What Do People Mean When They Talk About Mindfulness?

beautiful woman in her 50's smiling at the camera, wearing a bright yellow blouse in her kitchen - mindfulness practicesMindfulness refers to being fully present in the moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Although the concept is based on Buddhist traditions, clinical psychologists have found that mindfulness practices can offer substantial benefits to people with substance use disorders.

While people turn to drugs and alcohol to provide a temporary escape from their problems, mindfulness limits the impact of negative feelings through focus and acceptance. Mindfulness practices emphasize accountability and personal responsibility—providing a distinct counterpart to the dishonesty and denial that characterize an active addiction.

How Mindfulness Practices Can Help You Reach Your Recovery Goals

Mindfulness offers a number of important benefits for people undergoing treatment for a substance use disorder. Some of the most notable include:

  • Improved resilience. Mindfulness helps improve confidence in your ability to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings. Since recovery can be full of challenges and unexpected setbacks, this enhanced resilience will make it easier to stay on track with your treatment goals.
  • Reduced stress. Mindfulness practices calm the areas of the brain that trigger the stress response. This is beneficial for people in recovery because stress is a well-known risk factor for relapse.
  • Improved focus. Mindfulness techniques improve a person’s ability to concentrate on difficult tasks—inspiring greater productivity and creativity. This can benefit your recovery by making it easier to achieve specific goals, such as finding new employment and rebuilding relationships with loved ones.
  • Fewer depression symptoms. Struggles with depression are common for people in recovery, but mindfulness has been shown to ease symptoms naturally. A regular mindfulness practice helps you learn to identify and accept your emotions instead of fighting them. Mindfulness also reduces rumination and worry, two emotional states that are known to make depression more difficult to manage.
  • Better sleep. Mindfulness practices have been shown to promote a more restful sleep because they encourage a deeper state of relaxation by calming the central nervous system. This can help a person in recovery manage the sleep disturbances that are common as the body adjusts to functioning without addictive substances.
  • Effective pain management. Chronic pain is a serious problem for people in recovery, especially those with opioid use disorders. Mindfulness helps decrease the body’s perception of pain.

Creating Mindfulness Practices That Support Your Recovery

Incorporating mindfulness into your addiction treatment plan doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t need any special equipment or tools—only the desire to open your mind.

To begin:

  1. Choose a quiet place that is free of distractions.
  2. Set a time limit. Experts recommend starting with 5-10 minute sessions and working up to longer meditations when you feel more comfortable with the practice.
  3. Observe how your body feels. You can sit or kneel in any position that you find comfortable.
  4. Focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths as you pay attention to how you inhale and exhale.
  5. Notice when your mind starts to wander. It is normal for your mind to wander. Do not judge your thoughts. Simply focus your attention back on your breath.

If focusing on your breathing doesn’t seem to be helpful, another popular alternative is to focus on different forms of sensory input. As your mind starts to wander, bring your attention back to what you can see, smell, hear, and/or taste. Focusing on bodily sensations is particularly helpful when you’re coping with cravings and is part of the urge surfing technique pioneered by the late psychologist Alan Marlatt.

Using Yoga to Promote Mindfulness

For those who find it difficult to sit still, a yoga practice may be a more appealing way to practice mindfulness. Yoga connects the mind, body, and spirit by encouraging you to be fully present in each pose. Yoga instructors frequently remind students to be more conscious of their breath, to check in with their body, and to notice the different sensations that accompany each pose. For example, Balasana (Child’s Pose) promotes a feeling of safety, and Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) inspires feelings of mental strength and focus in the face of discomfort.

Although there are a number of helpful online videos and photo tutorials explaining yoga poses for beginners, it is recommended that you start your practice with the help of an experienced instructor. Having someone to correct your form and suggest modifications to accommodate your specific mobility concerns or health issues helps prevent injury.

A Holistic Approach to Treating Substance Use Disorders

At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we provide comprehensive care that is personalized to meet each client’s unique needs. Detox, counseling, and medication-assisted treatment are combined with mindfulness and other holistic therapies to build the foundation for a lasting recovery. If you’re ready to take the first steps toward a future free from the burden of addiction, we encourage you to contact our admissions office to learn more about the services provided at our Pennsylvania residential substance abuse treatment center.

Looking for a Pennsylvania holistic drug and alcohol rehab? To learn more about SJI Pennsylvania addiction rehab, and our programs, please contact us at (888) 352-3297.