5 Techniques from Mindfulness that Promote Sleep

2017-02-21

Image by Daisuke Tashiro

by Paul Garrigan

Causes of Insomnia in Early Recovery

Insomnia is something many of us experience in early recovery. This inability to sleep well at night can be due to several causes such as:

Withdrawal symptoms
• Being in a strange environment (e.g. rehab)
• Not having a regular sleeping pattern – we may be used to late nights
• It may be years since we have experienced natural sleep (i.e. sleeping without the help of drugs)
• The ‘emotional rollercoaster’ of early recovery
• Guilt about the past and concerns about the future
• Poor sleep hygiene (e.g. drinking coffee close to bedtime or staring at a computer screen in bed)

Mindfulness Tools for Insomnia

Here are five mindfulness tools that can make it easier to fall asleep at night:

1. Qigong – Bamboo in the Wind

A full qigong routine prior to bed could make you too energized for sleep, but there are certain individual exercises that can help you unwind and relax. Bamboo in the Wind is an easy technique to perform, you only need to do it for a minute or so, and it allows you to release stress from the body.

To practice Bamboo in the Wind, stand up straight with your feet together and your knees slightly bend. Put your hands resting across the stomach. You then close your eyes and allow yourself to gently sway from side to side like a bamboo being moved by the wind. The important word here is ‘allow’ – don’t make yourself sway, just allow it to happen. As your body moves, you will be releasing stress that has built up over the course of the day.

2. Body Scan Focusing on Tiredness in the Body

A body scan can be relaxing by itself, but if you focus your attention on those parts of the body where there is tiredness, you may find that this calms down a restless mind enough that you are easily able to fall asleep. It is like you are being pulled under by the physical tiredness.

To perform a body scan, simply move your attention through the different parts of the body starting at the feet. As soon as you notice some physical tiredness (e.g. tired legs), just keep your focus on this sensation as best you can.


3. Promoting Sleepy Thoughts

You may have noticed that prior to falling asleep, our thinking goes a bit irrational. This movement from normal thinking to nonsensical thinking needs to happen so we can leave the problems of the day behind and fall into sleep. If we are still thinking about our concerns and difficulties, our mind is unlikely to become calm enough for us to slip under.

It is an uphill struggle to get our mind to settle down once it has got its teeth into a juicy worry. So, rather than trying to stop these thoughts, we could try moving our thinking in a different direction. A good way of doing this is to generate random words and random images in your head, this can disengage your mind long enough to pull you down into sleep.

4. Focusing on the Breath in the Stomach

By focusing on the rising and falling of the breath in the lower stomach, we can access a state of comfort and security – it is almost like being held. Moving your attention to this lower part of the body makes it easier to slow down discursive thinking.

5. Allowing

Probably one of the worst things you can do when trying to sleep is to go to war with your mind. This only increases the agitation in the mind. If you have tried a few techniques, and you are still no closer to sleep, the best option may be to just allow your body/mind to do what it wants to do. Even if you don’t fall asleep, at least you can get some physical rest by lying still and allowing the mind to be calm (i.e. not worrying about your failure to go to sleep). This state of acceptance often opens the door for sleepiness to arise.

Episode 24 – How an Understanding of Subpersonalities Can Help People in Recovery

2017-02-14

Hope Mindful Compassion Show – Episode 24 – How an Understanding of Subpersonalities Can Help People in Recovery

Hosts: Samina Khan and Paul Garrigan

 

In this episode of the Hope Mindful Compassion Show, Samina tells us about subpersonalities. This way of looking at the structure of personality comes from transpersonal psychology, and it can be very useful for people in recovery.

 

Press play below to listen

 

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Pink Cloud Syndrome – When Feeling Good Becomes Dangerous

2017-02-08

 

by Hope Rehab Thailand

What Pink Cloud Isn’t

One of the risks with discussing pink cloud syndrome is it could give the impression that enjoying your recovery is somehow a bad thing. This is simply not the case. It is not the actual feeling good that is the problem here, but the way we interpret this improvement in our life.

