Mindfulness is an extremely popular practice used to help people improve their quality of life. More and more often, variations of it, like mindfulness-based stress reduction, are used in a clinical setting as a complementary treatment to behavioral therapy for mental health disorders like anxiety, to treat stress, and to improve quality of life in substance use disorder recovery.
Here, it’s often important to seek out a formal program, aligned with your treatment. This ensures that the mindfulness practices you learn are aligned with your therapy. However, you can look into mindfulness at any point in your recovery – including after you leave rehab and are looking for new things to help with your recovery and your life.
Meditation or an equivalent is one of the core parts of mindfulness. However, it’s not necessary to practice it in a traditional sense. If sitting down for 20+ minutes with nothing to do is not something you like to do, consider talking to a mindfulness professional about how you can practice an equivalent of meditation while in the bath, while doing a repetitive task, or while in bed. The idea of meditation is that you set aside time to do nothing and to allow your attention to wander where it will, without judgement, while you attempt to direct it to nothing.
Taking that time out can be significantly stress-reducing, which is one of the reasons why mindfulness is valued for recovery. It gives you a structured way to make time to relax and relieve stress. Taking time to meditate with guided instruction, an app like Headspace, or tools you learn from a mindfulness class may help.
2. Practice Focusing on the Now
Mindfulness is about directing your focus to the present moment or “now”. That’s important for many of us, as many people spend a lot of time actively worrying about the future, potential outcomes, task lists and other things that won’t matter until later. For example, you may spend so much time stressing about how bad traffic will be that you end up stressed before you even get into traffic. Focusing on what you are doing right now can relieve a lot of stress and worry.
- Tangibly experiencing everything you are doing. If you’re cleaning, pay attention to the sensation, things getting cleaner, etc. If you’re eating, eat slowly and experience the food.
- Directing your thoughts away from worry and back to what you’re doing when you notice yourself becoming distracted
- Consciously shifting your focus to what you’re doing whenever you notice that your focus isn’t there.
Doing so can take a considerable amount of practice. That’s especially true if you’re accustomed to constantly distracting yourself with a phone or other media. But, it can greatly help you to relieve stress, to deal with cravings, and even to cope with stress and triggers.
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3. Letting Go of Judgment
Many of us judge our focus, our attention, and our thoughts. Part of mindfulness is the concept of observing those thoughts and observing the body without judgment. That can mean something as simple as leaning back and relaxing and paying attention to your breathing. It can also mean allowing thoughts to happen without shifting attention to them or judging them. And, it can mean accepting that things aren’t perfect without feeling the need to feel bad or stressed about it.
Letting go of judgment can help you to feel better about yourself. However, it can also help you to stop being as stressed or as worried about situations that are outside of your control. And, when you do master that, it will improve how you experience those situations.
4. Finding Compassion
Mindfulness is quite often about finding compassion for yourself as much as it is about letting go of judgement. Not only should you practice not judging yourself for thoughts you should find compassion for yourself because you understand the motivation and background for those thoughts. That often means shifting away from being upset at yourself for being stressed in a situation outside of your control or for failing to focus your attention while meditating, and towards simple compassion and acceptance. “This was difficult and I experienced stress”. The goal here is to reduce how much you experience stress because you think you shouldn’t experience stress or have a hard time.
5. Finding Touchstones
It’s important that you find a place to ground yourself and to return your attention to the present moment. A touchstone can be a physical rock or object you keep in your pocket and touch to remind yourself to ground yourself in the present. It may also be a question. “I’m experiencing stress, what do I need most right now to resolve that”. Understanding when you’re feeling upset or stressed is an important part of becoming mindful, because it means you can redirect your attention and therefore change how you are experiencing that moment.
6. Preventive Self-Care
Mindfulness is about letting go of the things you cannot change. It’s also about being conscientious and taking care of the things you can change. “What do I need right now” also means “what do I need tomorrow to feel good”. Preventive self-care means understanding what makes you feel the way you feel and taking steps to improve that – either by changing the situation or changing your reaction, depending on what’s appropriate. For example, if you’re always stressed by preparing meals for yourself, you may be able to reduce daily stress by taking one day per week to meal prep. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing stress about people at your 12-step group like AA or NA, you may be better off talking to them and resolving the issue. Solutions will always change depending on the situation. However, it’s always important to proactively improve your life.
Mindfulness is an ongoing practice rather than a treatment. This means that it’s only useful while you do it. For example, much like exercise, the benefits go away when you stop. This means that in order to benefit from mindfulness long-term, you have to invest in practicing mindfulness long-term.
If you or a loved one would like more information about drug rehab, alcohol rehab, dual diagnosis rehab, or detox please contact us to speak in complete confidence with one of our experienced treatment advisors today.