Mindfulness has received a lot of attention lately among psychologists, neuroscientists, and anyone interested in the study of mental health and well-being. As one of the most effective ways to improve mental health, support addiction recovery, and manage life’s stressors, it’s a highly powerful tool.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing non-judgmental awareness to the present moment. While practicing mindfulness, you’ll pay attention to your surroundings, physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Instead of judging any of those things as good, bad, boring, exciting, or anything else, mindfulness encourages you to simply notice.
Mindfulness is a skill that doesn’t always come easily. It can be difficult to stay present in the current moment when you have a busy schedule or numerous stressors. But with a little bit of practice, anyone can build this skill and receive the benefits.
There have been multiple studies evaluating the effectiveness of mindfulness treatment for addiction recovery. The studies have consistently shown mindfulness therapy to be more effective at treating addiction than traditional treatment methods, including 12-step programs, which are also very effective in treating addiction. This makes mindfulness one of the most powerful tools out there for overcoming addiction.
However, studies have also found the effectiveness of mindfulness treatment drops when study participants stop practicing mindfulness techniques. This shows that mindfulness is not a one-time treatment option. It’s a way of thinking that must be developed and practiced for the long term. Here’s how mindfulness can help you overcome addiction.
Researchers have found mindfulness to have a significant impact on improving mental health. Addiction and mental health have a close link. In fact, around one-third of individuals with a substance abuse disorder also suffer from depression. Many people who experience depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
Because of the close link between mental illness and addiction, treating mental illnesses during addiction recovery is essential. Using mindfulness to ease the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses will allow you to avoid using substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
Often addictions can be caused or made worse by certain triggers that make you want to turn to substances. Often triggers are reminders of a painful, sad, frustrating, or difficult situation.
Sometimes you may not realize what is triggering you to want to drink or use a drug. Mindfulness allows you to recognize those triggers, which will help you avoid them or create healthy strategies for managing them.
During recovery, cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be intense, difficult, and sometimes painful. Mindfulness has been found to help many people manage pain from a variety of illnesses, and it can be used to similarly manage difficult feelings during withdrawal and recovery.
There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness, and everyone will find different ways that work for them. When you’re first getting started with mindfulness, it can be helpful to practice specific mindfulness techniques. Once you’re an expert, you’ll begin to notice an improvement in your ability to be mindful as you go about your daily routine. Here are a few techniques for getting started:
Meditation is one of the most common mindfulness exercises. To practice mindfulness meditation, set aside 5-10 minutes each day to focus your awareness on your thoughts and physical sensations. When you become used to meditating for 5-10 minutes, add more time as you are able.
Some people believe you have to clear your thoughts to meditate, but in reality, you allow any thoughts to come to you without judgment. If you feel a physical craving or unpleasant sensation, recognize you felt it, don’t judge it as good or bad, and realize that the feeling will pass.
There are multiple types of meditation, and it’s essential to find the type that works for you. Some people enjoy meditating while sitting still in a calm and quiet space. This allows them to better focus on bringing awareness to their thoughts and feelings. Others like to walk while meditating. Walking meditation is a good option for people who become restless while sitting still. Sometimes, adding a little bit of movement can help you stay present in the moment.
Many people enjoy keeping a mindfulness journal because writing can help slow your thoughts. Set aside a few minutes each day to write about your thoughts and feelings. It may be helpful to write about how your body felt that day or any emotions you experienced. Whether you felt anger, joy, sadness, or apathy, avoid criticizing those feelings. Instead, simply recognize them.
Breathing exercises help focus your thoughts on your breath and your body. Performing a breathing exercise when you’re feeling an especially difficult emotion or physical sensation can help you more easily get through the difficult moment. Some people like to combine breathing exercises with meditation or yoga, but you can perform these exercises any time of the day during any activity.
To perform the 4-7-8 exercise, breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts, and exhale for eight counts. Pay attention to how the breath feels coming in, as it sits in your lungs, and as it rushes out. Many people like to make a whooshing sound as they exhale to slow the exhale and bring more awareness to the feeling of it.
Breathing exercises don’t always have to be on a 4-7-8 time frame. You can perform breathing exercises in just about any time frame. Any exercise that slows your breath and helps you focus your attention on the physical sensations of your body can help you be more mindful.
Addiction recovery is both rewarding and tough. Mindfulness is very helpful in breaking an addiction, but many people need extra support, especially during the early stages of recovery. If you or a loved one could use extra support while working toward recovery, the Jackson House team can help. Reach out to discuss your needs and find the best treatment program for you.