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Mindfulness Meditation and Addiction
In treating substance abuse and addiction, there are a variety of methods. The standard treatments work well for some: detoxifying, going to therapy and meeting with support groups. However, recovery is not one size fits all. Everyone is different. We have our own needs and preferences.
For some, more holistic methods of treatment work better than usual. While it may seem odd, mindfulness and addiction treatment go hand in hand and produce lasting sobriety.
Mindfulness treatments encompass a variety of exercises, one of which is meditation. To learn to be with oneself, mindful meditation can help those in recovery discover themselves like never before on their path to a sober life.
Let us make this challenging journey a little easier for you. Sobriety is possible. Remember, you can overcome.
Call us today at (888) 906-0952, and we can guide you through this process of healing and becoming sober.
- Mindfulness 101: A Way of Being
- Understanding Mindfulness
- Implementing Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery
- What Are the Mindfulness Treatments in Addiction Treatment?
- The Effectivenes of Mindful Recovery
- Why You Should Add Mindfulness to Your Recovery Plan
Mindfulness 101: A Way of Being
In short, mindfulness is a state of mental awareness and focus. It comes from practices found in meditation; however, more recently, mindfulness has become associated with different types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a popular form of therapy in substance abuse treatment.
In CBT, the goal is for a patient to be able to recognize negative behaviors and feelings. Once this is done, they can than create strategies to either cope with them or overcome them, leading to better emotional regulation and mental health.
Mindfulness helps in this process because it helps one understand themselves in a way most people rarely ever do.
The best way to understand mindfulness is to try it out. When one is in a state of mindfulness, one is aware of external surroundings and inner experience, even as new things occur.
One is present in the moment and does not get bogged down by thoughts or feelings. Mindfulness aims to become aware – both the outside and inside – without being attached to anything one is experiencing. This may sound simple enough, but it takes a fair amount of self-discipline.
One must only focus on the present moment, not the past or future. One is no longer in a state of mindfulness if one’s mind is stuck in an event from two weeks ago, for example. Being present and at the moment and allowing thoughts or feelings about the past, which may pop up, to flow through you is what mindfulness is all about.
In practice, this can be not easy, especially for those new to mindfulness and even meditation. To start practicing mindfulness, it may be helpful to focus on the idea of mindfulness. In time and with practice, true mindfulness will come.
Implementing Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery
At first, the idea of mindfulness may not seem like a suitable solution for addiction. But of all the treatments for substance abuse, among the most effective is meditation for addiction recovery.
One of the most basic ways mindfulness meditation helps someone feel better is to slow things down. Mindfulness keeps one from jumping from one activity to the next or even one thought to the next.
In quieting one’s mental stream of consciousness, one can achieve a sort of tranquility, a balance. Feelings like this – tranquility, peace, relaxation – can often be those one searches for in using certain substances anyway.
The calming of the mind promotes better overall mental health, which is necessary for recovery. Typically, an addiction starts or progresses due to some negative feeling, feelings, or state of mind.
Another way mindfulness helps in recovery is by forcing one to analyze and understand their reactions to things. Although the goal of being mindful is to be present and let memories and anxieties flow through you, what does come to one’s mind during mindful meditation can be important to understand.
Knowing oneself is vital in recovery. It is the first step in being able to rebuild oneself as a new, sober individual. In acknowledging and understanding one’s reactions to the thoughts and feelings that occur or reoccur in one’s mind, one can become more equipped to deal with those feelings.
Ultimately, one should learn to let them go, learn to let them flow through to stay present. During mindful meditations in substance abuse treatment, people typically come to realizations not only about themselves but what triggers them to drink, use drugs, or do any other addictive behavior.
Realizing this can make it easier to figure out how to respond differently when addiction is triggered.
What are the Mindfulness Treatments in Addiction Treatment?
With mindful meditation and substance abuse, there are many treatments and methods one can benefit from. These treatments are typically referred to as mindful-based interventions or MBIs for short. The most utilized MBIs are as follows:
- Mindfulness Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE):
MORE is a treatment that combines mindfulness practices with cognitive-behavioral therapy and positive psychology, typically done in 10 sessions.
- Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP):
MBRP is an 8-session program that uses traditional relapse prevention strategies with mindfulness training. It emphasizes one’s need to learn coping mechanisms to tolerate discomforts and triggers.
- Mindful awareness in body-oriented therapy (MABT):
MABT is an 8-week program where one attends eight 90-minute sessions. These sessions focus on raising awareness of the relationship between the physical and emotional and how to regulate emotions.
- Mindfulness-based addiction treatment (MBAT):
While each of these programs is designed to treat addiction, MBAT is specifically used to treat nicotine addiction over 10 sessions using mindfulness practices.
While there are other treatments, these are some of the most utilized. Each uses mindfulness techniques to help one achieve lasting recovery.
Mindfulness Skills to Learn
The skills one can learn from mindfulness and mindfulness programs include:
- Observation: giving close attention to the environment
- Description: Being able to describe an event or how one feels more precisely.
- Participation: involving oneself in activities without fear or anxiety
- Acceptance: accepting things as they are, not judging for what they are not.
- Focus: freeing oneself from distractions.
- Effectiveness: being able to do what works without second-guessing oneself.
Each of these skills can be helpful not only as mindful recovery but in life in general, which is what makes mindfulness so beneficial.
The Effectiveness of Mindful Recovery
Mindfulness as a form of treatment for substance abuse is relatively new. Moreover, the mindful approach to treatment is so different from standard practices that it was initially met with skepticism.
However, that skepticism is now a thing of the past. Some recent studies from the University of Southern California have helped to show the effectiveness of mindful practices in therapy.
In one study, the researchers found that just eight weeks of mindfulness training led to drops in stress and cravings for people in recovery. It also improved the chances of one staying sober, even six months after.
This amazing result is largely due to how mindfulness practices alter structures in the brain, specifically in the areas associated with self-awareness and coping with emotions. When changes such as these are made in the brain, behaviors like mindfulness become easier, like second nature.
An Expert Opinion on Mindfulness
Eric Garland, who serves as the director of the Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development at the University of Utah, is a prominent supporter of mindfulness in substance abuse treatment.
Garland explains that mindfulness-based addiction treatment essentially trains individuals to pause and be present, acknowledge one’s cravings, and ultimately restructure one’s natural reward pathways in the brain.
He states, “What I think therapeutically happens is, to recover from addiction, a person has to relearn what is and is not important in life … because that’s the thing that gets broken in addiction – the person gives up the things that once were meaningful in their life for the drug.” But in teaching mindfulness, Garland further explains that those with an addiction can “strengthen their self-control and their self-awareness, so that then they can become more sensitive to natural pleasure to cultivate a sense of joy and to reclaim a sense of meaning in life.”
Mindfulness Meditation and Substance Abuse
For anyone suffering from an addiction, there are a variety of treatment options. Although mindfulness and mindfulness meditation may be new to substance abuse treatment, they are extremely effective.
Mindfulness encourages one to live in the moment, to recognize but not dwell on the thoughts or feelings that harm them. After all, a feeling is just that, a feeling. It does not last forever, and it does not make you who you are.
Recovery is all about breaking down the causes of addictive behavior and rebuilding one’s life. What better way to do that than through mindfulness meditation? Mindfulness and addiction may seem like a strange combination, but it is a worthy treatment.
Though overcoming an addiction can be like climbing a snow-covered mountain, sobriety is possible. All it takes is the right help!
The Helpline is free. Dial (888) 906-0952 and press 1.
Sources of Information
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Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 12/17/2021
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