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Mindfulness and Addiction: Can One Help the Other?

Addiction is a struggle.

It’s exhausting. Isolating. Maddening. Aggravating. Painful. Lonely. Stressful.

It’s so many more adjectives that all serve to envelop you, swallowing you up entirely.

Getting out of it isn’t straightforward either and while rehab follows a plan, at the end of the day addiction is a mental illness. Naturally, there’s some confusion involved in recovery and the process of working your way through the ins and outs of substance abuse.

What led you there? Why? How?

That’s where something like mindfulness comes into play.

What Is Mindfulness?

It has a new-age type of feel and sound to it but mindfulness has its roots in and takes its influence from age-old Buddhist meditation traditions.

In short, and according to Berkeley University’s Greater Good Magazine, it means “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens”.

It’s the epitome of living in the moment and essentially the very definition of it.

As noted by the National Institutes of Health, “studies suggest that mindfulness practices may help people manage stress, cope better with serious illness and reduce anxiety and depression. Many people who practice mindfulness report an increased ability to relax, a greater enthusiasm for life and improved self-esteem”.

How Does Mindfulness Help With Treating Addiction? 

Cultivating this sort of hyperawareness means mindfulness and addiction tend to pair well with each other as a complement to a treatment program and not a solution in and of itself to addiction.

A Tool for Preventing Relapse

While there’s no absolute, iron-clad guarantee that a relapse can be prevented, a program called Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) was created specifically towards giving someone the best chance at staying free of substances.

The program, as described by UC Berkeley, “combines practices like sitting meditation with standard relapse prevention skills, such as identifying events that trigger relapse. Rather than fighting or avoiding the difficult states of mind that arise when withdrawing from a substance, this combination tries to help participants to name and tolerate craving and negative emotion”.

Stress Reduction

Treatment for substance abuse isn’t necessarily a walk in the park and there are challenges involved. Meditation, the umbrella under which meditation exists, is thought to reduce anxiety and assist in getting a grip on stress. 

Anything that can serve to encourage a calmer mind and less wound up and stressed existence is a positive in recovery.

Being in the Moment

There’s much to be said about simply focusing on the now with purpose and intention. To really put your energy into dedicating yourself to pushing aside distractions and being there. The focus on the breath is a key aspect of mindfulness and in the early days you’ll be easily distracted from it. Our attention is constantly being pulled in all directions and that becomes more and more clear when you start mindfulness meditation.

With more practice though, you’re able to control your thoughts and stay focused and that newfound focus carries through to other aspects of your recovery.

As SMART Recovery puts it, “Mindfulness means owning each moment- good, bad, or ugly. Being grounded is a basic step in the state of being mindful. Mindfulness contributes to a richer, fuller life because you are noticing all the things around you…if you get all of the worries and regrets out of your mind, it is easier to focus on the things you want to do in the present”.

Inneractions Is Here To Help You With Your Addiction Today

At Inneractions, in the San Fernando Valley, we incorporate mindfulness exercises into our treatment programs and teach you techniques that you can continue to use at home because paying attention to the details, like your thoughts and words, helps manage behaviors, beliefs and emotions.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness, or have any questions, reach out to us today.