Mindfulness…. For many people starting on the path of recovery it can be difficult to define the concept of mindfulness.
But simply speaking mindfulness is the basic human ability to be aware and in the present.
To be aware means to focus on what is happening in the moment (where we are what we are doing) and to be in the present is the attempt to stay focused on that experience.
Sounds easy right? Or perhaps it sounds like meditation? Well, yes, they are connected.
Meditation often includes focusing on breathing as a means to keep us in the moment and in the present.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
French philosopher Blaise Pascal
But why is mindfulness so significant and popular in recovery?
The very short answer is because it works.
Every month we read about the latest scientific studies detailing why mindfulness practices and meditation is necessary for us.
A useful comparison is to think about mindfulness meditation as exercise. Just as exercise creates strength and conditioning in the body, common practices like Vipassana meditation (as an example) allow us to detach from our thoughts in order to enter “the present moment”.
The scientific studies on this have detailed some profound positive effects, especially those who have suffered emotional and mental trauma from addiction.
Positive physical responses
Controlled trails on meditation have also shown to have boosted the body’s immune system functions including immune cell count, immune cell ageing, gene expression, circulating inflammatory proteins and antibody responses.
Long term meditation also has a positive effect on grey matter atrophy. Atrophy is the gradual decline in effectiveness, in body tissue for example.
After just an eight-week mindfulness practice, a Harvard study in 2011 found changes to the structure of the brain.
Participants showed an increased cortisol thickness inthe hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory as well as emotional regulation.
As a result of this increased cortisol thickness inthe hippocampus, it increases verbal reasoning, directly as a result of the effects of meditation, which can significantly help in recovery and daily life.
Everyone in the entire world suffers from stressors. Stressors can be anything like illness, death, job security, ageing, work and chemical and behavioural addiction. As a means to cope with stress the body releases hormones as a response to danger. Over time this prolonged stress can cause serious health problems and of course addiction or relapse back in addiction.
Meditation studies focusing specifically on improving depression, mood, eating, sleep, pain and weight have shown that they significantly reduce all negative dimensions of stress.
How to use Mindfulness to deal with stress
Dealing with stressors effectively is an necessary skill for everyone but essential for those in recovery.
Since there is no way to avoid stress completely we strongly believe in having as many tools as possible to help us deal with stressors.
CBT focuses on strategies and techniques that help patients think more clearly, rationally and positively. Practicing mindfulness in parallel with CBT is a natural step in recovery. The two go hand in hand and have shown immense positive results in our experience.
Mindfulness teaches us to observe our thoughts and emotions without reaction. When a stressor hits you, we learn not to react immediately.
As you get better at mindfulness you will be able to allow yourself to feel whatever emotion comes in: joy, anger, jealously, resentment, sadness etc.
We learn to acknowledge it and take a few breaths. We process it and use our new tools. Then we act in a more responsible way that allows us to keep our psychological and physical reactions more calm.
In our experience, this not only helps us deal with stress but significantly helps to manage triggers into relapse as well as being a positive influence in general interactions.
The Common Wisdom on Mindfulness
Below are some commonly held beliefs about mindfulness:
- Anyone can do it. It does not require any change in beliefs. It’s easy to learn and benefit from
- It’s based on evidence. Practice of mindfulness does not need a leap of faith. Science and experience shows us the positive results for our happiness, health, and relationships.
- Even a little helps. It brings awareness and balance into everything we do. Starting your day with a 5-minute meditation can set up our mindset to be thoughtful and steady rather than reactionary and automatic.
- It activates imagination. Practitioners of mindfulness often have new awakenings of imagination, creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm, activity, innovation and ideas and a lot more besides.
Camino Recovery is a private drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre located on the Andalucian Coast in Spain.
Please contact us for more information or if you need a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained professionals. Email: [email protected] or call us in Spain +34 951 107 195 or UK +44 (0)7492 426615
Sometimes the hardest step is reaching out for help but it’s also the most important.