continue using the drug.” Even if the person has completed acute physical detox from the drug itself, if this thought continues it will keep a person going back to the substance. Underneath the physical use is a mindset that drives the behaviour along with the physical cravings. Mindfulness meditation allows a person to witness their patterning and cultivates a non-judgemental state to the patterning of the mind.

“From this perspective, Mind body techniques can been seen as behavioral strategies for strengthening the integrity of prefrontally-mediated cognitive control networks that have become atrophied by chronic drug use and hijacked by drug-related cues and cravings during the process of addiction. As adaptive cognitive control is restored through mindfulness exercises, mind body techniques may increase functional connectivity between these top-down prefrontal networks and bottom-up limbic-striatal brain circuitry involved in reward processing and motivated behavior.” (Garland & Howard, 2018)

Importance of Detoxing Unwanted Substances in the Body Through Massage and Sauna

After detoxing from a substance, and before the habits of the mind are addressed,

The mind body connection will create a physiological craving for the substance even when the substance is no longer in the persons body. When someone feels shame and has the habit of ingesting a substance to meet this need, but chooses to no longer, the body can still have a habit of reaction to the thought of shame. The muscles may tighten, their senses focus on the substance, and physical pain can result.


“Mindfulness-based stress reduction may be more effective and longer-lasting for mood improvement while massage may be more effective for reducing pain.” (Lennox & Cecchini-Sternquist, 2018)

The physical body must be taken care of as it has been storing habits of the mind in it. Massage reduces pain, helps calm the nervous system and releases tensions that were created by the habit of the mind or the substance itself. Creating space in the mind and body together will aid in successful reprograming of habits. As the muscles are used to reacting in accordance to thoughts and cravings, muscles need support in relaxing and releasing this stored energy pattern. The body also stores the chemicals from substances long after acute withdrawal that can increase the risk of relapse.

“Protracted withdrawal symptoms (signs and symptoms that persist, evolve or appear well past the expected timeframe for acute withdrawal) can precipitate relapse. Such symptoms include cravings, disturbances in sleep and mood, low-level physical discomfort and reduced cognitive function that persist for 6 months to many years after achieving sobriety” (Lennox & Cecchini-Sternquist, 2018)


Sauna’s are another way to help release chemicals from the body that can initiate cravings for substances. The toxins need to be gone from the body in order to aid gaining control over our mind and emotions. It is not only the toxins from the substance of choice that need to be detoxed, but the environmental toxins that can be built up in the body that can have a negative effect on making substance forming addictions more susceptible.


“Exposure to pesticides, environmental endocrine disrupters and heavy metals has striking effects on the dopamine-mediated reward, craving and reinforcing effects of drugs. Many of these effects are caused by chemicals that bio-accumulate. The most studied oestrogen mimetic of this type is bisphenol A (BPA). BPA exposure during development heightens adult sensitivity to the reward effects of opiates. Animal studies show that oestrogen-like chemicals modulate the dopamine-associated behavioural and reward effects of illicit drugs, cocaine and amphetamines. Even heavy metal exposure appears to both predispose to later addiction and increase relapse risk.” (Lennox & Cecchini-Sternquist, 2018)


A result of a study of 109 individuals sequentially enrolled into a sauna detoxification component of a multi-modal, long-term residential substance abuse treatment centre showed, “participants expressed high levels of satisfaction with the regimen of sweating every day for two weeks, noting improved energy, mental clarity, emotional stability, reduced cravings, greater well-being and a positive life outlook.” (Lennox & Cecchini-Sternquist, 2018)


A sauna before a massage allows for deeper relaxation, greater detoxing effects and paired with a guided mediation at the same time is extremely effective in reprograming the mind body connection.




Effects of Using Sound Baths as Relaxation Tool

When we pair a sound bath after a sauna and massage, we are continuing to support keeping the parasympathetic nervous system in check. This way we can be in control of our knee jerk reactions to a craving for a drug we want to let go of. When our nervous system is engaged in flight, fight or freeze mode it is harder create change in the mind that could lead us to making new decisions and habits. The mind is like a record and it can have deep grooves that keep us stuck in our habits that may serve us or not.

“In a recent randomized crossover study, playing a single Tibetan (or Himalayan) singing bowls was found to decrease blood pressure and heart rate more than silence alone when conducted immediately prior to a guided visualization.” (Goldsby et al., 2017).


Sound baths focus our mind on one point of sound. One pointedness of mind relaxes the mind. The vibrations of the sound bath help to harmonize our bodies to the awareness of our true self that never changes. It is the continued practise of our awareness to this realization that we are the observer of our experience that facilitates our success in over coming habits. This is why in addition to “depressed mood and anxiety scores on the HADS [being] significantly reduced post-meditation compared with pre-meditation……increased feelings of spiritual well-being, as well as faith, immediately [followed] the sound meditation.” (Goldsby et al., 2017).


Once the body is detoxed, and physically relaxed and aware of its patterning without judgement, sound baths invite our body mind to reprogram to the true nature of our existence. The vibrations of the singing bowls attune us to our highest potential. It is with this supportive alignment we can have an easier time connecting to our true nature.


“Thus, while less desirable mood states such as tension, anger, and depression decreased following the meditation, potentially desirable variables such as a sense of spiritual well-being increased.” (Goldsby et al., 2017).



Conclusion

In conclusion, it has been shown that mindfulness techniques paired with supporting detox of the body through sauna, reprograming mind body connection through massage and using sound baths, significantly helps people over come patterning’s of the mind body connection that no longer serves them. This report assumes the person working towards their goals has a sincere desire for change, and also has access to basic needs like shelter, food, and the modalities discussed as a support to ensure their success. When these basic needs are filled and access to supportive modalities are available along side a self-centred desire for change, the use of these modalities will prevent relapse to addiction far more than the chance of relapse when using abstinence alone.


References


Garland, E. L., & Howard, M. O. (2018, April 18). Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: Current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research. Addiction science & clinical practice. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5907295/.


Goldsby, T. L., Goldsby, M. E., McWalters, M., & Mills, P. J. (2017, July). Effects of singing bowl sound meditation on mood, tension, and well-being: An observational study. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871151/.


Lennox, R. D., & Cecchini-Sternquist, M. (2018, November). Safety and tolerability of sauna detoxification for the protracted withdrawal symptoms of substance abuse. The Journal of international medical research. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6259397/.

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