Stress and anxiety can be powerful in the early stages of recovery. We often feel overwhelmed by our shame of the past and our fears of the future. However, mindfulness can help.
The practice of mindfulness can help alleviate our fears by bringing our attention fully into the present moment. We can incorporate mindfulness into our meditation as a means of relieving our minds of past and future stressors and helping us engage more fully with the present moment.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
When we practice mindfulness, we bring our awareness into the present and observe our thoughts and feelings as they come without placing judgement on the experiences. According to neuroscientist Sam Harris in his book, Waking Up,
“It is simply a state of clear, nonjudgmental, and undistracted attention to the contents of consciousness, whether pleasant or unpleasant. Cultivating this quality of mind has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression; improve cognitive function; and even produce changes in gray matter density in regions of the brain related to learning and memory, emotional regulation, and self-awareness.”
Additionally, cultivating mindfulness can increase immune function; lower heart rate and blood pressure; increase attention and focus; and increase clarity in thinking.
How Can Mindfulness Help With Depression?
Depression, an unfortunately common symptom of post-acute withdrawal, can become easier to manage through mindfulness. According to the Positive Psychology Program,
“One of the ways in which mindfulness can help treat depression is through enhancing practitioners’ ability to regulate their emotions. Mindfulness provides the tools needed to step back from intense negative emotions, identify them, and accept them instead of fighting them. This allows mindful thinkers to better regulate their emotions, leading to better coping and management of depression.”
Sitting quietly with oneself may initially seem like a frightening concept—many of us have spent excessive energy attempting to avoid the discomfort of acknowledging our fears and sorrow.
Yet, through the process of nonjudgmentally acknowledging our feelings, we can finally let go of the emotional weight of our struggles. “By practicing mindfulness,” Harris explains, “one can awaken from the dream of discursive thought and begin to see each arising image, idea or but of language vanish without a trace. What remains is consciousness itself, with its attendant sights, sounds, sensations, and thoughts appearing and changing in every moment.”
Mindfulness and Addiction
What if you could use mindfulness as a way to overcome addiction? What if mindfulness could even overcome psychological diseases like OCD? Science has produced some incredible evidence that mindfulness can indeed help shape the mind.
Dr. Norman Doidge in his book The Brain That Changes Itself shows startling cases of how the brain can be trained to think differently, even as extensively as curing some individual’s psychological issues like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and helping stroke patients regain full use of their cognitive function.
Can Mindfulness Help With Addiction?
When you engage in an addictive behavior it releases dopamine thereby creating pleasure. The more you engage in that activity, the more your brain craves an increase in dopamine release.
Eventually the craving becomes so intense that it has to be satisfied. If it isn’t satisfied then serotonin takes over and puts you in a depressive state. Both chemicals are neurotransmitters and when they are released they create neural pathways in your brain.
These pathways become ingrained so that they can convince your brain there is no other way to live. Essentially, you begin to believe that your life is predetermined and that life can be no different.
The first step in letting mindfulness become a tool that can help you overcome your addiction is to be aware that you can change and life can be different. There is another way to live. Then, you need to tell yourself that you don’t need to feed the addiction that your brain is telling you that you need. Over time and with enough practice you will literally rewire your brain in a non addictive direction.
Please keep in mind that these are just some rudimentary steps to get you thinking about how mindfulness might help you overcome your addictions. If you want to delve further the you may want to seek a professional. Also, some addictions do create a chemical dependency within your body that is dangerous to quit cold turkey.
Addiction and alcoholism do not have to control your life. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a future of hope, faith, and courage in sobriety. The Lakehouse Recovery Center offers a variety of cutting-edge and effective treatment techniques combining therapeutic support and spiritually-based treatment programs with cutting-edge brain science to give you all the tools needed to achieve and maintain sobriety. For information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (877) 762-3707