Those of us who have struggled with an addiction will often have suffered for years (possibly decades), and we deserve to fully enjoy the freedom we discover in early recovery. In fact, enjoying ourselves is vital because this gives us the motivation to remain committed so we can continue making the necessary changes to create our new life.

What is Pink Cloud Syndrome?

Pink cloud syndrome is a subjective description rather than a precise diagnosis. It is a pattern of behavior that is sometimes observed in people prior to relapse. The term ‘pink cloud’ is meant to conjure up an image of someone who doesn’t have their feet fully on the ground – i.e. they have started to lose touch with reality.

For most of us, the symptoms of pink cloud syndrome can be relatively harmless but it could include:
• Euphoria
• Arrogance
• Overconfidence
• Recklessness
• Committing to overambitious plans
Delusions of grandeur
• Impulsive behavior

The Three Main Dangers of Pink Cloud Syndrome

The most common risk with pink cloud syndrome is that we stop doing the things we need to do to remain sober. This happens because we assume that the fact that we feel so good means we don’t need to do any more work (e.g. we leave rehab on a high believing all our problems are behind us). The reality is that breaking free of an addiction is a huge undertaking, and there is a high risk of relapse unless we continue to work on our recovery.

There is also a risk with pink cloud syndrome that we interpret the fact that we feel so good to mean we are cured. It can seem logical that our improved mindset means that we would now be in a much better position to use alcohol or other drugs ‘occasionally’. This is a dangerous way of thinking as it leads it right back into the hands of addiction.

The other potential problem with being in a pink cloud is that it will almost certainly end at some point. The subsequent fall back to a less intense experience can be tough, and we may feel so disappointed with the loss of our high that we use it as an excuse to relapse.

How to Avoid the Dangers of the Pink Cloud

We suggest you fully enjoy your new life in recovery – don’t be afraid to be happy because you deserve it. Just be aware of the potential pitfalls of losing touch with reality. Here are a few tips to help you avoid the dangers of the pink cloud:

• Be open to feedback from friends in recovery
• Don’t use feeling good as an excuse to do less
• Don’t indulge those thoughts telling you it would be safe to drink or use
• Understand that life involves ups and downs, and ‘this too shall pass’ (the secret to lasting happiness is for us to be able to handle both)
Stay honest

Episode 23 – Finding Refuge in Bodily Sensations

2017-02-01

Hope Mindful Compassion Show – Episode 23 – Finding Refuge in Bodily Sensations

 

Hosts: Paul Garrigan and Simon Mott

 

In this episode of the show, Paul describes a way for us to find peace in daily life by moving our attention to bodily sensations. This practice is at the core of the Hope Mindfulness program. Resting in the body is something we intuitively know how to do, so the intention here is for us to use this natural technique more effectively.

Press play below to listen to this week’s episode

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Could a Mock Funeral Help People Break Free of Addiction?

2017-01-25

Image by Jon Sullivan

by Paul Garrigan

Mock Funerals for a Fresh Start in Life

Last year there was an interesting article in the New York Times focusing on the popularity of ‘mock funerals’ in South Korea. Thousands of people have chosen this unusual (many might say morbid) method to trigger a fresh start in life. It is being offered to Koreans as an alternative to suicide.

The use of mock funerals is not unique to South Korea, as it can also be found here in Thailand. Pram Manee Temple (วัดพราหมณี ) in Nakorn Nayok has been offering something similar for many years (there are lots of YouTube videos in Thai of this ceremony if you just paste วัดพราหมณี นอนในโรง into the YouTube search box). It has already been used here in Thailand as part of addiction treatment, but it is difficult to establish how helpful it has been.


What is a Mock Funeral?

