Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery: A Necessary Combination
Mindfulness – it’s a simple phrase but one that is crucial in overcoming the stressful and negative experiences life may throw at us. Mindfulness means being present at the moment, both physically and mentally. When it comes to intense circumstances such as addiction, being mindful is necessary to truly overcome the cravings of addiction. There is no surprise that connections have been made between mindfulness and addiction.
Mindfulness comes in many different forms and follows a couple of key principles. When someone is mindful they will own the moments that arise – even if they are bad moments. Practicing mindfulness in recovery is essential to understanding one’s feelings and changing them in an honest way. Mindfulness can be an incredibly useful tool during recovery and considering sobriety and recovery is a lifelong process, any bit of guidance helps.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a premise that a person lives in the moment and is present. This idea has been around for thousands of years, originating from Buddha himself. It is the act of being aware of our lives and the world around us. This leads to a better understanding of ourselves and the world. Mindfulness in recovery (and in general) has been proven to change our thoughts for the better.
The act of mindfulness allows a person to be more thankful and live a more fulfilling life because they are able to notice everything around them. Taking a spiritual step back from the moment can help us truly appreciate and understand what’s important. Mindfulness involves pushing aside regrets and worries about our past/future, at least for the time being. This can be a freeing experience as we’re putting aside those memories or feelings from that past that may be impacting us in the present.
Alleviating a person’s mind of these pressures and negative memories can help them focus on the present (the here and now). By decluttering your mind, a person can focus on their aspirations and goals in the present. When it comes to mindfulness and addiction, this can be a great tool for pushing forward during addiction treatment.
How Does a Person Practice Mindfulness?
While there isn’t a set of principles written in a book somewhere, mindfulness follows a couple of main ideas. These ideas are key to being mindful and allow a person to focus on the present. With a connection between mindfulness and addiction, these ideals can be a great help during recovery and treatment. The general ideas of mindfulness include:
- Being completely aware of the world around you (while repeating this awareness in the future)
- Paying close attention to the present moment (observing your feelings, thoughts, and sensations in the present moment)
- Shifting attitude to a curious and non-judgemental one
- Being non-reactive and aware of your thoughts
While these may seem like easy changes, mindfulness takes practice and patience. It is not simply a switch you turn on and off, it’s a mindset that needs to be practiced consistently. There are several tips and techniques to staying positive and mindful in recovery and day-to-day life. Mindfulness also utilizes the different parts of the mind, specifically the emotions, rational, and wise minds. It allows a person to use these together in a positive way; which enables a person to be happier and more aware of their feelings.
Why is Mindfulness in Recovery Important?
Addiction can be a very stressful and crippling situation for everyone involved. It is no wonder why a person’s emotions may run high in the process. Before and after recovery, our minds can be our greatest enemy without the proper attitude and techniques. Mindfulness is essential to the addiction recovery process for this very reason. If a person is not aware of their surroundings and feelings they won’t be able to effectively overcome them.
Pain, guilt, regret, and overthinking, in general, can be a slippery slope for those struggling with addiction recovery. This is why there is a connection between mindfulness and addiction. Taking a step back and looking at the world around us can help us practice mindfulness and more positive thinking.
Some people who struggle with addiction end up falling into a pattern of negative thinking, which only makes the addiction worse. Awareness offers a level of control and happiness that can provide solace for a person struggling with addiction or recovery. With this in mind, mindfulness in recovery takes time and constant practice. Like exercising muscles we don’t use, mindfulness is a process that requires discipline and frequent practice.
Ways to Practice Mindfulness in Recovery and Treatment
There are several ways a person can practice recovery in their day-to-day life. There are a few things to keep in mind and practice when it comes to mindfulness and addiction. These will take practice and patience but in the end, mindfulness can be a great benefit during recovery and treatment. Let’s take a look at ways a person can practice mindfulness in recovery and beyond.
Be Present (in the Here and Now)
It is not uncommon to let your mind drift away into unnecessary thoughts or memories in the past. Whether it be in weekly meetings, phone calls, or watching TV – a person’s mind may be somewhere else thinking about the future or the past. Stress and anxiety can be the culprits of these thoughts roaming around in our heads. It is also not uncommon to be glued to our phones, constantly swiping and fidgeting not thinking about the world around us.
Surprisingly, it is rare that a person is in the present moment and not thinking about dozens of other things. Not taking a moment to be present keeps us from being able to enjoy life’s pleasures and potential. This is why being present and in the here and now is a key part of mindfulness in recovery.
When it comes to mindfulness and addiction recovery, it’s crucial to be in the present moment. Many drug addictions are fueled by stressful and anxious thoughts from the past or future. One of the ways to practice being in the present is noticing all the little things. This could be truly savoring food or even noticing the environment around you. Think about your senses like touch and smell to stay grounded and mindful in the moment.
Understand that Thoughts are Just Thoughts
The thoughts in our head about ourselves and the world around us plays a huge role in how we carry ourselves and how we live our lives. While many people may just tune out these thoughts it’s important to remember what thoughts truly are – just thoughts. We must be able to tell between reality and our thoughts. Just because we perceive the world in a certain way doesn’t make these thoughts accurate or real.
One way to practice mindfulness during recovery is to recognize these thoughts as just thoughts. As well as letting go of those thoughts that will only cause harm. Negative thoughts like “it’s hopeless” or “the world is against me” can be extremely destructive during recovery. Recognizing and combating these thoughts with logic can help us keep control and ignore harmful ideas and thoughts.
Focus on Breathing
Life is full of stresses and problems. Everyone has had a moment of stress or problems that completely throw a curveball in our day. This can be job stress, relationship problems, personal issues, or other stresses. This can end up causing anger, regret, or worse, turning to alcohol and drugs to cope. One of the ways we can practice mindfulness is to focus on our breath when these moments arise.
While it may seem like a simple exercise, focusing on breathing in and out when things get stressful. While we can’t control the world around us, we can control how we breathe and how we think. Breathing slowly in and out allows us to stay calm and concentrate on the current moment. This helps us relax and restores a feeling of calm, even if things are getting stressful.
When it comes to addiction, stressful situations and thoughts can end up being a person’s downfall into more alcohol/drug use. Focusing on breathing and taking small breaks throughout the day as “breathing breaks” (take a few minutes to focus on your breathing and nothing else).
Another way to practice mindfulness is through compassion with others. One of the benchmarks of mindfulness in recovery (and in our day-to-day life) is to view other people and ourselves through a lens of compassion. Throwing stereotypes, prejudices, and any judgments out the window can create a better and more mindful life for ourselves and others.
Connecting with others is a vital part of the addiction process as we can’t go through recovery all alone. Building and maintaining healthy relationships with our peers is part of the journey. Being compassionate about others in the same situation as yourself can be very beneficial during the recovery process.
Start the Journey at Harmony Place
While mindfulness in recovery is important, a person must take the first steps towards addiction treatment. If you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction, Harmony Place may be able to help. We provide quality treatment from a team that really cares. Don’t hesitate to get the proper treatment you deserve. Contact us today to get your journey towards sobriety started.