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The Benefits of Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is a process that requires a great level of dedication and a fair amount of work. This is a well-known fact which is discussed often and in detail.

However, one aspect of addiction recovery that does not always get the attention it deserves is mindfulness and the act of being present throughout the recovery process.

benefits of mindfulness in recovery

The Process of Addiction Recovery

Recovering from an addiction is not a journey that is singular in nature. It is a multi-faceted process, made up of many components.

These components also do not act independently from each other. Instead, they are all interlinked and each one facilitates the next.

When we talk about components of successful recovery, we talk about having access to professional care and support, medication, counsellors, support groups and systems, and a sponsor.

We also talk about things that are required from the person in recovery such as commitment to the journey, exercise, healthy eating and abstinence from people or situations that could encourage relapse.

In this article, we will talk about mindfulness, the art of being present during addiction recovery and the benefits of this practice.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of meditative practice that brings us into full awareness of the present moment, allowing us to observe ourselves, our thoughts and feelings without any judgement.

When we are mindful, we are present in our bodies and we are able to gain an understanding of what we want, what we don’t want and how we like to interact with our environment and the world around us.

In addition, mindful practices may greatly reduce anxiety, fear, shame, guilt and can tame negative thoughts or emotions that cause us to question our self-worth.

What is the Connection Between Mindfulness and Recovery?

Just like a muscle gets stronger with exercise, the brain can be shaped by experience and practice.

When we behave in a certain way repeatedly for an extended period of time, the brain is conditioned to respond in a way that supports this behaviour. This applies to negative and positive behaviour.

Practicing mindfulness every day gives us the power to intentionally improve our behaviour, make better decisions and reshape our brains in ways that give us awareness of self.

mindfulness and addiction recovery

The Benefits of Mindfulness

The following are possible benefits of mindfulness in general:

  • Mindfulness brings us to present and prevents us from worrying about the future. As a result, stress levels are decreased
  • Less anxiety is experienced by those who practice mindfulness
  • Improves our ability to let go of negative, self-destructive thought patterns
  • Brings awareness to the body so that we are able to observe warning signs regarding mental and physical illness. This awareness helps us to prevent a problem from progressing
  • Mindfulness can improve our immune systems and increase our ability to deal with emotional and physical pain
  • Heightened awareness of our thoughts and mental clarity, allowing us to make better decisions
  • It gives us the ability to acknowledge that emotions and thoughts come and go. Dealing with uncomfortable thoughts and emotions is easier when we know they are not there to stay

Benefits of Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

The following are benefits of using mindfulness practices in the addiction recovery process:

  • Mindfulness can help us manage the emotional highs and lows that come with recovery
  • Cravings and thoughts of using again may rise now and again during recovery. By practicing mindfulness, we are able to observe these thoughts without any judgement or shame before allowing them to pass
  • Being fully aware of our mental state can allow us to identify that we are losing our grip on recovery and prevents us from making irrational or badly motivated decisions. Mindfulness can help us choose to look for help, rather than to fall into relapse
  • Managing interpersonal relationships becomes easier when we are mindful of ourselves and the world around us. We can more easily empathise with others, making it easier to navigate conflict. Having healthy, understanding relationships is key to a healthy and sustainable recovery

How to Be More Mindful

There are many different ways of being mindful, but the following steps provide a good guideline on how to approach mindfulness in our everyday lives:

Be Present

Don’t think about the past and stop worrying about the future. Technically, neither of these exist. The only thing that truly exists is the exact moment you are in right now.

Observe your surroundings, check in with your feelings and express gratitude for whatever you are experiencing at any given moment.

This supports recovery as addiction is usually as a result from wanting to escape from guilt related to the past or stress related to the future.

Focus on the Breath

Conscious breathing can be a way to anchor yourself into the moment. When your thoughts begin to wonder, it can be hard to stop them from running away with you.

However, turning your attention to your breath and the way it feels when it enters and leaves your body can help you cancel out the noise in your mind.

Conscious breathing can also be very effective in reducing acute and chronic stress which is a trigger factor for many individuals in recovery.

This supports recovery as stress can lead us down the path of self-destructive and defeating thoughts that can cause us to think about relapsing. Breathing exercises can restore calmness and mental clarity so we can make healthy decisions that are not detrimental to our well-being.

mindfulness and addiction recovery

Thoughts are Thoughts

Your thoughts are what drive your feelings and your decisions. Human nature dictates that you will have negative thoughts and you will have positive ones too.

However, what you choose to do with them is what counts. You can either linger on the bad thoughts for long enough until you start to believe them or, you can acknowledge them as simply thoughts before allowing them to pass.

Mindfulness allows you to filter out bad thoughts without attaching emotional layers to them.

When you are mindful, you learn to hold onto positive thoughts that are uplifting. This is particularly valuable in addiction recovery as it is usually damaging self-dialogue that motivates us to use numbing substances.

Expand Your Circle of Compassion

Addiction is often a result of lack of connection. Humans crave connection and need to feel a sense of belonging in order to live a well-rounded life.

By extending compassion, empathy and understanding towards others, you immediately create a channel for connection, allowing them to extend the same back to you.

Mindfulness helps you to realise that there is no “them”. Instead, there is “us” and together, we can make it over the most treacherous terrain.

Extending your circle of compassion towards others during addiction recovery reminds you that you do belong, and that you are worthy of giving and receiving love. This is fundamentally crucial throughout the recovery process and beyond.

Be Still

Although it’s not good to be idle, it’s also not good to be busy all the time. This is often how we distract ourselves from how we are feeling.

Therefore, if you find you are constantly on the go, make some time to sit and be still somewhere that you feel safe and comfortable.

In these still moments, you may find that you are able to uncover some truths about yourself that you have subconsciously been avoiding.

The key to overcoming our obstacles is first to acknowledge them and accept them with love. This cannot happen when we are constantly busy.

Being still can facilitate recovery as it’s in our still moments that we discover our truest power and potential.

Step Away Rehabilitation Centre South Africa

Mindful practices can be very supportive of the addiction recovery process. There are many types of mindfulness that can be beneficial to one’s journey towards sobriety.

At Step Away, we believe that addiction recovery should be treated as a multi-dimensional process that can be supported by exercise, a healthy diet, medical care and mindfulness to name a few.

These are all components that work together to form a more sustainable recovery. For more information about our recovery programmes, please feel free to contact us.

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