Mindfulness dates back thousands of years, has been written about by wellness authors such as Jon Kabat Zinn, and is supported by research. It is a state of mental focus and awareness traditionally used for mediation. Because of its long, successful history, it has become a common component of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is an important element of addiction and substance abuse recovery.
Mindfulness is recognized by medical communities as an effective way to help those suffering from addiction. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found via various studies that mindfulness intervention treatment could “significantly reduce the consumption of several substances.” (1)
In this article, we will explore what mindfulness is and how it can be applied to addiction recovery for better short and long-term results.
What is Mindfulness and How is it Important?
Many people wonder what mindfulness is, so you are not alone. In essence, mindfulness is “awareness of the present moment.” It is a practice that brings your attention to your internal thoughts and feelings, as well as your external surroundings right then and there.
Mindfulness is focused on being conscious of the moment and everything it encapsulates, without becoming attached to it. Mindfulness meditation often involves a body scan that makes you aware of anxiety and other disorders.
There are various reasons why mindfulness helps and is important for substance abuse treatment and mental illness recovery:
- Discipline – One of the primary issues for someone struggling with substance abuse is discipline. The substance begins to dominate all of their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, and desires. By engaging in mindfulness, you can take control of your thoughts, emotions, and reactions again. It takes a surprising amount of discipline to simply sit with your own thoughts for a few minutes.
- Be in the Present – We cannot change the past, and the future is not here yet. However, many people obsess over past failures or mistakes while being anxious about the future. This does not serve your psychological well-being. Mindfulness brings you into the present, which is the only thing you can truly change.
- Slowing Things Down – Many of us rush around from one thing to another. But this mental chatter can be overwhelming and stressful. The sense of tranquility and slowness from mindfulness practices can help patients avoid turning to drugs or alcohol to quiet the noise.
- Appreciating the Good Side of Life – There are many simple pleasures that people take for granted. Simply noticing the pleasant and simple sensory inputs around you — smell, sound, light, feelings, and other beauty — can help you see that the world is not so bad after all. Therefore, you are less likely to indulge in impulsive pleasure-seeking activities or addiction.
What is Mindfulness when Facing Addiction?
When facing addiction, you are battling with various forces that threaten your well-being. Mindfulness addiction treatment helps you overcome your addiction in a safe, effective, and proven way. Benefits of mindfulness for treating addiction include:
Reduces Frequency of Depression
Many people seeking treatment for a substance use problem also have mental health issues like depression. Mindfulness can help you overcome this mental state without dangerous drugs or risky behavior.
Substance use disorders are difficult to overcome because your mental health has become dependent on the substance. Your higher reasoning becomes impaired. Those suffering from a substance use disorder find that mindfulness and meditation gradually reshapes the formation of their brain and thus their thinking.
Substance use disorders often cause you to experience immense stress when not consuming the drug. Mindfulness-based stress reduction allows your mind to strengthen the connection between your prefrontal cortex and other areas of your brain to improve logical thinking and avoid bad decisions. Thus, this treatment can help with smoking cessation or the usage of other substances.
Separating Thoughts from Reality
Your thoughts are just that: thoughts. You are not your thoughts, and thoughts are not reality. Practicing research-supported mindfulness evaluates self-critical thoughts and reframes them as something that can be thrown out instead of latched onto.
Compassion is helpful when dealing with a substance use disorder for a few reasons. First of all, you are able to connect with others who are also going through treatment more easily. Secondly, you are able to have more compassion for yourself when while practicing mindfulness.
What Does Mindfulness Involve?
Mindfulness involves various skills and practices. It can be done in as little as a few seconds, minutes, or even several hours. However, mindfulness is not a one-time ordeal. Instead, it should be applied continuously over several weeks and months to obtain the full effects. Some people even find it useful as a life-long habit in preventing anxiety, depression, and dark thoughts. Mindfulness typically involves one or all of the following elements:
- Observation – Observing the world around you is an important part of mindfulness.
- No Judging – Mindfulness is nonjudgmental. Instead of applying values such as “good” or “bad” to your observations or thoughts, simply acknowledge that they are there.
- Describing – Develop the ability to describe what you are noticing, whether it is thoughts, emotions, sounds, or anything else.
- Breathing – Improper breathing such as shallow breathing can negatively affect your emotional state. Mindfulness often involves focusing on the breath and drawing energy from its natural rhythm.
- Non-Identification – You can participate in activities or circumstances without identifying with them or feeling self-conscious.
- Focus on One Thing – Instead of letting your mind run wild, you can focus on one single thing or idea at a time.
- Removing Stimuli – Many people find it helpful to close their eyes while engaging in mindfulness, in order to provide the mind with less visual stimuli and distractions.
- Remove Autopilot – Autopilot can lead you to engagement in unwanted actions. Instead of feeling like you’re a passenger on someone else’s ride, you begin to manually control your actions and thoughts moment by moment.
Addiction Recovery Through Mindfulness
With many substance use disorders, the brain and body are experiencing underlying issues such as pain, trauma, depression, and more.
The right program can lead patients to recognize these ill effects and face them head on. Meditative techniques help people struggling with alcohol and drug use engage the part of their brain responsible for calm and direct thinking.
Dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy can be used in sync with mindfulness practices for effective addiction treatment.
What’s more, mindfulness-based relapse prevention is a recovery treatment that research has proven to work in clinical studies. Mindfulness meditation can also lower alcohol and drug use significantly in the initial 12 months (2) following mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
When it comes to mindfulness and addiction, the right addiction treatment and addiction recovery should be catered to each patient. It should be mindful of research and knowledge about the specifics of their disorder.
Pay Attention to Personal Attributes in Terms of Mindfulness
When undergoing any kind of therapy — be it mindful family therapy, commitment therapy, or even mindfulness activities — everyone’s body responds differently. Each patient’s level of substance use and length of time using it may affect the timeline for recovery.
In addition, you have a unique personality that will respond differently to mindfulness therapy. Therefore, it is important not to compare yourself to others when gauging the effectiveness or time required for mindfulness to provide significant benefits to your mind and body.
Practice Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention
If done correctly with behavioral therapy and counseling, mindfulness can help reduce relapses. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention combines a range of therapies and modern science to prevent reoccurring episodes of anxiety, depression, physical pain, and other symptoms caused by addictive behaviors.
This mindfulness-based cognitive therapy includes:
- Trigger and cravings awareness
- Meditation and body scan techniques
- Detecting when you are on autopilot
- Daily life mindfulness practice and improved mental health
- Mindfulness for high-risk situations that cause relapse
- Be aware of automatic pilot and relapse dangers
- Awareness of triggers and cravings
- Accepting the present moment and responding appropriately
- Ability to understand how thoughts affect chances of relapse
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction
- Changing exercise, lifestyle, and habits to promote healthy, drug-free living
- Having social support in place to continue your mindfulness
- Social support and keeping your mindfulness practice going
The research is clear. Practicing mindfulness and overcoming addiction go hand in hand. If you or your loved one are suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues, it’s time to seek treatment.
Reach out to our friendly team at Profound Treatment today to learn more about our groundbreaking and effective mindfulness training. Our proven approach helps you use meditation, mindfulness exercises, and traditional treatment to manage stress, eliminate drug use, and improve your everyday life.