Content Reviewed by Jennifer Wheeler, Clinical & Community Outreach for New Life

For people to successfully recover from substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health disorders, they must have knowledge of effective and healthy coping skills they can use to navigate mental and emotional distress as it occurs in their life. Often, the symptoms that accompany mental health disorders cause an individual to feel controlled by their thoughts and emotions, which can affect their behavior. As a result, individuals who struggle with these symptoms often respond by attempting to wrest control of these symptoms, which only tends to worsen them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a coping mechanism that encouraged acceptance of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions? How would that affect recovery? As it happens, there is. Mindfulness has been proven to have positive impacts on treatment and recovery from SUD and mental health conditions.

The Concept of Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery

Mindfulness is a practice that involves conscious awareness of what is happening in the present moment. It requires an individual to bring attention to what is happening both inside of them emotionally and mentally as well as around them environmentally.

Mental health is something that all people struggle with from time to time. When people get stuck, they tend to focus their attention on their struggles. For example, many people who deal with mental health disorders experience intrusive thoughts. They find themselves in a conditioned loop, constantly fixated on those recurrent thoughts. They may try to focus their attention elsewhere or challenge such thoughts, but they find their way back in. Most people do not realize they can break the cycle of intrusive thoughts by simply learning to accept them.

Elements of Mindfulness

Although awareness may be the most important element of mindfulness, it is not the only one. Several elements work together to build the foundation of practicing mindfulness. These elements include:

  • Acceptance: Helps us perceive our thoughts, emotions and experiences without feeling the need to change them
  • Curiosity: Reminds us to tap into our innate capacity for wonder and interest in the world around us
  • Patience: Patience teaches us how to wait calmly, especially when we are faced with adversity and frustration
  • Nonjudgment: Encourages us to fully immerse ourselves in the present moment without evaluating it
  • Letting go: Reminds us to release the emotional and mental baggage we may carry as a result of difficult experiences
  • Gratitude: Encourages us to be thankful for and appreciative of the experiences we have in life

The Benefits of Mindfulness on Recovery

Substance use and mental health disorders affect the brain in distinct ways. People may find themselves turning to substances to self-medicate stress, anxiety, depression and other challenging mental health issues. Effective healing from SUD involves learning to manage withdrawal symptoms, triggers and cravings through relapse prevention strategies. Mindfulness helps treat the underlying causes of substance use and mental health disorders rather than just masking the symptoms associated with them.

Mindfulness practices are associated with numerous benefits for individuals in recovery. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Stress reduction
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Reduced uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduced cravings
  • Reduced response to cravings
  • Conflict resolution
  • Improved memory and concentration
  • Improved resilience
  • Greater control of impulsive behavior

How to Engage in Mindfulness in Recovery from Substance Use

Over the last decade, most substance use and mental health treatment facilities have incorporated mindfulness practices into their treatment programs. These are occasionally referred to as holistic therapies and practices. Mindfulness makes for a great complementary treatment modality, but not everyone who is in active recovery is receiving treatment. Fortunately, there are many ways that individuals in recovery can engage in mindfulness outside of therapy.

Here are just a few examples of mindfulness practices:

#1. Meditation

Meditation is the most popular mindfulness practice. It involves setting aside time to sit quietly and just breathe. Although it sounds simple, meditation can take quite a bit of time to master. Beginners can set a timer for five to 10 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet environment where they will not likely be disturbed. For the remaining time, the individual closes their eyes and focuses on their breath. Close attention should be brought to the rise and fall of their stomach as they breathe. If and when the individual notices their attention wander, they can notice their thoughts without reacting to them and then return their attention back to their breath.

#2. Yoga

Yoga incorporates mindfulness into exercise. There are numerous different types of yoga practices. There are many in-person yoga classes and online videos. Like meditation, yoga can be challenging to master. Still, it is a valuable practice that encourages individuals to engage deeply with their minds and bodies through stretching poses and attention to breath and sensations.

#3. Nature

Mindfulness is a practice that can be used anywhere. Taking a walk out in nature is a mindful activity. While spending time in nature, individuals can become aware of their breath as they notice different sounds, smells, colors and feelings that surface. Focusing on nature can pull individuals out of their thoughts and connect them more deeply with the world around them.

New Life Addiction Counseling and Mental Health Services recognizes the profound impact that mindfulness can have on one’s treatment and recovery journey. We offer several different treatment programs and therapeutic services for patients. We incorporate mindfulness and other holistic practices into our treatment programs. Our caring and knowledgeable staff are committed to treating the underlying causes of our patient’s mental and emotional distress rather than just treating the symptoms. To learn more about our treatment facility, give us a call today at (877) 929-2571