It is hard to avoid hearing about mindfulness. This is a term that has entered the collective consciousness in recent years. We are often told just how much we lack mindfulness in our daily lives. By constantly consuming media, trying to multitask, engaging with our phones throughout the day, and generally staying busy, there is not much time left to slow down and be present in the moment. Our attention is often distracted and divided as we try to keep up with the pace of our routines.
More than likely, you have heard about how beneficial mindfulness can be for mental health. You might find yourself wondering how mindfulness could fit into your life, especially if you are in recovery from addiction or mental illness. If you are picturing the stereotypical version of mindfulness where someone is meditating with their legs crossed and their palms up to the sky, it is no wonder you are skeptical.
This is not how mindfulness looks for everyone, and it is not how it has to look for you. There are beneficial elements of mindfulness that you could easily incorporate into your current recovery routine. Moreover, it is possible you are already engaging in some of these practices without even knowing it.
Defining Mindfulness for Yourself
Mindfulness can certainly include traditional meditation. This is not all it includes, however. The point of mindfulness is to take time to pay attention to the current moment, the world around you, and your place in your environment. Activities that encourage you to slow down and direct your attention to the here and now fall under the umbrella of mindfulness. This can be as simple as taking time to assess the things you are grateful for in the current moment or paying attention to the flavors and textures of the meal you are eating.
One valuable mindfulness exercise involves lying down and drawing your attention to each part of your body. You can pay attention to the way you feel in that part of your body and acknowledge it before moving on to the next part. This is referred to as “body scanning.”
Another mindfulness activity involves sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing. During this practice, you will naturally become distracted by thoughts. This does not mean you are doing anything wrong. Practice letting those thoughts come and go without attaching too much meaning to them or directing your attention to them.
You can even practice mindfulness while being active. When you go on a walk, take out your earbuds and focus on what your senses are picking up around you. Focus on the process of walking rather than longing for your destination. Activities like yoga that emphasize breathing and gentle movement can also help you incorporate mindfulness into your day.
As you continue to explore mindfulness practice, you will start to notice things that typically fly under the radar in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It might be an uncomfortable process at first, and you might even feel bad at it. Just like with any activity, it will become easier and more intuitive each time you do it. There is no need to go overboard with mindfulness. Incorporating fifteen minutes of mindfulness into your day can provide you with incredible healing benefits over time.
The Benefits of Mindfulness for Recovery
Fortunately, mindfulness is extremely accessible. It costs nothing and can generally be implemented anywhere at any time. Tailoring mindfulness to your needs and preferences is relatively easy to do. It also carries benefits for your health and can be supportive of your recovery.
Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), mindfulness is well-researched for its vast health benefits. Although the evidence is still emerging, it has been found that mindfulness has positive impacts on several different areas of mental and physical health. For example, mindfulness can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some studies have even shown that this effect is comparable to the benefits experienced by those in traditional treatment settings. In addition, mindfulness can also help those experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, and chronic pain.
Reduces Substance-Use Cravings
It has also been demonstrated that mindfulness is associated with a reduction in cravings and withdrawal symptoms for those working to recover from addiction. Interventions that include a mindfulness component may promote abstinence more effectively than interventions that do not utilize mindfulness.
Using Mindfulness to Complement Traditional Treatment
It is important to remember that mindfulness is not a treatment in itself. Even if you find something that works for you and you are able to commit to practicing it regularly, you should not expect it to cure your addiction or mental illness. Continuing to work with a mental health professional is the best course of action to achieve lasting recovery and healing.
Further, mindfulness can be an excellent way to supplement the work you are doing in therapy. It is a positive coping strategy that you can add to your recovery toolkit. If you have found a mindfulness practice that benefits you, letting your therapist know about it can allow them to integrate it into your treatment and recovery plan.
If you are in recovery, there are many things you can do both in and out of therapy to help yourself feel better and stay on track with your goals. Mindfulness is one avenue that you can pursue to supplement the progress you are making in treatment. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, so it should not be hard to find something that you like. Finding the right treatment provider can help you make your recovery your own and find the strategies that best support your individual needs. At Family-Centered Services, our licensed clinicians are ready to learn about your family’s unique needs and create a customized treatment plan. Call (509) 991-5822 to get started.