Mindfulness is a concept that has grown in acceptance and popularity in our culture over the past decades.
It originally emerged in our Western culture as a result of the cultural and religious shift that occurred in the 1960s. Dissatisfied with the depth of traditional religion in addressing current struggles, the hippy generation welcomed in some of the more ancient religious traditions long practiced in the East.
Mantras, meditation, and yoga became commonplace in the United States during that time. As the extremism of the time settled back into the daily grind, it was discovered that mindfulness provides a useful bridge between our busy lives and the benefits gained from meditative practices.
Mindfulness is is a form of meditation, but is able to be applied while on the go.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at mindfulness and addiction so you understand the importance of practicing mindfulness during addiction recovery.
What it Means to Practice Mindfulness
As the term implies, being mindful about life requires that we take the time to acknowledge our own experiences within it. It is described as having the ability to be fully present in each moment, without allowing anyone moment to become overwhelming.
Both positive and negative thoughts and feelings are acknowledged, and no frantic effort is applied toward attempting to modify those naturally occurring feelings. Along with the acknowledgment of the thoughts and feelings is the awareness that such thoughts and feelings do not require that we act upon them. They just exist. They are.
Feeling free from the idea that we must seek to control and gain mastery over our undesirable thoughts and feelings results in a mysterious phenomenon. By letting go of our need to control, we actually gain more ability to direct our experiences in a way that brings peace of mind and more positive reactions.
With practice, the mindfulness approach can be applied to any number of the various situations we encounter during our day and can help to mitigate unpleasant experiences such as stress, depression, and anxiety.
What it Means to Be Addicted
While the strict definitions of what constitutes addiction may vary, it is, in essence, an antithesis to the practice of mindfulness.
Addiction is a compulsory act, involving thoughts, urges, and behaviors that seem to occur from outside our own, conscious, decision. The desire to engage in addictive behaviors overrides any sense of staying in the present, and the anxiety experienced before indulging in the addiction forces a person to stay focused on a single, future, the goal of getting high.
Rather than allowing thoughts and feelings to pass through at the moment, a person with an addiction will give in to the compulsion to change the moment through substance use. Once the addictive substance has been administered, the ability to be fully present in a mindful way has been diminished.
Mindfulness and Addiction
With compulsion being centered on the future, and with mindfulness being centered on the present, the practice of mindfulness can help to bring an addicted person back from the edge of temptation to escape the moment through using a substance.
When the hours of the day are broken down into small, mentally digestible, moments, better decisions than to act on our self-destructive desires are able to be hatched. Slowing down our experiences through the application of mindfulness leaves space for alternative solutions to drug and alcohol use.
The following are some of the tools that are used when practicing mindfulness in your recovery.
Practicing mindfulness can mean becoming an outside observer to yourself.
Rather than viewing the thoughts and feelings as though they utterly belong to you, try to look at them as transient experiences that can come and go.
This is different from denying that these thoughts and feelings exist, as you are not trying to ignore or change them. You are simply acknowledging them for what they are: They are temporary states of being, thinking, and feeling.
You may feel an urge to use drugs or drink alcohol during these scenarios, but that urge does not mean that you have to get up and do anything about it.
Awareness of these states of consciousness can be solidified by finding ways to express them in a tangible manner.
Try applying the use of I-statements to your experiences, and include as many thoughts and feeling words as possible. If you are able to speak them aloud to a trusted person, do so. Writing the experiences down in a journal can also be useful. When we identify internal experiences for what they actually are, we gain a sense of empowerment.
Part of any healthy development involves learning to love ourselves.
In order to properly love ourselves, we need to accept the fact that we are not perfect. We all struggle with negative thoughts, defeating emotions, and counterproductive behaviors. Those who have become trapped by the claws of addiction know these struggles better than most.
Regardless of the type of struggle, we all have a choice of what we want to do with it at this very moment. Most of us want to choose to act on our higher self, even if it takes us a long time to do learn to successfully do so. Be kind to yourself, and get back on the horse if you fall off.
In our fast-paced world, it can be difficult to focus our thoughts.
For some, this may prove to be one of the most difficult tasks of becoming adept in mindfulness. Focus refers to the ability to reign our thoughts back in when they begin to wander off into unproductive places. If we are calming our stress through mindfulness of our current moment, it won’t do to begin spiraling off into worries about the future or into the pit of past regrets.
You can allow yourself time to spend in those realms of thought, but your mindfulness time needs to be centered on the now.
A technique or approach is only as good as the results it brings. During times of practicing mindfulness, examine what works best for you in your own addiction recovery. Does worrying about the future help you to stay sober? If not, don’t do it. Does expressing your frustrations to your spouse help you to stay on track? Do more of it. Find what works, and apply it.
Leave the rest by the wayside.