Many treatment programs, including residential and outpatient, may advertise that they incorporate “mindfulness” into their regimens, along with counseling, relapse prevention, and other common tenets of addiction treatment.
That might lead you to wonder: what is mindfulness, and how can it help you or others overcome their struggles with addiction?
Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery
Mindfulness is a total focus on the feelings that you’re experiencing in the present moment. Rather than judging your emotions or reacting to them, you simply acknowledge them. Restricting your focus to your current emotions prevents your mind from wandering to past or future feelings that may trigger your addiction, and can also act as a safeguard that keeps you from giving in to any cravings or compulsions caused by your addiction.
Essentially, mindfulness allows you to recognize your desire to use without acting on it. This adds a pause between your feelings and your actions that may not have been there otherwise. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, mindfulness teachings will encourage you to sit with and experience those feelings, rather than using drugs or alcohol to push them aside. You can feel emotions without reacting to them, and especially without reacting to them in a negative or destructive way.
Practicing mindfulness can also increase awareness of one’s emotional processes. This empowers individuals to take control over “automatic” behaviors. In the case of people struggling with addiction, those automatic behaviors often involve using drugs or alcohol. You may begin to realize that certain feelings – stress, fatigue, anger, etc. – are more likely to cause you to use than others. Learning to recognize these uncomfortable emotions and letting them go, rather than trying to avoid the discomfort by using, is one of the benefits of mindfulness.
When practiced in conjunction with other coping strategies learned through counseling and therapy, mindfulness can be a useful tool in overcoming addiction. Recognizing emotions, experiencing them, and reacting to them thoughtfully can help you make smarter decisions in the course of your recovery. Learn more about other therapy skills and practices that you can take with you after addiction treatment.
Written by Rebecca Jones, Marketing Specialist
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