Several research studies have demonstrated that that when we attempt to suppress thoughts about using substances or negative emotions, this may actually lead to increases in substance use or expressions of negative emotions. Vipassana, or mindfulness meditation practice emphasizes acceptance instead of suppression of unwanted thoughts.
Research in addictive behaviors has found that thought suppression has a detrimental effect at attempts to quit smoking and that when heavy social drinkers are given instructions to suppress alcohol-related thoughts and urges showed greater anticipation for alcohol than those within a control group.
In contract to thought suppression, mindfulness-based practices emphasize acceptance, non-judgment and non-reaction to thoughts, feelings and sensations.
Studies have shown those people who practice meditation do not report necessarily a reduction in intrusive or unwanted thoughts, but show a difference in the manner in which these individual copes with such thoughts. Those individuals who participated in Vipassana meditation also reported a decrease in their attempts to avoid unwanted or intrusive thoughts than individuals who do not practice meditation.
These results demonstrate avoidance of unwanted thoughts may be an important component in the process of dealing with an addiction to substances such as alcohol.
This study conducted with 173 participants in a low security jail in Seattle found that the inmates who participated in a 10-day Vipassana programme showed significant decreases in substance use three months following release from jail when compared to a treatment as usual control Group.
Ref: S Bowen, K Witkiewitz, T M. Dillworth G. A Marlatt ; The role of thought suppression in the relationship between mindfulness meditation and alcohol use; Addictive Behaviors 32 (2007) 2324–2328
How to meditate (by Dav Panesar)
Holding our attention (by Dav Panesar)
Symran (by Dav Panesar)