Published On: September 28, 2017|Categories: Recovery|
Many treatment programs, including residential and outpatient, may advertise the incorporation of holistic treatment modalities, along with traditional talk therapy, relapse prevention and other common tenets of addiction treatment into their clients’ treatment plans.
Holistic treatment plans, though they sound newfangled, are actually ages-old methods of healing the body, mind and soul. Practices like yoga, art therapy, and equine therapy allows individuals to continue treatment in a way that focuses on helping the whole body recovery, not just the mental aspects of overcoming addiction.
One such holistic method commonly used for its numerous benefits in healing addiction (and numerous other mental health disorders) is mindfulness.
Think of it this way – our thoughts are like vehicles on a highway. They’re constantly in motion, going this way and that way, coming to a halt or moving full speed ahead. You might judge one, get fixated on another, swerve out of the way of a third. It takes enough energy to focus driving on the highway, but when that highway is in your brain?
Add to it our natural human tendency to make a judgment call on emotions, experiences, thoughts and feelings and you have yourself a whole mess of anxious thoughts.
What mindfulness seeks to do is not stop those thoughts or emotions, or really interfere with them in any way. Instead, practicing mindfulness helps you to see and acknowledge that certain thoughts are present, and then let them move on. You don’t pass judgement, dwell on them or create an opinion. You simply let them exist.
While it might sounds challenging, mindfulness is something we all have the ability to do and do well. All it takes is practice to begin incorporating it into your daily life, both during and after addiction treatment.
Why does mindfulness help in addiction recovery?
Mindfulness is a total focus on the feelings that you’re experiencing in the present moment. Rather than judging your emotions or reacting to them, you simply acknowledge them. Restricting your focus to your current emotions prevents your mind from wandering to past or future feelings that may trigger your addiction, and can also act as a safeguard that keeps you from giving in to any cravings or compulsions caused by your addiction.
It adds a pause between impulse and action
Mindfulness allows you to recognize your desire to use without acting on it. This adds a pause between the cravings or impulse and acting on those impulses. Without mindfulness, this pause might not have been present at all. By taking a moment to acknowledge how you feel about the craving as well— do you really want to give into it and risk a relapse?
Most likely not. Therefore, practicing mindfulness helps reduce the strength of cravings.
It teaches you to respond, not react
If you are feeling depressed or anxious, mindfulness teachings will encourage you to sit with and experience those feelings, rather than turning to drugs or alcohol to push them aside. You can feel emotions without reacting to them, and especially without reacting to them in a negative or destructive way.
It limits automatic responses
Practicing mindfulness can also increase awareness of your emotional processes. This empowers you to take control over “automatic” behaviors.
In the case of people struggling with addiction, those automatic behaviors often involve using drugs or alcohol. You may begin to realize that certain feelings – stress, fatigue, anger, etc. – are more likely to cause you to use than others. Learning to recognize these uncomfortable emotions and let them go, rather than trying to avoid the discomfort by using, is one of the benefits of mindfulness.
Incorporate mindfulness into your recovery
When holistic recovery strategies are used in conjunction with traditional talk therapy modalities, a whole recovery of mind, body and soul is possible. Mindfulness is just one of many holistic practices that can be useful in overcoming addiction. Recognizing emotions, experiencing them, and reacting to them thoughtfully can help you make smarter decisions in the course of your recovery.