Addiction and Mindfulness: Why mindfulness is essential for recovery

Addiction is classified as a disease because of the way it alters the brain and body. Changes to the way an addict thinks and deals with emotions have just as big of an effect on recovery as do the addictive substances or actions themselves. Repairing the damage done by addiction is of the utmost importance if recovery is to be successful. Psychological and meditative strategies involving mindfulness can help to change negative thought processes and can be used to control cravings and avoid relapse. They can also help the client learn to deal with everyday stresses that lead to addictive reactions such as taking drugs to cope. Mindfulness is essential in modern rehabilitation therapy and is one of the best ongoing recovery strategies available.

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What is Mindfulness?

There are a variety of pop culture buzzwords that embody certain aspects of mindfulness, but they don’t do well at explaining the technique comprehensively. Some that you may have heard are “take a deep breath”, “live in the moment” or “be mindful”. However, mindfulness is more than just breathing techniques or meditating. It is a state of mind that you can achieve by focusing on the here and now while calmly dealing with thoughts, emotions and sensations of the body. With that said, popular buzzwords like meditating, yoga and breath control are proven techniques for inducing a state of mindfulness that can be extremely helpful in recovery.

How is Mindfulness Used in Addiction Recovery?

Having the ability to slow down the mind and ending impulsive reactions before they happen is invaluable for an addict in recovery. That is the ultimate goal of mindfulness techniques. These techniques are designed to help you recognize habitual triggers and change the way you think about them.
The University of Washington’s Addictive Behavior Research Center has developed and tested a recovery program called the Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). This approach is intended as an aftercare program for clients who have already undergone detoxification and rehabilitation. It teaches skills that help you to respond to stressful experiences in new ways and avoid the habitual, addictive choices. Through the practice of MBRP techniques, you’ll learn to stop and think before you act and then make the positive choice that best serves you instead of serving your addiction. MBRP has been proven successful in numerous clinical studies and shows how important awareness and mental preparedness can be throughout recovery.

Mindfulness Techniques Useful During Recovery

You’ve seen how mindfulness can help in the recovery process, but what techniques are best suited for addiction control? Studies have shown that basic techniques such as breath control, yoga and meditation are extremely useful to recovering addicts. However, the goal of mindfulness is to slow your thoughts, recognize triggers, compassionately evaluate past experiences and to appropriately deal with stress and strong emotions. To achieve these goals, use whatever is necessary. If closing your eyes, imagining a happy memory, and visualizing the outcome of potential actions allow you to be mindful of your current situation, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow a certain process. Do what works best for you. With that said, seeking the advice of a recovery therapist whom specializes in mindfulness techniques can help you to learn different ways to calm your mind and make rational, well-thought out decisions.

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Training yourself to slow down and relax while dealing properly with bodily sensations can help you to follow the path of recovery. There is no set way for an individual to practice mindfulness. The important thing is to find something that works for you. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please seek help now.

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