Can meditation help with cravings?

Vipassana is a meditation technique that helps you stay in the present moment.

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When’s the last time you craved something? A chocolate bar at 3pm to get you through the work day? Or perhaps a glass of wine once the kids are in bed?

Beating an addiction can sometimes seem impossible. Cravings can haunt you while you are awake, asleep or just daydreaming in between – and more often than not, many of us just give in so we can have some peace (and a little bit of satisfaction).

But cravings don’t have to win. There is a range of ways to get through them, from simple methods like distraction, to more focused techniques like meditation.

Over the next few months we look at various ways of getting through the initial stages of quitting cannabis. We have some great resources to help you set goals, identify triggers and keep yourself busy, and in some of our blogs we’ll explore some other ways of managing side effects like withdrawal and cravings.

Getting your head around meditation

Vipassana meditation is a particular technique of meditation that has been around in one form or another for centuries. It is centred on the three parts of modern life that lead to unhappiness – craving, aversion and ignorance.

So we’re clear, cravings are seen as a result of something we want to happen – sensations, feelings or tangible things we desire for ourselves in the future – whether that’s a minute from now, or years from now. Aversion, according to the vipassana practice, refers to things we dislike or don’t want to happen – anything from not liking spicy food, to a situation panning out differently than we hoped. And Ignorance is seen as not understanding the real way things are, being confused or deluded. Like deluding yourself into thinking you’ll get around to doing all the washing on the weekend or you’ll lose weight despite the pizza you eat every day!

How can meditation help when quitting weed?

For some people, smoking cannabis is a way to deal with things – traumatic historical events or difficult emotions stemming from something that happened in the past. It may also be a way to deal with a lack of ambition or personal disappointment – a fear of not being able to get that job or achieve those grades.

Vipassana is all about living in the present – not in past disappointment, or craving future happiness. It provides peace through simply embracing, enjoying and making-the-most of the right now. Learning to harness ‘the right now’ can really help in managing with past emotional distress, or pressure-filled future expectations, negating the need to smoke weed.

If you’re not craving for something you shouldn’t have, you’re not creating an aversion to things that happened in the past, and you are seeing things as they really are – you are really living in the present! Being completely in the present moment is the key to happiness according to many Buddhist (and other) belief systems, including Vipassana.

So what does this teach us about addiction and how to manage it?

Addictions can lead to the ultimate cravings. You’ve tried it once, or many times, and you know how that chocolate, wine, computer game, joint, bong, or sniff makes you feel. But craving is not being true to the present moment. According to Vipassana you will not find true happiness if you are caught up in craving – you will just constantly be thinking about what you want, but can’t or shouldn’t have, while you should be enjoying what you’re currently experiencing instead – and we all know how unsatisfying and aggravating that can be.

Learning a niche technique like Vipassana usually involves a ten day residency with a specialised teacher (it’s really strict and all about minimising distractions – another handy skill when aiming to beat cravings), but to get you started, this blog has a step-by-step intro. While it can be a little intense, a lot of people swear by it as a tool for minimising distraction in their life, finding peace and getting the better of irritating cravings that won’t allow them to just get on with things.

If you are trying to cut down or quit cannabis and need some support or information, try calling the National Cannabis Information and Helpline on 1800 30 40 50. For great tools to help you monitor your use, set goals, and develop strategies for beating cravings, try our quit centre.

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