Mindfulness In Addiction Treatment And Recovery
Addiction is a powerful physical problem that is often primarily fueled by emotional and psychological difficulties. It can change your emotional structure and force you to obsess over how you’re going to get drugs and when you can use. As a result, it can get you stuck in a “future-based” mindset that makes it difficult to move forward in recovery.
However, mastering the art of mindfulness can give you the “present-based” perception that you need to properly address your addiction, deal with your relapse triggers, and heal on every possible level. But what in the world is mindfulness and how can such a thing help you?
What Is Mindfulness?
To understand mindfulness, it’s worth checking out it is defined by Psychology Today: “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad.” Essentially, you are working to live each day “in the moment” and experiencing life to its fullest.
Most people probably think that they already do this every day: after all, what are we experiencing if not the present? However, take a moment to think about your day and where your mind travels. Let’s go through a sample day plan to get an idea of how much we live in the past and present:
- Wake up – You immediately worry about getting to work on time.
- Breakfast – Instead of enjoying the food, you rush through it so you’re not late.
- Driving to work – Hitting multiple red lights, you get grumpy thinking of the past and how often you’ve hit red lights on your way to work.
- Work – The fear of past mistakes and future promotions haunt you as you work and distract your attention from your work.
- Driving home – The success and failures of your day of work make you even more aggrieved as you fight through traffic.
- Relaxing at home – Relaxation is impossible as you ponder upcoming bills and the day when you’ll finally get out of debt.
- Going back to sleep – The day rushes at your mind without mercy and makes it hard to sleep: your worries about the success of the next day are just as troubling.
Even if your day goes better than this typical pattern, we’ve all had days when all we can do is worry about what we’ve done and what we’re going to do. As a result, we’re not paying attention to what we’re currently doing. For example, when you’re stuck in traffic, you could be enjoying a new album or checking out interesting sights along the way.
Likewise, when you’re relaxing at home with a book or a movie, you could be paying strict attention to the plot line, rather than your potential tax return. Mindfulness is basically the art of enjoying every minute of the day and it’s a powerful way for people who are struggling with addiction to permanently regain their sobriety.
What Ways Does Mindfulness Help With Addiction?
Mindfulness helps bring you into the present and forces you to face the truth of your addiction. No longer can you wave it away as a problem you “used to have” or discuss ways that you’ll solve it in the future. No, mindfulness gives you the “present-based” focus that you need to honestly assess your addiction and work towards beating it.
To be effective, though, mindfulness can’t be judgmental. Looking at your present situation and exclaiming “I’m hopeless!” or “I’m worthless!” does absolutely nothing to help. Mindfulness requires you to look at yourself objectively – a very hard thing to do. Regarding yourself from the outside as an object, with no guilt or pressure, requires honestly assessing your positives and negatives.
For example, you could find that you possess negatives, like the following, that contribute to your addiction:
- A need to fit in
- Depression or anxiety
- Tendencies towards “following” others
- Problems at home
- Anger control issues
- Impulse control problems
When assessing these problems, remember that no one is perfect: we all have negative sides to our personality! And you also need to use your mindfulness to remind yourself of your positive traits, ones that can help you through the travels of recovery. For example, you may find that you:
- Always finish a task that you start
- Enjoy spending time outdoors
- Can admit when you need help
- Listen well to others and express your emotions positively
- Have a well of strength you’ve used to get through difficult situations in the past
Honestly assessing these aspects of your personality requires paying attention to the three elements of mindfulness: remembering, awareness, and attention.
Remembering is important as a way to give content to the item on which you’re focusing (for example, remembering a time you finished writing a book you started), to give you the awareness of your ability. And then you need to focus on that ability to implement it in your life.
Other Benefits Of Mindfulness
By now, you’re likely pretty excited about the healing potential of mindfulness. We don’t blame you; we practice mindfulness every day and we’ve learned how to accept ourselves and move forward in life. However, it’s still worth knowing other ways that you can benefit from mindfulness in order to give you even more impetus to try it out. Other benefits you can anticipate once you start practicing mindfulness include:
- You’ll become less judgmental of yourself and others
- Difficult emotions will be easier to handle
- You’re joy in life will jump exponentially
- Compassion for others will come more easily
- Increased self-confidence and self-acceptance
- Boosted sense of self-awareness
- Understanding of the nature of change
- Ability to fight off cravings and relapse triggers
The last point is particularly important as work to fight off addiction. Cravings come from you body remembering how good it thought it felt while on drugs. That feeling can quickly change your mental state to a similar state of nostalgic remembrance, which makes it easy to fall back into use. However, mindfulness gives you the focus to understand the dangers of relapse and that you’ll actually feel worse if you start using again.
How Do You Obtain Mindfulness?
There is no single path to walk on the trail of mindfulness. Everyone’s mind has its own unique skills, weaknesses, and paths down which it can wind. So awakening your mind to the power of mindfulness requires working you way through a process as individual to you as your fingerprints. However, we can offer you a few simple tips to get you started:
- Start each day with a couple of minutes of breathing. Focus on the way the air feels flowing in your nose, down your lungs, and out through your mouth. Don’t forget to pay attention to the way your body moves. Use this calming technique whenever life gets stressful.
- Whenever you move, notice the way that your body shifts and the way it feels when you move. Pay special attention to the weight shift on your feet. And don’t concentrate on where you are going: enjoy your surroundings and pay attention to detail (while watching where you are going to avoid accidents).
- Chew more slowly and truly appreciate the food you eat and the liquids you drink. Luxuriate on their textures, their tastes, and their scents.
- Spot activities that make you “zone out” and draw your attention away from reality. Try to notice when you were zoning and work on bringing yourself back to the present in order to pay more attention to it.
- Get into nature as much as possible: studies have shown that people feel happier and more relaxed in nature. Really pay attention to the beauty of the trees, the movement of the land, and watch (but don’t interfere) with the animals you may see.
- Take note of any judgmental thoughts that may come into your mind and discard them. Do the same when you feel like dwelling in the past or obsessing over the future.
If this sounds like a lot of work, you’d be surprised at how easy and relaxing it becomes once you start. You aren’t actually actively working your mind and your body: you’re simply focusing it more effectively and working to avoid falling a victim to a “past-centric” mind that dwells on the problems of your addiction or a “future-based” vision that won’t let you gain recovery.
Obtaining The Mindfulness And Sobriety That You Deserve
At TurningPointRecovery.org, we are dedicated to helping you fight through your addiction by teaching you all the mindfulness skills you need to be successful. We also help you through multiple treatment procedures, such as counseling and healing behavior adjustments. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more.