Even though detoxification, behavioral counseling, and peer support groups remain the primary means of treating addiction, mindfulness can also help individuals overcome addiction challenges. In addition to helping you live intentionally, mindfulness can help bring greater awareness and happiness to your life. Learning to be more mindful can also help you develop better impulse control. In fact, research shows that mindfulness exercises can actually help reshape brains that have been negatively impacted by addiction. This means that over time, mindfulness can help restore your mental, emotional, cognitive, and physical health.
Mindfulness simply means learning how to be in the present moment and being aware of what’s happening around you. Learning to be mindful requires you to:
- Stay in the present moment
- Avoid judgments whether they’re positive or negative
In short, mindfulness is a type of meditation that teaches you to focus on your present emotions, sensations, surroundings, and thoughts without trying to interpret, understand or judge your observations. Learning how to be fully present and aware of your experience without becoming reactive or overwhelmed can help you resist sudden urges, cope with stress, and reduce anxiety. Because of this, mindfulness can be especially beneficial as you recover from addiction challenges.
Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery
Mindfulness helps combat the impulsiveness commonly associated with addiction. Typically, people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol consume substances without thinking about how much or how often they’re using them. Mindfulness works to replace that “autopilot” type of thinking with intentionality. Mindfulness also works to combat the overly critical mindset that may provoke you to excessively drink alcohol or use drugs. Let’s look at some of the specific ways mindfulness can help you break free from the cycle of addiction.
1. Mindfulness Helps Reduce Avoidance
Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to avoid painful emotions, intrusive thoughts, social anxiety, or physical pain. Unfortunately, this seemingly harmless way of avoiding discomfort can easily turn into an addiction. By teaching you to embrace the present, mindfulness can help you learn to accept uncomfortable experiences and circumstances without trying to escape them. By learning to accept what’s happening, you also learn that unpleasant experiences, feelings, and thoughts are temporary and can be tolerated without drugs or alcohol.
2. Mindfulness Can Help You Find and Maintain Peace
Many people struggling with substance abuse deal with psychological agony that disrupts their sense of inner peace. Instead of finding natural ways to relieve their suffering, they turn to alcohol or drugs. Mindfulness can help calm such distress by teaching you to find and maintain internal peace. Body scans, mindful walking, and outdoor exercise, along with yoga, mindful breathing, and the 5 senses exercise, are mindfulness techniques that can help boost your inner calm.
3. Mindfulness Can Help Increase Your Emotional Intelligence
Using drugs and alcohol can lead to poor emotional regulation. Addictive substances can make you react irrationally. You might feel irritable and angry one moment and sad, melancholy, anxious, and paranoid the next. Fortunately, mindfulness can also help you better understand and manage your emotions without getting attached to them. Doing so can help you increase your emotional intelligence, helping you to:
- Better regulate your emotions
- Defuse conflict
- Overcome challenges
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Improve relationships
- Develop more self-control
4. Mindfulness Helps You Relax
Learning to relax is an important skill if you plan on maintaining long-term sobriety. This is because stress can make you more susceptible to cravings, which can lead to relapse. Luckily, mindfulness can teach you how to intentionally relax by encouraging you to slow down and sit quietly. Taking a moment to relax can help you become aware of any tension you feel. Slowing down can also prevent you from acting impulsively and compulsively.
5. Mindfulness Can Help You Respond Intentionally
Using addictive substances diminishes functionality in parts of the brain responsible for higher reasoning. By teaching you how to experience life without judgment, mindfulness meditation helps you to feel less threatened by situations, circumstances, thoughts, and feelings. In fact, consistently practicing meditation calms the amygdala, the part of the brain that identifies threats and initiates the “flight or fight” response. Without feeling threatened, you can think about situations rationally instead of reactively. This can help you challenge, combat, and ignore harmful thoughts and feelings that can lead to relapse.
6. Mindfulness Encourages Compassion
Often, addiction separates you from the people that love and support you. Luckily, mindfulness can help you develop a loving-kindness mindset toward yourself and others. Research shows that having a strong support system and feeling like you belong are two of the best predictors of a successful recovery. Having compassion for yourself can help you move past any guilt or shame you may feel as a result of your addiction challenges. Becoming less self-critical and judgemental can also reduce negative feelings that contribute to depression and anxiety. Compassion also helps connect you with other people.
Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Recovery
Regardless of where you are on your recovery journey, you can start practicing mindfulness. You don’t have to be a meditation expert to benefit from mindfulness. Even if you’ve never meditated before, you can learn to:
- Be present. Mindfulness begins by bringing your awareness to the present moment. Instead of letting your mind wander down the rabbit hole of post-addiction thoughts, practice keeping your attention on the present moment.
- Practice conscious breathing. You won’t always be in control of what happens in your life, but you can control your breathing. Instead of getting upset by external situations beyond your control, center your attention on your breathing. Focusing on the breath can help you feel calm which can help keep your recovery on track. You can begin practicing conscious breathing by taking “breathing breaks” throughout the day.
- Let your thoughts become background noise. Harmful thoughts can hijack your recovery. Thankfully, mindfulness can teach you how to acknowledge your thoughts without judging or reacting to them. Doing this can help you combat negative self-talk, false assumptions, and harmful ideas that can lead to emotional and physical relapse.
- Not expect perfection. Recovering from addiction can make you scared to make the wrong choice. But there isn’t a right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Find a mindfulness exercise you like that works for you and stick to it. The same is true for your recovery. Find healthy coping skills that you like and stick with them. You don’t have to be perfect to make life-long positive changes in your life.
Helping You Live A Peaceful, Sober, and Intentional Life
Here at Soba Recovery, we believe that everyone can live a happy, sober, peaceful, and intentional life. Recovering from addiction can be a difficult, frustrating, and exhausting process. But mindfulness can help you find and maintain peace through the recovery process. Learning to be mindful can also help you:
- Boost your self-esteem
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase your focus and concentration
- Develop a positive outlook on life
- Maintain your emotional, mental, and physical health
Let us help you live the sober life you deserve. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive addiction recovery programs.