A mock funeral involves pretending you are dead so you can go through the ritual of a funeral. It usually means lying in an actual coffin as if you are a corpse. In South Korea, they usually put a lid on the coffin, and you are expected to lie inside contemplating what it would mean to actually die. Here in Thailand, they usually just pull a sheet over the coffin rather than closing the lid on top of you.

Could a Mock Funeral Help People End Addiction Problems?

A mock funeral by itself is probably not going to be enough to allow us to stay free of an addiction problem. What it could do, for at least some of us anyway, is make it easier to let go of the past so we can begin anew. This letting go of old baggage was just as hard for me as giving up alcohol, and my failure to do so was the usual reason for relapse. I can see how a fake funeral could have helped me do this.

These fake funerals remind me of a story about Buckminster Fuller (famous inventor and author) I once read in Jon Kabat Zinn’s book ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’. Apparently, Buckminster became suicidal in his twenties and drove to a lake to kill himself. Out of his desperation came a wonderful insight. He decided that rather than actually kill himself, he would just act as if he had done so. In other words, he would completely let go of his old baggage and start afresh – what did he have to lose if he was going to kill himself anyway? When we look back on his life, and his amazing contributions to mankind (the guy went on to invent a shape!), it is obvious his insight by the lake was incredibly positive.

Lasting recovery from addiction requires the death of one life so something new can arise from the ashes. It may not be possible for this new chapter to begin unless we are willing to let go of the past. A fake funeral probably isn’t going to be the answer for most of us, but we do need some way to bring our old life to an end.

What do you think about fake funerals? Is it too morbid or possibly helpful?

How to Deal with the Fear of Rejection

2017-01-24

Love

image by Leon Brocard

by Paul Garrigan

Managing Our Fear of Rejection is Important

In our last post, we described how the fear of rejection can damage our relationships. It can mean we turn to ineffective coping strategies such as substance abuse, isolation, or arrogance to protect ourselves from pain. If you haven’t yet read the last post ‘How the Fear of Rejection Can Destroy Relationships’, it might be a good idea to start with this before you continue reading here.

Two Effective Strategies for Dealing with the Fear of Rejection

My reliance on ineffective strategies for avoiding rejection meant I pushed people away and hurt those who remained. But, as the poet William Blake once said, ‘the fool who persists in his folly will become wise’. The cost of continuing with these strategies became too high, and I was forced to find a new way of approaching life.

Here are two strategies that can be highly effective for dealing with the fear of rejection:

Strategy 1 – Choosing to Feel Connected with Others

One common mistake we can make is to believe that it is our job to get everyone to like us. This approach is doomed to failure because:

• Not everyone is going to like us no matter how hard we try (even ‘saints’ have critics)
• We can’t really know for sure what other people think of us
• If we try too hard to develop a ‘likeable persona’, we can end up feeling like a fraud
• If we have low self-esteem, we probably won’t trust that those who seem to like us are being genuine

Things changed for me when I changed my focus to liking people rather than trying to get them to like me. It was the feeling of connection that I was always after, and it was wonderful to find that this something I could just choose to create – it wasn’t as if people could forbid me from liking them.

The more I choose to feel connected to others, the more my relationships improved. I was then able to like people without them having to display obvious signs of liking me, and it is even possible to feel a sense of connection with those who appeared hostile.

Loving-kindness (metta) meditation is a great tool for helping us develop this sense of connection.

Strategy 2 –Self-Soothing

There is likely a spectrum of situations and events that can trigger our fear of rejection. If we have previously put a lot of effort into avoiding any possibility of being hurt, it may mean this fear can be triggered by relatively minor incidents (e.g. another person fails to smile when we greet them and we feel hurt for hours afterwards).

Once the fear of rejection has been triggered, it needs to be acknowledged. If we try to ignore this discomfort, or tell ourselves ‘we are just being silly’, we are more likely to act out with habitual behaviors (e.g. turning to drugs). Our fear of rejection doesn’t mean we are weak or bad people, it is just a reaction the body has developed to keep us safe.

