The Benefits of Trying Bizarre Things in Recovery
If you are looking to strengthen your new life following addiction, it is highly recommended that you fill it with the right type of activities. Individually, the following approaches probably won’t be enough to guarantee a better future, but they could certainly be an ingredient of a better way of living.
Many of us have a tendency to automatically dismiss options that sound a bit bizarre. We prefer to stick with the familiar, but it is this type of thinking that makes it easy for us to become trapped in maladaptive behaviour. It is sometimes worth experimenting and getting out of comfort zone because this is the only way we can move in a new direction.
The following approaches might sound a bit bizarre at first, but they may be just what you need to move your recovery to a new level.
Have you ever had a really bad day, but then you met some friends, had a laugh, and for some reason felt better? It can be amazing how different the world looks after our funny bone has been exercised. Laughing regularly not only benefits us mentally, but it even improves our physical health.
Laughter yoga is usually done in groups (these are called ‘laughter clubs’). It begins with fake laughs and participants are encouraged to act foolishly – it doesn’t take long before the laughter become genuine and contagious. If you don’t feel ready to join a laughter club, you could start off by just watching more comedy shows on TV.
There has only been a small amount of research done on the efficacy of laughter therapy, but the results so far are encouraging. It has been shown to boost mood, reduce symptoms of depression, improve pain management, and benefit the heart.
Mahasati is one of the core meditations we teach at Hope rehab – it originates from here in Thailand. It uses rhythmic hand movements which usually seem a bit bizarre to anyone who is not familiar with approach. In the west, we tend to associate meditation with sitting in the lotus position while wearing a blissful smile, and this means we can feel a bit resistant when confronted with the mahasati technique.
The word ‘maha’ means great in the Pali language (the language used in Thai Buddhist scripture) and the word ‘sati’ means awareness/mindfulness. This ‘great awareness’ is not only the name of the technique, but it is also the goal of the practice. In the beginning, it takes a fair amount effort to be mindful, but with diligent practice, it becomes something the brain does automatically and constantly – this is mahasati.
Mahasati is a fantastic approach that can help us to quickly develop mindfulness – it was described as a ‘shortcut to enlightenment’ by its creator Luang Por Teean. If I could only take one meditation technique with me to a desert island, it would be this one.
Lucid dreaming refers to the ability to become conscious while in the middle of a dream. This awareness means we can then have some control over the dream state, and this opens all types of possibilities for fun and personal development. We can use the world of lucid dreaming to explore our subconscious, face our demons, and develop our creativity.
Sky gazing is a Buddhist technique from Tibet that helps us bring some more space into our life.
One of the reasons we become overwhelmed by problems is the tendency of our mind to contract when we feel under fire. This contracted state makes it hard to think rationally, and this means we are more likely to turn to habitual behaviours (e.g. substance abuse) to escape our suffering.
By staring at the large expanse of the blue sky we reintroduce the idea of space into our mind. Our thoughts start to slow down and a state of calmness arises to mirror the spaciousness in the sky. Sky gazing allows us to touch the ‘natural state’ and we begin to taste the freedom we have so long yearned for. Just be careful not to stare at the sun.
The practice of tonglen goes against all of the conditioning that has driven our life up until now. Our usual instinct is to focus on getting the good stuff while pushing away the bad – tonglen meditation involves offering the good to others and willingly taking the bad into our heart. This might sound like the most bizarre idea over, but it helps us to develop compassion. The more compassion we develop, the better able we are to deal with life.