Two key elements in addiction recovery and maintaining sobriety are found in a person’s ability to manage stress and personal triggers. It’s impossible to avoid stress and triggers altogether. But, the practice of mindfulness can be helpful to handle the emotions and avoid relapse.
What is Mindfulness?
According to Psychology Today, mindfulness is defined as:
“ a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.”
Living “in the moment” by actively focusing on the present is the foundation of this practice. Not only are you intentional about focusing on what you are experiencing from one minute to the next. But, you are accepting the sensations and circumstances and observing the situation without judgement.
The goal of this practice is to achieve balance, helping with the regulation of both thoughts and emotions. When a person is working to overcome addictive behaviour, this practice of managing thoughts and emotions can help the individual to stay in control and avoid triggers that could lead to relapse. For example, Clinical Psychology found a domino effect: constant stress or worry leads to anxiety or depression, which could potentially lead to substance abuse.
As you can see, practicing mindfulness can be an important piece of the puzzle in alcohol and drug recovery. It is common for mindfulness practices to be incorporated in substance abuse rehab programs to help with long-term recovery.
Tips to Use Mindfulness in Your Life
Where should you start if you want to practice mindfulness? Follow these tips to help you get started:
- Increase Awareness in the Present Moment: Take a moment to observe the present moment. Focus on all senses so that you can increase your awareness of the reality of what is happening around you. Pay attention to seemingly ordinary things, such as the sensation of the wind in your hair, the way your feet come in contact with the ground when you walk, the texture of your food, or the sounds outside.
- Breathe Deeply: Now, turn your focus to the breath. Feel the way the air moves in and out of your nostrils and how your body relaxes when you breathe deeply. This breathing exercise can be done when you are sitting at your desk, going to sleep, waiting in line, or walking through a store.
- Identify Thoughts: It is important to be aware of the thoughts that are moving through your mind. Check in with yourself to notice what you are thinking. Pay attention to the way the patterns are moving through your thoughts. Understand that you can control your thinking, which gives you the opportunity to let go of thoughts that are no longer serving you.
- Be Grateful: Adding gratitude to your routine is an essential step to help you see the simple pleasures and blessings in life. Pick up a pen and paper and write down ten things that you are grateful for, or try listing ten things out loud when you are driving in the car.
- Do Nothing: Our digital world has created the experience where our mind and focus is always turning to some form of stimulation. When was the last time you let yourself do nothing? Turn off your phone, computer, and TV. Find a quiet room. Then, give yourself at least 10 minutes to do nothing. This practice gives your mind a necessary break and helps you pull your attention inward.
It takes practice to learn mindfulness. But, the consistent application can make a difference in the way you think and feel. Implement these five tips regularly, and you will find that you can shift your focus and bring yourself back to your present circumstances more easily.