How Spirituality Can Help You Beat Addiction, According To Science

Spirituality is about feeling connected to others and the world around you. And though they may seem at opposite ends of the spectrum, addiction and spirituality are indisputably intertwined. One of the most common causes of addiction is said to be the desire to enter a different state of mind; to escape from normalcy or the mundane, and to feel connected to something more profound.

As assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, neuroscientist and sleep expert Sat Bir Khalsa explains in an interview with Yoga Journal:

“When people take substances, they’re seeking a certain experience – whether it’s escapist or transcendental or just wanting to move into a different psychological state – to get away from whatever is making them unhappy.”

The transcendental experience in this case is the natural human desire for mystical fulfillment. So, if one is already content with their own sense of spirituality, the desire to find this fulfillment through others means, such as using or abusing a substance, will diminish. It’s important to note that spirituality doesn’t have to come in the religious form, either — it can also refer to a person’s beliefs about how the world works, and what their place is in it.

While individual reasons for becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol may vary, it’s hard to ignore the figures that support the theory that spirituality helps prevent addiction. People who class themselves as "spiritual" have been found to be eight times less likely to use illicit drugs.

But spirituality doesn’t just avert addiction in the first place; it is increasingly being used to break addictive behavioral patterns, and its success is reflected in the influx of alternative spiritual therapies in rehab centers across the country. Addicts are encouraged to participate in activities deemed to be "spiritually enhancing," such as yoga and meditation.

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So how exactly can these ancient practices help beat addiction?

Strengthening the Spirit

If someone is an addict then generally speaking, they have lost part of their connection to their own body. Most rehab programs hold the belief that addiction is a threefold disease: it is mental, physical and spiritual. Yoga and meditation practices can help to advance a person in all three areas of the disease of addiction, and contribute meaningfully to their overall well-being.

Both the physical and emotional connections to oneself can be eroded by the overriding strength of addiction. Practicing yoga and meditation is a good way to gradually reintroduce someone to the physical sensations of their body, and slowly reinforce that damaged mind-body connection.

Yoga and meditation are also very calming activities on the nervous system, so they're especially useful during the beginning of the recovery process when considerable stress and emotional turmoil are to be expected. Once some of the anxiety that stems from addiction is eradicated, feelings of overall well-being and confidence are nurtured, and a progression of new coping strategies will be cultivated.

The key is to remember that one’s sense of spirituality is wholly personal; that one person may find a spiritual connection through their faith, while another may find it through feeling connected to themselves and the world around them. Yoga and meditation are simply alternative ways to generate a shift in consciousness that allows one to tap into a serene and healing inner state, and thus join together the mind, body, and spirit, where true healing can really begin.

People who lack any type of spiritual connection are more disposed to feelings of separation, dissatisfaction and low self-esteem —qualities that so frequently enable addiction. Spirituality helps preserve inner strength and self-belief, essential traits that break addictive patterns of behavior and help avoid a relapse in the future.

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