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Alcohol and Mental Health

How Can Meditation Help Me Overcome Alcohol Misuse?

July 21, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 21, 2023
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 21, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 21, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
July 21, 2023
9 min read

There’s no denying that changing our relationship with alcohol can be difficult. Particularly if we’ve grown accustomed to drinking regularly, it can be challenging to overcome the habitual routine of reaching for an alcoholic beverage.

When we think about strategies and tips for overcoming our cravings for alcohol, meditation might not come to mind. After all, it’s a seemingly simple activity that can be done from the comfort of our own home. But meditation is proving to be a particularly powerful tool for people struggling with alcohol misuse.

How Meditation Can Help Reduce Alcohol Consumption

People often turn to substances to numb or suppress painful emotions with alcohol misuse or any other type of dependence. Over time, reaching for a drink becomes habitual. In severe cases, our body has come to depend on alcohol to function.

Meditation — particularly mindfulness meditation— can help break this cycle by keeping us in the present moment, boosting our self-awareness, and calming our mind. It also allows us to slow down so we can weigh the consequences of our decision before reaching for a drink.

And this isn’t just speculation — there’s actual scientific evidence to prove it, along with testimonies of people formerly struggling with alcohol misuse. Studies indicate that meditation can help people with alcohol misuse feel calm, cope with triggers, and even prevent relapse.

One study found that just 11 minutes of mindfulness training may help heavy drinkers cut back on alcohol. People in the study who listened to short audio recordings drank about three fewer beers than usual over the following week, while the drinking habits of those in a control group didn’t change.

Studies suggest that mindfulness-based interventions reduce alcohol use and cravings by allowing us to practice observation. When we learn to observe a craving in a non-judgmental way, we allow ourselves time to let the craving pass.

In general, research has shown that meditation can lead to fewer alcohol cravings, reduced alcohol consumption, increased ability to handle stress, and lower emotional distress. It’s also worth noting that meditation can profoundly impact our overall mental health by increasing feelings of peace, joy, acceptance, and gratitude.

How To Use Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness has two main components: bringing our attention back to the present moment, and simply noticing our thoughts or feelings without judgment. The latter is especially important because if we judge ourselves for our thoughts, we’ll likely feel even worse. But noticing and accepting them reduces their power, allowing us to have more control over them.

In the case of alcohol misuse, when we feel in control, we have a greater chance of choosing not to use alcohol as a temporary escape. Mindfulness helps with this by encouraging us to acknowledge our cravings and respond with intention. Recognizing the distance between wanting a drink and actually participating in drinking brings about a greater sense of self-awareness and calm.

Here are some tips for practicing mindfulness-based meditation:

  • Acknowledge the craving. Any time you find yourself craving alcohol, take a moment to pause and acknowledge the craving. Try not to get frustrated — remain inquisitive instead. You might identify your feelings or thoughts or ask yourself why you’re having a craving at that moment. Again, it’s important not to judge or criticize yourself, but to be gentle and compassionate, accepting these thoughts as a casual observer.
  • Practice breathing exercises. Try practicing breathing exercises anytime you notice a craving. For instance, set a timer for two to five minutes and focus on your breath and senses. Try to find three points of contact, such as your feet on the floor, your back against the chair, and your hands on your lap. Every time your mind strays, gently redirect it back to your breath and these points of contact. Eventually, the craving will pass.
  • Utilize the chocolate technique. Another common mindfulness exercise is called “the chocolate technique.” This is often used to help people control their cravings. Here’s how to practice it:
  1. Hold a piece of chocolate up to your nose.
  2. Start smelling it, but do not eat it.
  3. Focus on any thoughts or feelings that come up as you’re smelling the chocolate.
  4. As you take the time to break down your thoughts, you’ll likely notice that your craving for it slowly goes away.

The goal of this exercise is to train us to break down our alcohol cravings in the same way. For instance, when we have a craving, we can learn to notice the thoughts and feelings that come with it. The more we do it, the easier it will be to resist the craving.

Keep in mind that mindfulness meditation takes regular practice. We can’t expect to experience the benefits by doing it just one time. Just like any other activity, the more we practice, the easier it becomes.

It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a right or wrong way to go about practicing mindfulness. Particularly in the beginning, you’ll likely notice that thoughts keep popping up in your mind. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed! It just means you have to gently redirect your focus back to the present moment.

The Bottom Line

While meditation doesn’t replace a comprehensive addiction treatment program with professional medical support, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for helping us cope with alcohol cravings and triggers. Instead of resisting difficult emotions, it helps us acknowledge them, sit with them, and accept them, ultimately giving us greater power over our cravings.

If you’re trying to cut back on your alcohol consumption but are having trouble, Reframe can help. We take a holistic approach to helping you develop habits that support your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Say Goodbye to Alcohol With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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