Practicing Mindfulness for Long-Term Recovery from Addiction
Have you ever driven your car somewhere and, upon arriving, you realize you don’t remember part of the trip? Have you ever snacked on popcorn at a movie theater and were surprised when you reached the bottom of the carton? Living our fast-paced lives, many of us spend a great part of our day on autopilot. What would happen if we were more focused? Would it make a difference? How could it help someone in recovery from substance abuse?
What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness” refers to a state of mind that is achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment while acknowledging and accepting your current thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Mindfulness, often associated with wellness practices like meditation and yoga, is a powerful tool that can help us focus our attention, heighten our perceptions and awareness, increase our productivity, and develop connectedness and a sense of purpose.
Efficacy of Mindfulness in Treating Substance Abuse and Co-occurring Disorders
Mindfulness practices have shown efficacy in treating substance abuse and co-occurring mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, and it can contribute greatly to relapse prevention post-treatment. Meditative exercises help shift one’s relationship to discomfort and ruminating thoughts by reducing emotional distress and improving communication, even with yourself.
CBT and Mindfulness in Addiction Treatment
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a central component of substance abuse treatment. Through individual and group sessions, mindfulness practices facilitate conscious awareness without judgment. Participants sense a profound decrease in thought cycles of shame, guilt, anxiety, and fear that get in the way of one’s restoration to wellness and balance.
Mindfulness exercises include body-scan, mindful breath work, mindful meditation, yoga and stretching, and guided meditation and awareness. Once mentally and physically “present,” participants find their core thoughts and emotions more accessible, yet unthreatening, deepening the therapeutic experience and improving mental and physical health.
Mindfulness and Relapse Prevention
Triggers and cravings are a potential threat to everyone in recovery from substance abuse and addiction. Attempts to avoid or escape cravings tends to make them stronger. Mindful practices help separate one’s thoughts and emotions from the object of their addiction. Participants are empowered to observe cravings and triggers with a non-judgmental awareness, acceptance, and objectivity, equipping them to make more thoughtful choices and feel good about themselves.