We self-sooth by learning to sit with any inner discomfort until it passes (this is closely related to self-compassion). The more we do this, the easier it becomes to handle feelings of rejection. This means we no longer need to try so hard to protect ourselves. We then become willing to fully open ourselves to others and be authentic because we know we can manage rejection when it arises.

How the Fear of Rejection Can Destroy Relationships

2017-01-18

Image by Chirag Rathod

by Paul Garrigan

Hiding Mister Nice

A friend once told me I had this vibe about me that pushed other people away. I was hurt by this comment, and it bothered me for years afterwards. Why couldn’t other people just see I was a nice guy? Sure, I could be a bit arrogant, and I was cautious about those who felt like a threat to me (almost everyone), but surely those who knew me could see beyond that to the ‘real me’.

It seems so obvious now, but it took me a long time to understand that people judged me based on how I behaved rather than how I saw myself. If I acted cold and judgmental, it meant others would just assume that was who I was and they would probably not want to be around me too much. It was unreasonable to expect others to understand I was just protecting myself – it was unrealistic to just expect people to see beyond my defenses.

The Fear of Rejection

The feeling of rejection can be one of the most difficult things we have to deal with in life. The fear of it may be hardwired into our psyche over millennia because in the past rejection could easily mean death (e.g. it may have been almost impossible to survive if you were kicked out of your tribe).

One study at Columbia University used an MRI scan to see what changes occurred in the brain when people experienced rejection. The results showed the parts of the brain that lit up were the same as for physical pain. Rejection really does hurt us.

Handling Rejection Badly

The fear of rejection is likely within all of us and perhaps the main way we differ is how we handle it. Some of the strategies I used over the years included:

• Using alcohol to numb the pain of rejection
• Keeping people at a distance
• Never fully opening my heart to friends – always holding something back
• Arrogance
• Regularly changing social circles
• Reverse-snobbery (e.g. believing educated people had no common sense)
• Pre-emptive ending of relationships if I felt there was a risk of rejection
• Ignoring people if I suspected they might ‘look down’ on me
• Always ‘doing my own thing’ even when it meant being lonely
• Pretending I didn’t care what people thought even though I actually felt incredibly sensitive

These strategies may have seemed to work at the time, but it also meant damaging my relationships. It meant I didn’t develop long-lasting friendships, and I never felt fully comfortable around even those I considered friends. My reaction to the fear of rejection impoverished my life, and I could never find peace until I found better strategies for dealing with it.

How to Deal with the Pain of Rejection

The following two strategies allowed me to better deal with the fear of rejection

• Self-soothing the somatic feeling of rejection when it arises and not getting lost in the story of what has triggered it
• Realizing that it is far more important for me to like others than for them to like me

I will go into more detail about these strategies in the next post

Episode 22 – Building an Online Recovery Community with Paul Churchill

2017-01-17

Paul Churchill (Recovery Elevator)

Hope Mindful Compassion Show – Episode 22  – Building an Online Recovery Community with Paul Churchill

Host: Paul Garrigan with guest Paul Churchill

In this week’s episode, we are delighted to have Paul Churchill from Recovery Elevator on the Show. Paul has built a successful online recovery community, and his podcast is coming up to 1,000,000 downloads. Today he talks about the importance of community for those trying to break free of addiction, and we discuss how modern technology such as podcasts can provide this.

You can listen to Paul’s podcast on his website or download it on iTunes or an Android app.

Press play below to listen

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Episode 21 – Setting Goals with Henk

2017-01-04

Hope Mindful Compassion Show – Episode 21 – Setting Goals with Henk

Hosts: Henk Nagel & Paul Garrigan

This is our first podcast of the New Year (2017), and it seems like the perfect time to discuss the benefits and practicalities of setting goals. Having something to work towards can be highly beneficial for people in recovery, so long as we remember to enjoy the process of reaching them and don’t become too obsessed with achieving them.

Press play below to listen

Or you can listen on iTunes

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