The term ‘mindfulness’ has become a buzzword in the addiction recovery industry. There are now a lot of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers that incorporate this practice into their treatment programs. If you are not familiar with the concept of mindfulness, you may be wondering how sitting around in silence can actually help you stay sober. Is this a scam or is mindfulness truly a legit form of therapy?
Mindfulness is often associated with meditation while chanting or humming incomprehensible syllables. But while meditation is one way to practice mindfulness, the concept of being mindful is much more than just sitting still.
What is mindfulness?
The easiest way to understand what being mindful is all about is to actually talk about its opposite – being mindless. When you are mindless, your brain is not into what you’re doing at that certain moment. For example, how many times have you gone out to eat dinner at a nice restaurant with a friend but instead of enjoying the good food and making meaningful conversations, you’re actually glued to your social media feed?
Other common examples are mindlessly eating, mindlessly going through the motions of work, and mindlessly watching reality TV. It means that even if you are doing the activity, you are not really focused on it because your mind is somewhere else. Surely, you’ve experienced doing something in a mindless manner before, whether intentional or not.
Mindfulness is then the exact antithesis of this mindless habit. It refers to being fully aware of the present by focusing on your physical, emotional, and mental experiences as they happen. Mindfulness meditation, as mentioned earlier, can be one method to practice this. By taking a few moments each day to pause and just stay still, it gives you a chance just to refocus your thoughts and be aware of your external surroundings and internal feelings.
But more than meditation, mindfulness can be practiced in every activity in your day-to-day life. Mindful eating, mindful fitness, and mindful relationships are just examples of how you can practice mindfulness. So if you practice mindfulness, how can this help in your addiction recovery journey?
1. You learn to deal with the bad and appreciate the good
Many people who turn to substance addiction do so to forget their problems. They use drugs or alcohol as a form of escape from their present problems. The practice of mindfulness actually does the opposite. Instead of making you forget about all of your problems and give you an easy way out, learning to be mindful helps you deal with your problems and recognize that they exist.
Accepting the faults or failures in your life is the first step in finding a long-term solution to overcome them instead of running away from them. At the same time, being mindful improves your concentration which can help you think more clearly and focus on good things that you may have taken for granted previously.
2. Mindfulness can help relieve and prevent stress
After getting out of rehab, many people find it difficult to go back to their old lives. This is because they are again exposed to external stressors that caused them to seek substances in the first place. Many factors can cause stress: your family, your job, broken relationships, and money to name a few.
All these stressors can all be addressed by practicing mindfulness meditation. Numerous studies support that mindfulness can reduce stress. By practicing mindfulness meditation, it can help you relax, calm your mind, and relieve yourself from pressures.
3. Focusing on the present reduces bouts of anxiety
Even if people in recovery are not currently dealing with stressful situations, it is quite normal for many of them to suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety is worrying about things before they happen, rather than triggers that are present in the moment. While it may be normal to occasionally worry, being obsessively anxious may actually work against your recovery goals because it may cause you to seek substances to self-medicate your anxiety.
However, studies have shown that mindfulness can help in the treatment of anxiety. It helps you live your life one moment at a time and take recovery one step at a time. When you are mindful, you can focus more on your small achievements like getting over your cravings today or being able to complete your group therapy session. It also helps you appreciate your own efforts towards recovery rather than dwelling on the fear of failure or relapsing.
4. It can help reduce your aggressive response
Aside from stress and anxiety, another common cause of relapse in addiction recovery is being triggered by unpleasant or annoying situations. When a car cuts you in traffic or a colleague makes a mistake, the automatic reaction is to shout or be angry. This is called the fight or flight response which is a primal response that triggers the brain to release hormones and adrenaline when in fear or in danger. This has helped ancient human beings to run away from predators when attacked.
However, because the brain has a difficult time to differentiate which situations are actually life-threatening or just annoying, this response can still be triggered either way. This can cause feelings of anger and additional stress.
According to science, this aggressive response can be reduced by practicing mindfulness. A regular practice can actually shape the brain so it gives you a short time to evaluate the situation before instantly becoming aggressive.
5. It can help you feel happier
This is another claim that is backed by science. According to a study, mindfulness can help in growing a happier brain and help you feel less lonely. A separate study has also proven that mindfulness can help lessen the symptoms of depression. For people in addiction recovery, this is very important because a major cause of substance abuse is unhappiness or loneliness.
If you are struggling with an addiction and you’re interested to know how mindfulness can be incorporated into your treatment program, contact Anaheim Lighthouse. Help is available today.