The Science Behind Mindfulness Therapy and Recovery

Mindfulness is the ability to open your mind to full awareness. It is a practice that enables you to be fully present in the moment while being free from distraction and judgment. It allows you to be aware of your thoughts but not side-tracked by them. With its roots in Buddhism, Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years and is now commonplace in Western culture to help with psychological wellbeing. Research shows that mindfulness is beneficial in treating depression, anxiety, stress, and more recently – addiction.

How does mindfulness help with addiction?

Mindfulness takes practice and self-discipline. Some people find it easier than others, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. The brain is like a muscle and becomes stronger the more you train it but, if you haven’t practiced mindfulness before, you may be skeptical as to how it can help you overcome addiction. Addiction can be driven by particular thoughts and behaviors, which create a vicious cycle of relapse if those behaviors are not changed. Mindfulness therapy teaches you to intentionally reshape your brain. There are three key areas which mindfulness addresses to help you tackle addiction:

  1. Understand your reactions. Triggers to use alcohol, drugs, or reach for other addictive crutches are often based on your reaction to a problem, situation, or confrontation. You may react to a feeling caused by a problem in the past by reaching for a drink. Or, you may face a stressful present situation by taking drugs. Mindfulness teaches you how you react to things without getting attached to your feelings. By learning to understand your reactions without having emotional involvement, you can learn how to respond differently the next time you are presented with the same situation. 
  2. Slow thoughts and activities down. Many people use alcohol or opioids to slow down the constant rushing thoughts in their brain. Sometimes, it all feels as if it is getting too much with your brain running at a million miles an hour, and the easy option is to quieten it with a drug. Mindfulness helps you to achieve the same level of quiet tranquility without taking drugs or alcohol. It can help you to be aware of your thoughts but remove any feelings attached. By practicing mindfulness, you can naturally slow everything down so that it is manageable. 
  3. Develop awareness of your surroundings. We are often so busy with our lives that we forget to stop and take notice of the wonderful things around us, and the amazing sensory experiences we have daily. Mindfulness teaches you to appreciate your senses, your experiences, and what is around you. When you see the positives, it can take away the need to lean on a drug or alcohol dependency. The pleasure of life begins to overtake the pleasure of using drugs or alcohol so that you don’t need them anymore.  

In short, the brain of an addict is more sensitive to stressors. By practicing mindfulness, you can teach your brain to accept the stress that you experience in daily life and deal with it positively, rather than reaching for drugs or alcohol.

What does mindfulness therapy involve?

It takes time to learn mindfulness and practice to master it. During mindfulness therapy, you will learn how to be mindful and achieve the following skills:

  • To observe and be aware of what is around you.
  • To describe your thoughts and feelings.
  • To focus on your breath. 
  • To positively participate in activities. 
  • To remove self-conscious feelings.
  • To learn acceptance
  • To learn not to judge yourself.
  • To avoid distraction and focus on one thing at a time.
  • To learn what is effective for you. 

Learning these skills in mindfulness therapy helps with relapse prevention. A combination of mindfulness practice and cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you how to become aware of your triggers and deal with them skillfully, therefore, breaking the vicious relapse cycle.

Achieve Whole Recovery offers substance abuse and addiction therapy, as well as medical assisted therapy, to help you overcome addiction. Our team of experts provides evidence-based therapies that are personalized to your individual needs giving you the best chance of success. The combination of both behavioral therapy with medication-assisted treatment has been demonstrated to provide the most effective long term results. If you are struggling to overcome addiction, reach out to our experts at Achieve Whole Recovery and make an appointment today.