Have you ever heard of mindfulness? According to Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Although mindfulness is something that everyone possesses, practicing mindfulness and/or meditation daily can have a great impact on your mental health. Learn more about how you can use mindfulness-based support for your recovery from substance misuse or mental illness.
How does mindfulness work?
In traditional treatment for substance misuse, your goals may focus more on avoiding or controlling triggers that could cause you to have a craving for drugs or alcohol. These triggers may be certain habits, locations, people and more. Although this can be an effective approach for some people, many still find themselves relapsing within a year or less. With a mindfulness practice, such as Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) developed by Sarah Bowen at the University of Washington, your substance misuse treatment focuses on redirecting thought patterns, increasing awareness and creating better balance.
Your thoughts are just thoughts
A great example of mindfulness is recognizing harmful thought patterns and redirecting them. For example, in traditional treatment, someone with a substance use disorder may be asked to avoid triggers, like a setting where alcohol is present. While this may be helpful coming directly out of a rehab or in-patient treatment, it is likely not realistic to do at all times. Mindfulness can teach you to identify these thoughts and recognize that they are just thoughts and not your reality. If you let thoughts of relapse consume you, it is more likely to happen. Instead of allowing destructive thoughts, harmful ideas or negative self-talk to rule your brain, mindfulness helps you to recognize your discomfort and choose to respond to it differently.
Being present in the moment
Many people who face a substance use disorder (and/or comorbid mental health issues) are using substances as a way to escape from the stress of daily life. Mindfulness-based support can help combat addiction and anxiety by helping you to feel more present in reality, rather than focusing on worries of the future (such as a fear of relapse) or replaying distressing situations from the past (such as binges or fights with loved ones). When you better root yourself in the present moment, you are more likely to find joy in the little things instead of using a substance to escape.
Mindfulness-based breathing techniques
Breathwork is another common mindfulness practice to keep yourself present. Obviously, we all have to breathe all day long, but taking deep breaths can increase oxygen flow to your brain, calming your nervous system. The simple act of taking a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth can totally refresh your mind, especially if you find yourself in a “fight or flight” situation, like when faced with drugs or alcohol. Practicing deep breathing can sometimes seem silly – of course we all know how to breathe – but having a few favorite techniques can make it much easier to call upon them and better calm yourself when stressed.
Social support for your recovery
Another aspect of mindfulness is making connections with others. Some mindfulness-based support therapy may call this your “circle of compassion.” As you focus inwardly to reduce judgment and negative self-talk, you can also extend that compassion to others, especially in seeking support for your recovery and sobriety. Mindfulness can help you recognize that you are not alone – everyone has things that they struggle with, whether it’s substance misuse, mental health concerns or any number of difficulties. And you can also recognize that everyone is deserving of compassion and grace when faced with triggers or hard situations, including yourself!
If you are looking for local substance misuse treatment for yourself or a loved one, we encourage you to contact one of our Support Navigators at Healthy365 by calling 317-468-4231. We would be honored to provide you with a sympathetic and confidential listening ear in order to connect you with the best treatment for your needs.