“Mindfulness” refers to a state of awareness and focus on the present. It is used in meditation practices and has a long history of use in therapeutic techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). As a tool to help people heal from the damaging effects of substance abuse and addiction, mindfulness can be useful to reshape thought patterns to create healthier habits and focus on the present.
Mindfulness is successful in drug abuse treatment because addiction is more than just a physical problem, it’s also a mental one. Having a sober mindset makes a huge difference in living a successful sober life.
In this article, we will explore what mindfulness is, how it works, and how it’s effective in substance abuse treatment.
How Mindfulness Works
Mindfulness has been shown to influence brain chemicals, having a profound effect on both mental and physical health. There are many techniques that can be used in therapeutic settings, from observing thoughts in the present moment to focusing on breathing. This can help you become aware of how you feel or what it is you need.
The Three Components of Mindfulness
Many people go through life on “autopilot,” whether they use drugs or not. This is when we essentially go through the motions of work, school, or other tasks without really thinking about them–at least not too deeply. Practicing mindfulness during the day can help you appreciate small things, notice details in your surroundings you may never have noticed, and be more in tune with yourself.
There are three critical components involved when mindfulness is used for addiction recovery. To be effective, mindfulness practices must be:
Mindfulness involves intentionally acknowledging thoughts, emotions, or memories in the present, even the ones we would prefer not to have. This intentionality is what keeps us firmly rooted in the present, rather than unhealthily living in the past or future. Mindfulness helps you to deal with these thoughts in the moment rather than put them off, which can be unhealthy. A therapist can help guide this process.
What has happened cannot be changed, for better or for worse. The only thing we can do is change the way our mind frames certain thoughts, events, or memories. People recovering from substance abuse can find freedom in learning to accept what is within their ability to change and what is not.
It may not be entirely within our control which thoughts come into our heads, but there is a certain power in acknowledging them rather than trying to suppress them. Doing this can help cultivate a sense of peace. This inner peace can help you be more receptive to additional treatments and therapies in your recovery process, all working together toward your healing.
Sometimes negative thoughts happen, but they don’t have to be “fed” or entertained, nor do you have to judge yourself harshly for having them. The recovery process will involve many unpleasant thoughts, whether they are memories of past bad decisions, regrets, or negative feelings about yourself. Some people may also miss the experience of getting high or using drugs to “escape” the stressful present, which can feed judgmental thoughts about the self as well. While confronting negativity is important, it’s hard to do that without harsh judgment.
It’s okay to have regrets about the past or nostalgia for things that aren’t good for us. Part of mindfulness means accepting these emotions and thoughts, unwanted though they may be. It doesn’t make you weak or unable to be healed. Constant inner criticism doesn’t help recovery, but rather impedes it. The person who mentally beats themselves up may in fact be more likely to use again, thinking “I’ve already screwed up, so why bother trying to change things?” It doesn’t have to be this way.
One helpful tip is to think of how you would react to a friend or loved one who tells you they are struggling with substance abuse. Would you respond with judgment and criticism of their character? Likely not. You would respond with empathy and compassion. Mindfulness helps you respond that way to yourself.
How Mindfulness Helps People With Addiction
Mindfulness can help people stop and take in their surroundings in a deep, contemplative way before making the impulsive choice to use drugs. It requires people to slow down and stop rushing around in actions and in thought. Quieting the mental “noise” can help give people pause, making them more likely to make a better decision than using again. Once someone starts to notice the impact of their surroundings on the senses, the world becomes more beautiful and alive–a place that one might be less likely to want to “escape” from by getting high or drunk. This can make you less likely to seek out temporary pleasure from addictive behaviors when you could be enjoying healthier things instead.
Another way that mindfulness helps with substance abuse is by helping people understand their reactions without attachment. This is helpful in that you may be more inclined to let some things go that have historically provoked you and motivated you to use drugs. This practice can help you come to new realizations about yourself as well as the triggers that enabled your previous habits. Understanding the reasons behind addictive behaviors helps make it easier to respond differently when opportunities to use again present themselves in the future.
Mindfulness techniques are just one of many therapeutic techniques offered at Spero Recovery, a residential facility for men and women to help them recover from substance abuse. Located in the beautiful state of Colorado, we incorporate a variety of outdoor activities into our treatment program because we believe in healing the whole person inside and out. Our treatment programs have helped many people overcome the damaging effects of drug and alcohol addiction, and go on to live full, healthy, and sober lives. Our page of client testimonials is living proof that you can find healing with us. If you’re struggling with drug addiction, call us today at (303) 351-7888. You can also contact us by sending a message through our website’s contact page. We ask that all prospective residents be over the age of 18 and fully detoxed to participate.