Updated on 1/31/2023
Content Reviewed by Cameron Bolish, M.Ed., CEO of PaRC
If you know a thing or two about mental health, you might be familiar with the term “mindfulness.” There are endless benefits to mindfulness, especially in addiction recovery. Mindfulness encourages individuals to fully take in the present moment they are experiencing in front of them. This makes it an excellent coping mechanism for several reasons, especially because it shuts down rumination and anxiety on the past or the future. Mindfulness in addiction recovery is essential for long-lasting success and peace of mind away from powerful triggers and cravings. Many individuals turn to mindfulness for self-care, to reduce anxiety and to improve their general well-being overall.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice of deeply focusing on each lived moment. Mindfulness is being completely aware of what is happening in the present moment, both externally and internally.
Many people neglect to understand that this is not merely focusing on an object or on nature in great detail. It is about observing what is happening simultaneously within you as you take in what is happening outside of you.
Mindfulness involves bringing awareness to any thoughts and feelings that may surface while trying to find deeper meaning and connection to why your feelings are surfacing the way that they are. Instead of labeling moments as good or bad, or living your life on “autopilot,” being mindful encourages you to experience life as it unfolds through each and every moment.
There are important concepts to mindfulness that make it a game-changer for coping with mental distress. These concepts include:
- Practicing objectivity
- Practicing non-judgment, and instead, acceptance
- Practicing concentration, patience and focus
- Practicing curiosity and wonder
- Practicing compassion
- Reflecting on automatic and conditioned responses
- Paying attention to thoughts, feelings and sensations when they arise
- Setting intentions for your practice
- Letting go of expectations
- Integration following this practice
Mindfulness holds many benefits, especially for those struggling to recover from addiction. There is no surprise that substance use and addiction alter how the brain functions. With repeated use, there are physical changes made to the brain that make it increasingly difficult to reverse. Luckily, the brain is neuroplastic, meaning that these shifts can be changed back with a commitment to sobriety.
A main component of addiction recovery is to address and work through cravings and triggers that may surface outside of a treatment facility. It is essential to address triggers and cravings to prevent any possibilities of a relapse occurring during recovery. When triggers and cravings do arise, they pose harmful threats to an individual’s recovery process. Mindfulness allows an individual to focus on the here and now, which aids in their ability to fight off mental distress. Regularly practicing this promotes an individual’s ability to calm their mind as it tries to heal from substance use.
Another important benefit to mindfulness in addiction recovery is that it eases feelings of regret, shame or guilt that you may experience during your recovery. Being mindful rewires your brain back to its natural functioning, strengthening its natural healing abilities. Ruminating thoughts can be quieted alongside mindfulness.
A Beginners Guide to Mindfulness in Recovery
If you have never engaged in mindfulness before, it is important that you remember to be patient with yourself during your first several attempts. Initially, you are working to understand and receive the benefits of mindfulness, but, over time, you might find yourself working toward becoming a mindful person.
There are numerous ways to engage in mindfulness, especially on a daily basis. You might recognize some of the following techniques mentioned. These can serve as a starting point for you in your mindfulness journey.
Some examples of mindfulness practices might include:
- Mindfulness meditation (and nearly any other practice of meditation)
- Mindful eating
- Body-scanning exercises
- Mindful listening
- Mindful writing (such as journaling or writing letters to a loved one)
- Paying attention
- Bringing focus to your breath
- Fostering gratitude
Take mindfulness meditation, for example. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet space, and when you are ready, close your eyes. You are going to focus on your breath for the entire session. When you experience thoughts or feelings crossing into your conscious mind, return your focus back to your breath. Be deliberate about the intensity of the breaths that you are taking. Repeat this for several minutes up to an hour during the moments you experience intrusive thoughts or other sensations of anxiety.
Many individuals go about their lives without giving any intentional thought to what is happening in the present moment. They are stuck in the cycle of societal conditioning: wake up, eat, work, sleep, repeat. Mindfulness is an opportunity to break that conditioned cycle. It works to reverse harmful changes made to an individual’s physical, emotional and psychological state.
Any activity that promotes presence, awareness and acceptance is a practice of mindfulness. When you begin to experience intrusive thoughts that do not serve you in your healing process, consider trying a mindfulness practice and seek out all that the present moment has to offer to aid in your recovery journey.
PaRC (Prevention and Recovery Center) is a treatment center for adolescents, teens and adults working to overcome substance use and addiction. Our treatment center’s compassionate staff understands that addiction recovery is more than just quitting substance use. We recognize addiction to be a condition of the mind, body and spirit. We believe that mindfulness is essential in fostering long-lasting recovery from triggers, cravings and addiction overall. We offer several holistic treatment modalities to help individualize your treatment journey. For more information about our program, call us at (713) 939-7272.