When entering into recovery there are varying degrees of mental and physical challenges one may experience. Physical withdrawal symptoms, depending on your substance of choice can be mild to severe (always seek medical advice if you are attempting to quit taking any medication or substance).
Mentally, you may experience trouble concentrating, increased anxiety, and difficulty managing emotions. Without proper treatment, these challenges are very difficult to manage and could lead to relapse. Mindfulness is one treatment modality that is often utilized to help people identify and manage emotions in recovery.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as a person's ability to be truly present in the moment without allowing their mind to wonder.
Mindfulness encourages one to be conscious of their thoughts and feelings by developing a non judgemental self-awareness. A key component of mindfulness is not suppressing feelings, but accepting them in order to find ways to appropriately resolve unwanted emotions.
Addiction is characterized by denial, minimizing, lying about substance use, and an inability to recognize or control emotions and cope with stressors. In recovery, mindfulness helps by increasing one's ability to identify relapse triggers and stressors that may lead to use. Mindfulness encourages a person to be honest about the negative impacts their substance use has had on them and others. Early recovery has been described as a roller coaster of emotional and physical distress. Practicing mindfulness helps by teaching one to be intentional, accepting their experience as it is, and living in the moment. Mentally and physically practicing mindfulness daily can improve your overall health. A few of the benefits of mindfulness are:
Ability to manage stress.
Less stress leading to an improved immune system.
Increased self awareness and emotional regulation.
Improved communication; instead of being reactive one is able to properly think about what they are feeling and respond accordingly.
In order to successfully experience the benefits of practicing mindfulness it takes diligent effort and persistence. Learning formal mindfulness techniques is most effective. They can be found virtually or in person. Some helpful techniques are:
Practicing yoga- Through various stretching and breathing techniques yoga promotes connection of mind and body.
Guided Imagery Meditation- Uses images to encourage one to utilize their 5 senses to create a place of serenity in their mind.
Mindful Eating- Eating healthy foods improves mood, health, and encourages weight loss.
Body Scan- Starting at the toes and working through each body part paying attention to how each feels connects the body and mind encouraging one to feel present in each moment.
Mindful Breathing- Focuses on breathing techniques to help clear one’s mind and center attention to just the feeling of each breath.
There are a vast amount of resources available to help one get started practicing and understanding mindfulness, but the hardest part is the actual act of practicing mindfulness. A few helpful tips:
Make time to practice for 20 minutes daily, this time can be broken down into two 10 minute sessions
Be prepared for your mind to wonder, allow it to and then recenter your mind to the present.
Try different forms of mindfulness until you find one that suits your particular needs.
Enlist a professional to help you.
Don’t give up, mastering mindfulness takes time.
Practicing mindfulness, coupled with addiction treatment helps to strengthen the recovery process. Mindfulness acts as a reinforcement to mitigate the occurrence of relapse through one's ability to recognize feelings. It can also help to decrease and manage stressors that may trigger substance abuse, prompting the awareness to take action in maintaining sobriety.