There are actually two types of mindfulness – natural mindfulness and formal mindfulness practice. You have almost certainly experienced natural mindfulness in the past, as it just involves being fully present in the moment. If you have ever experienced ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’, you have already tasted mindfulness. Formal practice is an attempt to deliberately produce mindfulness, and the more you do this, the more it will occur naturally.
“Mindfulness practices enhance the connection between our body, our mind and everything else that is around us. Mindful living is the key to understanding our struggles with weight and to empowering us to control our weight.”Thich Nhat Hanh
Here are just 10 of the ways mindfulness can help you deal with addiction:
1. Use Mindfulness to Deal with Cravings
Mindfulness gives you the ability to observe your mind in a more objective way. You get to see that a craving is sort of like a cloud passing through your mind. So long as you don’t resist or starting obsessing in response to the craving, it will soon pass. Mindfulness allows you to develop the understanding that the craving is a type of mental itch that you don’t have to scratch.
Part of the process of addiction is that the behaviour becomes strongly associated with your internal reward system. You’ve basically trained your mind to crave these substances, but you can use mindfulness to retrain your mind. By objectively observing cravings, instead of just reacting to them, you begin to weaken the association between your drug of choice and reward.
2. Mindfulness as a Tool for Developing Emotional Sobriety
“Nowadays, my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.”Bill W. (Grapevine 1953)
It is often the inability to deal with their emotions that motivates people to abuse alcohol or drugs in the first place. If you continue to struggle with your feelings in recovery, you are going to be at high risk of relapse or turning to new damaging behaviours (e.g. work addiction) – it can also lead to depression. Emotional sobriety can be the defined as the ‘ability to feel your feelings’, and mindfulness is one way that you can develop this skill. It means no matter what is happening in your life, you never lose control or fall apart.
3. Learn to Live in the Present Moment
“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”Thich Nhat Hanh
Most of the suffering people endure is either due to regretting the past or worrying about the future. If you can learn to live in the present moment, it is going to make your life much happier and easier to deal with. Mindfulness is a technique that teaches you to keep returning your attention to what’s happening right now – the more you do this, the better you will be at living in the present moment.
4. Use Mindfulness to Deal with Anxiety
A review of research studies by Johns Hopkins University concluded that there is plenty of good evidence to show that mindfulness practice reduces levels of anxiety (Source: Harvard Medical School). Anxiety happens due to negative patterns of thinking, but mindfulness can help practitioners break free of this cognitive merry-go-round. Untreated anxiety is a common enough reason for relapse, but this meditation technique provides an effective solution.
5. Manage Depression the Mindful Way
It is believed 20 per cent of people who develop an alcohol or drug problem also suffer from a mood disorder (source: Anxiety and Depressions Association of America). Mindfulness can be as effective as anti-depressant medication (source: Science Daily), and it can give people the ability to manage their symptoms effectively.
6. Manage Your Stress Levels
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Giving up alcohol or drugs is going to remove a major source of suffering from your life, but it would be unrealistic to expect smooth sailing from here on in. It is never going to be possible to entirely eliminate stress from your life (living would be incredibly dull if you could), but mindfulness is going to give you the ability to effectively manage your stress levels.
7. Mindfulness as a Spiritual Path
Spirituality means different things to different people, and it doesn’t have to involve any firm metaphysical conclusions. Just staring up at the night sky and thinking ‘wow’ can be described as being spiritual, and this feeling of connection with something bigger is an important part of who we are as humans.
Mindfulness is a Buddhist practice, but this doesn’t mean you have to believe in Buddhism in order to benefit from it. It can be an incredibly useful tool no matter what your spiritual path (even if you don’t like to use the word ‘spiritual’) because it allows you to improve your understanding of yourself and other people – it can also lead to an intense feeling of ‘oneness’ with the universe.
8. Develop Compassion with Mindfulness
“Mindfulness is about love and loving life. When you cultivate this love, it gives you clarity and compassion for life, and your actions happen in accordance with that.”Jon Kabat-Zinn
Many of us who fall into addiction end up with a soundtrack in our mind that tends to be mostly negative and bullying. This type of self-loathing can make you your own worst enemy, but mindfulness can allow you to develop more compassion for yourself as well as other people.
9. Benefit from Insights that will Improve Your Life
Most of us know what we should be doing, but having the knowledge is not always enough to encourage change – if it was, nobody would engage in dangerous behaviours. Insights involve ‘aha’ moments where you realise something at such a deep level that changes you the way you act forever. Practicing mindfulness puts your mind in a state where insights are more likely to happen.
10. Mindfulness Reduces Helps You Avoid New Maladaptive Behaviours
It happens all the time, people break away from one addiction only to later fall into another equally dangerous pattern of behaviour. This happens because the person still does not feel capable of dealing with life on life’s terms, but mindfulness can give you this ability.
10 ways mindfulness can help recovery BY PAUL G