Applying Mindfulness to Addiction Recovery: Tools, Tips, and Information

Applying Mindfulness to Addiction Recovery: Tools, Tips, and Information

AOne could easily guess that addiction takes a person away from the present moment. They become engulfed in a never-ending chase, often while losing moments, connections, business opportunities, financial gains, and health along the way. Addiction is considered a disease because nobody wants to actively compromise the aspects of their life that have provided great meaning to them; yet when it strikes, it can be terribly difficult to overcome. Thoughts become centered around using than about anything else, and with that, priorities change. Hobbies, friends and family, work projects and more can all fade away as addiction takes over, and recovery is about bring back what really matters: the present moment.

What is Mindfulness?

Meditation dates back to the early teachings of Buddha, but the practice itself has boomed in popularity here within the United States as research has shown just how transformative it can truly be. Mindfulness is about cultivating a non-judgmental awareness from moment-to-moment. When we practice mindfulness, we become stronger in grounding ourselves when those pesky or ruminating thoughts come up; we’re better equipped to stand firm in the present moment – the reality – which combats much of what addiction tries to distract us from.

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley published an interesting read back in 2014 that provided some excellent examples of how mindfulness can work in our daily lives. The example provided was of a woman who was invited to help her coworkers set up a party at work. She knew that alcohol would be there, and she immediately experienced an influx of thoughts about how she’d stay up all night drinking, and of how she’d miss work the next day, and so on.

Using mindfulness, the woman recognized the thoughts she was having for what they were: just thoughts. She reminded herself that it was all a story being played in her head, and that just because she had these anxious thoughts did not mean they were bound to come true. The reality? She had a choice, and she could choose not to drink.

From then on, the woman in the story began practicing mindfulness whenever she’d have triggering thoughts. You see, what mindfulness is based on is the fact that our thoughts are only important if we place importance on them. Thoughts are merely thoughts – they are not good, nor bad. We assign meaning to them, and so it’s up to us to cipher out which thoughts we want to let affect us – and which ones we want to let pass on by.

Applying Mindfulness to Addiction Recovery

As the Huffington Post highlights, mindfulness tackles two main aspects of addiction recovery: negative emotions and cravings. Both are influential factors to relapse prevention, and mindfulness provides people with tools to work through troubling thoughts they may otherwise have spiraled because of it.

In 2015, researchers published a study in the journal Psychopharmacology that assessed the difference between 20 participants in a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program and 20 participants in a social support group. Individuals in the study experience chronic pain with opioid use concerns. After 8 weeks of monitoring and treatment, researchers found the following:

–       Participants who completed mindfulness-based treatment reported decreased opioid misuse and cravings during treatment

–       Individuals placed less emphasis on triggering thoughts

–       Heart rate responses were deescalated much easier

If mindfulness helps individuals during treatment, what about after treatment and relapse prevention?

A few years ago, a study was conducted and published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study’s objectives were to assess the effectiveness of mindfulness in terms of long-term relapse prevention. Two-hundred and eighty-six people participated in the study, and were randomized into either mindfulness, regular treatment, or relapse prevention treatment. These individuals were monitored for 12 months so that researchers could get a clear idea of treatment effects, and this is what they found:

–       Participants in both mindfulness-based treatment and relapse prevention experienced significantly lower rates of relapse compared to participants who received regular treatment

–       Overall, those who completed mindfulness treatment had fewer days of substance use and significantly lower heavy drinking than those in either of the other two programs

Mindfulness is an excellent approach to treatment because it places more control in a person’s hands to de-escalate some of the thoughts that may be triggering them in the first place.

Applying Mindfulness

The best part of mindfulness is that it can be practiced virtually anytime, anywhere. Formalized treatment programs that offer mindfulness-based therapy will certainly have structure, but you can apply mindfulness in your daily life, too. If you’re ready to try mindfulness, explore the following exercise:

The next time you go for a walk outside, take a breath of fresh air. Check in with yourself and take inventory of how you’re feeling. Notice any physical sensations you’re experiencing, and tune into all your senses. Look around you. Find beauty in what is currently your present moment. Don’t judge any thoughts or feelings, just explore the moment with curiosity.

If you’re ready to begin your journey to recovery, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center today. The time to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit is now.

The mission of The Beach House is to provide success in the recovery process and elevate the standard of comprehensive addiction treatment. Located right on the coast of Malibu, California, expert clinical care and a holistic view of the recovery process is provided to ensure Best-in-Class treatment tailored to the needs of each client. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey today, call us at 310-924-0780.

Saving Lives; Healing Families.

Kimberly James

I am the founder and owner of The Beach House Treatment Center, The White House, Indigo Ranch, Sweetwater Mesa and Beach House Center for Wellness, all in Malibu, California.