Words of Wellness

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Mindfulness in Recovery


What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness” is becoming a popular phrase in our culture, but how many really know what it is or practice it? Mindfulness is currently used in several therapeutic interventions, including mindfulness-based cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and mindfulness meditation. But today, we are going to focus on Mindfulness in Recovery (from Addiction) and the goal of achieving a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment.

This technique, introduces a person (You), to the idea that you can observe your own body & mind, take notes of what you are feeling and thinking, without judgment or any kind of criticism or emotional vulnerability, and then react to them. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. It’s a simple inventory of what you are experiencing with a completely neutral-balance stance.

Once you get to this level of balance, you are able to take feel your emotions while regulating your thoughts. Mindfulness can be used in everyday life and it can be a great tool for substance abuse recovery. Recovery can be extremely stressful and sometimes certain situations can lead you down a path of negative thoughts, which can be impact a person’s growth and progress during recovery.

Developing the ability to rethinking situations and being able to change your mindset can do a lot for long-term recovery. Mindfulness in recovery is something to be considered if you are looking to improve your mindset by developing a positive mental attitude about your addiction recovery. While techniques like this don’t work for everyone, mindfulness has a lot of benefits on its own.


Mindfulness in Addiction Treatment

Mindfulness has been used for decades as a way of categorizing thoughts and improving behavior. This practice stems back to Buddhist meditations, which have more recently been geared towards substance abuse treatment. Mindfulness is used for stress reduction with psychotherapy for substance abuse and addiction.

Relaxation is something that can be useful for drug addiction treatment, however, mindfulness has a set of much more specific benefits for substance abuse. The body makes a shift toward health deficits when the mass consumption of drugs and alcohol is introduced. The immune system, liver, kidneys and lungs are impacted heavily.

While these are physical effects, mindfulness can actually help cope with some of these. If used during the stages of recovery, a person can see the mental and physical changes their body had experiences as well as any healing that occurs.


The Components of Mindfulness in Recovery

There are 8 principals of mindfulness, but for the sake of this blog, we will look at 3 key components. There are specific steps you can take to successfully achieve mindfulness, which we’ll look at a little later on. But first, let’s look at three principals;

  • Intentionality: Mindfulness doesn’t occur on its own; the person must be consciously cataloging what they’re going through with each moment of time.
  • Accepting your thoughts: The person must accept the feelings they are sensing and must not deny them.
  • Being Non-Judgmental: Mindfulness doesn’t work if the person is actively judging and criticizing themselves. This is true if a person is overly confident or thinks highly of their emotions. It must be neutral and nonjudgmental to truly achieve mindfulness.

If you are a struggling with addiction, you may be thinking a string of negative thoughts without even realizing it. These negative thoughts can impact your progress. Mindfulness helps you explore and understand these thoughts in a safe and supportive environment. Over time, certain triggers and negative thoughts can become more manageable and less severe.


How Does a Person Achieve Mindfulness?

If you’ve ever seen the 1972 TV Series, Kung Fu, with David Carradine. Rest assured, it doesn’t take years in a Shaolin monastery, studying meditation, to achieve Mindfulness in everyday life.

Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. Do you have to make an effort to breathe in? You don’t need to make an effort. To breathe in, you just breathe in. Suppose you are with a group of people contemplating a beautiful sunset. Do you have to make an effort to enjoy the beautiful sunset? No, you don’t have to make any effort. You just enjoy it.

Mindfulness gives birth to joy and happiness. Just as that sunset or refreshing breath. When you are aware of something, such as a flower, and can maintain that awareness, we say that you are concentrated on the flower. When your mindfulness becomes powerful, your concentration becomes powerful, and when you are fully concentrated, you have a chance to make a breakthrough, to achieve insight.

The easy steps to achieving insight with mindfulness, some of which must happen during certain situations, are possible for everyone. Let’s say a person begins to feel overwhelmed with negative and strong emotions. Their therapist may start by telling the person to concentrate on their breathing. At this point, the person can stay grounded by focusing on tangible things to focus on (chair, wall color, clothes, etc.).

Staying grounded and balanced is vital to remain in control of your emotions and not lose the sense of the world around you. When a person is grounded, balanced and in control, they accept thoughts as they are, in the present moment.

Accepting your thoughts in these cases means understanding the nature of the thoughts themselves. Negative thoughts may be overpowering, but they are also temporary. They do not define someone. Achieving insight into yourself and others can bring ease, even when feelings are powerful.