Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. In addiction treatment, the practice of mindfulness can help people manage their cravings and identify the thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations related to them. Besides helping with cravings and promoting impulse control, mindfulness therapy can also be beneficial in many other aspects of addiction recovery.
What Is Mindfulness Therapy?
There are many thoughts and emotions that both underlie and are caused by addiction. Learning how to recognize and accept them for what they are much healthier than repressing or ignoring them. Mindfulness therapy (also known as mindfulness meditation) is a technique that seeks to help people reframe thinking patterns and replace substance abuse with improved coping skills.
Put another way, mindfulness can be interpreted as a mental attitude towards the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that emerge from an experience that can help a person dis-identify with that experience. This doesn’t imply ambivalence or objection to experience, but instead a non-judgmental acceptance of the experience.
Mindfulness can be practiced in the following ways:
- Formally through meditation, such as sitting in a meditative posture, and focusing on an object, one’s breath or body, or the present moment.
- Informally when doing daily activities such as walking, working, doing chores, shopping, taking a break, bathing, or talking with friends.
What Should Be the Outcome?
The main objectives of mindfulness therapy used to treat addiction include helping people learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings, cravings, and urges and to experience unpleasant emotions without automatically reacting to them.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is to help an individual be conscious of all incoming thoughts and feelings, and accept them as neither good or bad. Expected outcomes of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) include interruption of impulses, reduced reaction to stimuli, and the acceptance of experiences without judgment.
This practice allows people to notice when automatic processes are happening and to suppress impulsive reactions and, instead, reflect on them impartially. MBCT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness to help people better understand and manage their thoughts and feelings and achieve relief from distress and better mental health.
Benefits of Mindfulness Therapy
When addiction has developed, full attention is devoted to obtaining and using drugs or alcohol. The body will be perpetually intent on seeking the substance; the mind is always thinking about the immediate future. When this occurs, the present moment is a state of unrest and anxiety. And instead of the present moment being central to sobriety, the here and now becomes the time that must pass until the addiction can be sated once again.
Practicing mindfulness helps people learn how to accept and bear the present moment and more able to make the positive changes needed in their lives. Also, by learning how to cope with unpleasant feelings, one can switch off the autopilot reaction that so often results in relapse. With time and dedication, practicing mindfulness can help a person improve his or her psychological state of being.
Also, the benefits of practicing mindfulness can have the following positive physical effects:
- Relieves gastrointestinal tract issues
- Boosts the immune system
- Improves sleep quality
- Lowers blood pressure
- Manages chronic pain
- Reduces stress and anxiety
Benefits of mindfulness practices on psych-emotional health include mental states during which a person:
- Becomes self-aware
- Alters judgmental thoughts and feelings
- Manages and overcomes cravings
- Controls emotions that originate from unpleasant, painful, or traumatic experiences
- Better copes with stress
- Experiences calmness and peacefulness
- Feels more connected with oneself, others, and the environment
- Increases awareness of experiences previously avoided
- Increases acceptance of self
What Happens in Mindfulness Therapy?
Mindfulness therapy is typically a short term, educational, group-based intervention that includes traditional cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention techniques with meditation training and coordinated movement such as stretching. Courses can continue for several months and usually last for about an hour.
Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is a strategy used to prevent relapse that integrates mindfulness with more traditional approaches related to cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT).
Using MBRP, gentle movements are guided by instructors with regard to safety and respect for a person’s body in mind. People are asked to be aware of the movement as it is occurring, to observe the physical sensations of moving, and to pay attention to thoughts and judgments associated with their body.
MBRP techniques are simple and effective, and generally, formal yoga poses are not taught because instructors may not be trained in yoga and also because people in recovery from addiction often have physical restrictions.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs are now commonly used as an ancillary treatment for a wide range of addictive disorders, including those related to alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine. It’s well-known that stress is a significant contributor to relapse among those in recovery, as encountering stress may precipitate a return to the use of drugs or alcohol.
At its core, mindfulness therapy can fulfill a person’s crucial need for stress management during addiction treatment and beyond. However, outside of formal treatment settings, there are several Internet and app-based options for practicing mindfulness that is currently being developed and tested.
Mindfulness Therapy and Addiction Treatment
Many of the most significant benefits of mindfulness therapy are associated with having control over cravings and relapse prevention. Many formerly active addicts will report that resisting urges and the desire to use again when confronted with a disturbing experience or a life stressor can be challenging.
Mindfulness therapy helps those in recovery become conscious of the occurrence of these emotions and sensations, accept them, and then watch them dissipate. In teaching people a new way of dealing with cravings, mindfulness therapy allows them to have increased control over the thoughts and behaviors related to addiction.
Get Help for Addiction Today
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer a variety of programs and services that use a holistic approach to addiction and mental and physical well-being. In addition to traditional treatments like medical detox, behavioral therapy, and family counseling, we encourage clients to engage in alternative practices, such as mindfulness meditation and yoga.
Furthermore, we offer experiential activities, including art, music, and adventure therapy. Group support is also a vital part of our programs, as is substance abuse and health and wellness education, medication-assisted treatment, and aftercare planning.
We believe that all individuals we treat should have access to a full spectrum of comprehensive care. This approach has been clinically proven to yield the best outcomes and is the most effective at helping people prevent relapse and enjoy long-lasting sobriety.
If you are battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol, we urge you to contact us today to discuss treatment options! Addiction may be a lifelong struggle for some, but you don’t have to overcome it on your own. We are dedicated to helping those who need it most break free from the cycle of addiction and reclaim the happy, healthy lives they deserve!