When you are recovering from an addiction or dealing with any other type of mental health condition, mindfulness can help. Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment. During this time, you won’t be worrying about the past or the future; you will be focused only on what is happening right then and there. While it can feel difficult to be mindful when you first start, it does get easier over time. As you practice mindfulness, you’ll notice that it feels more and more natural to live in the moment rather than in the past or the future.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Learning how to be more mindful has a lot of benefits that can help you with your recovery. You can learn more about mindfulness during your counseling or group therapy appointments, or you can learn about it on your own.
Mindfulness helps you to confront the issues you are dealing with. Sometimes, we try to avoid our current circumstances by falling into past habits and behaviors or by worrying or thinking too much about the future. Unless you deal with your current issues, however, you won’t be able to move on completely. Mindfulness can help with that.
Mindfulness also helps you to relax and focus inward. Many of us are plagued by guilt from our pasts or anxiety about what might happen tomorrow, next week, next year, or 20 years from now. By grounding yourself and focusing on what is happening right now, you can reduce depression and anxiety about the past or future.
Mindfulness also helps you connect better with others. When you are able to stop focusing on the past or the future, you will be able to fully focus on the people around you. This can help you forge stronger relationships, which can help you succeed in your recovery.
How to Be More Mindful
There are several ways that you might try to increase your mindfulness. Here are a few to consider implementing into your routines. Try one or two at first and see if they work for you, then add another one and then another. Having a variety of tools in your mental health arsenal can allow you to feel confident that you’ll be able to handle anything that comes your way.
One idea is to spend time in nature. Focus on the trees, the birds, how the ground feels under your feet, and how the air smells. Notice the temperature of the air on your skin. Consider leaving your phone behind or, if you’d rather have it with you, turn it off and put it in your backpack or purse. Spending time in the fresh air can help you to become more mindful. As a side benefit, this has also been shown to reduce the signs of anxiety and depression, so if you have these co-occurring disorders, you might notice a benefit.
Try some breathing exercises. Taking slow, intentional breaths naturally slows a racing heartbeat and gives you something to focus on other than anxious thoughts or regrets. There are many different exercises you can try. One is to inhale for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, and hold again for five seconds before repeating. This slows your breathing to only three breaths per minute, which will slow down your heart and help you to relax. You can also simply breathe in and out slowly. You might repeat a word or phrase as you exhale, meditating on whatever you are saying.
A good grounding exercise when you are feeling anxious or having intrusive thoughts is to stop what you are doing and look for five things you can see. Really look at those things for a minute or two. Then identify four things you can hear, really focusing on those sounds. Next is three things you can physically feel, then two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. By focusing on these sensations, you will feel more grounded in your own body and you won’t be able to keep track of your worries for a few minutes.
Being creative can also help you become more mindful. Try painting a picture, writing a poem, sculpting with clay, trying a new recipe, or putting together some outfits for the week. Think of various ways that you can be more creative in your daily life. You might enjoy redecorating your home or room, for example. Even if you can’t afford to purchase new furnishings or wall art, do some online browsing for ideas. You might be able to think of ways to replicate the images you like in an inexpensive way. Or you could simply find decorating styles that you like and keep them for future reference. Pinterest is a great platform to use to categorize your finds.
Try keeping a journal. Writing about your feelings and what is going on in your life can go a long way toward making you more mindful. You can write down things that you are grateful for or a list of things you did that day. You might also designate a few minutes each day to write down your worries. This can help you with mindfulness during the rest of the day, because if worries come to mind, tell yourself that you’ll worry about it later, during your designated time. If you can get into the habit of worrying about non-urgent situations later, you will be more mindful and less stressed throughout the day.
Talk to your addictions specialist or mental health care provider about your wish to become more mindful, as they will probably have many more suggestions for you to try. This can be incorporated into your cognitive-behavioral therapy or another type of therapy. Your practitioner can help you get started if you are having trouble. Just be assured that once you learn to become more mindful, it will become a habit, and this can benefit you in a wide variety of ways.