When it comes to your journey of recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, it’s essential to use every tool available to help you along the way. For many, this includes time in a substance abuse treatment center, ongoing counseling, and support from family and friends. However, there’s another beneficial tool that often gets overlooked: mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. While meditation is a form of mindfulness, you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor in a quiet room to be mindful. Mindfulness can be practiced throughout the day.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Since drug and alcohol addiction often stem from an emotional issue like anxiety, fear, or depression, becoming mindful can help you identify the circumstances that trigger you to drink or use drugs and get to the root of the problem.
Whether practiced via meditation, yoga, or other techniques, there are many benefits of mindfulness:
- Reduced Stress and Anxiety
- Improved Memory
- Improved Focus and Concentration
- Reduced Depression and Rumination
- Reduced Emotional Reactivity
- Better Relationships
- Increased Immune Function
- Enhanced Self-Insight
How to Practice Mindfulness
The best mindfulness techniques are the ones that work for you. Try a variety of mindfulness activities until you find the ones that are most enjoyable and effective for you.
This is a focused mindfulness exercise, and there are many ways to do it. Start by sitting comfortably. This may be cross-legged on the floor, or you might find it easier to sustain the position by sitting in a hard-backed chair. Make sure you can sit up tall. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. Take long inhales and long exhales. Notice how the breath sounds and feels. Notice the impact it has on your heart beat and the rest of your body.
Here are a few more meditation tips:
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone and tell family members not to disturb you.
- Make yourself comfortable. Use a chair or cushions to make sure your practice isn’t interrupted by discomfort in your body.
- Start small. You do not have to meditate for an hour for it to be effective. Meditation for beginners may be only two or three minutes long. That’s a success! Each day, add an extra minute or two to your practice.
- Be consistent. Practicing every day at the same time and place can help you develop the habit.
- Try different techniques. Repeating a mantra (a sound, word, or phrase), either internally or out loud, is another great way to stay focused during your practice. You could also gaze at the moon or a candle flame or participate in a guided meditation you find online.
- Don’t get discouraged. Meditation isn’t easy for anyone at first, but anyone can learn to do it. It just takes a little time and patience. There’s no “right way” to meditate, and no experience you need to have while you’re doing it.
Yoga or Tai Chi
Yoga was developed as a means of preparing the body for meditation, but it is a mindfulness practice on its own. Both yoga and tai chi are moving meditations: the breath and movement can help you stay focused on the present moment.
Go on a walk and take care to notice everything around you: the sounds your feet make, the way the tree bark feels, the sounds of the birds or the cars, and so on. Whenever your mind tries to wander, bring it back to something – anything that is in your immediate experience.
Mindfulness in Daily Life
The best meditation can happen while you’re doing daily tasks like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. These five-minute mindfulness meditation practices can have a powerful impact on your life.
For example, when brushing your teeth, focus completely on the task. Take care in putting the paste on the brush, notice the speed at which you brush, notice the taste and feel of the toothpaste. From moment to moment, stay engrossed with what you’re doing. This is easier to do since it’s only a couple of minutes at a time.
- S: Stop what you’re doing.
- T: Take a deep, intentional breath.
- O: Observe. What are you thinking? What is your emotional state? How does your body feel? What is the current situation?
- P: Proceed. Choose a course of action that best serves you.
Studies have indicated that practicing mindfulness exercises and meditation techniques are helpful on the road to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Mindfulness and meditation take practice, but with consistent effort, it won’t take long before you feel the benefits in your life.