Can Mindfulness Be Used In Substance Abuse Recovery?

mindfulness for mental health

Can Mindfulness Be Used In Substance Abuse Recovery?

September 12, 2022

Ever get the feeling that you’re living on autopilot? You wake up, brush your teeth, get dressed, and then suddenly you’re at the office — or, nowadays, at the dining table — answering emails without really knowing how you got there. It’s just the same old thing everyday, and your feet carry you through the motions without any thought at all. This feeling of living your life by rote is common, but fortunately there’s a solution in mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

In its simplest terms, mindfulness is a state of awareness of where you are and what you’re doing. As a mind-body discipline, it trains you to stay connected to the present moment by becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Over time, living a more mindful life can reduce stress, improve memory and focus, increase emotional regulation, and decrease depressive symptoms and generally lead to feelings of more holistic wellness.

Mindfulness techniques can be applied to most of our daily activities like eating, walking, even breathing, and can be strengthened through practices like meditation and journaling. In addition to this, mindful living has become a key component of some counseling disciplines, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Mindfulness and addiction recovery

According to researchers at the University of Washington, it’s an unconscious human tendency to seek pleasure and avoid discomfort. In some instances, these coping mechanisms are harmless, but they can be grave for those struggling with substance abuse issues, where the automated response can lead to relapse. This is where mindfulness comes in. Retaining a moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and physical surroundings disrupts the autopilot response that leads to substance use in those dealing with addiction.

What is mindfulness-based relapse prevention?

In Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), treatment combines mindfulness techniques with more traditional therapy approaches. Rather than encouraging those in treatment to simply avoid their triggers, MBRP champions a concept called “urge surfing”: using mindfulness techniques to ride out their cravings instead of succumbing to the urge and relapsing.

Staying present allows you to become aware of urges as they arise without surrendering to them. This also relates back to the greater degree of emotional regulation mindfulness allows. When you are better able to manage your emotions, you are less likely to respond to them with substance abuse. In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, participants in a MBRP program fared better than those in a traditional 12-step program, showing lower rates of relapse. However, an important part of MBRP is understanding that building daily acts of mindfulness into your routine is key in maintaining progress. As with other treatment plans, self-improvement remains a lifelong journey.

Who can mindfulness help?

Mindfulness can be incorporated into anyone’s treatment plan, but it’s important to remember that there’s no one approach to recovery. At New Era, we work with clients and their families to develop individualized treatment plans tailored to their specific needs. MBRP may be an especially useful tool when combined with other treatment options. Reach out today to take your recovery into your hands.

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