Substance Use Disorder affects your physical, psychological, and cognitive well-being. Harming your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Thoughts and feelings can be triggered by Substance Use Disorder and may interfere with long-term sobriety. When approaching this latent concern, Substance Use Disorder treatment frequently mixes up cognitive and behavioral therapies, such as mindfulness. These mental health treatment modalities are part of a comprehensive approach to Substance Use Disorder recovery and relapse prevention.
What Is Mindfulness?
Substance Use Disorder recovery is a stage-by-stage process geared toward losing the desire for drugs and alcohol, cultivating behaviors that support abstinence, and mental healing. The process never really ends after you leave a drug or alcohol rehab. Staying sober and living a healthy life requires lifelong management of substance use triggers.
In a treatment setting, mindfulness refers to a category of meditation techniques that supports recovery and helps prevent relapse. You will use the technique to practice being consciously aware of what you’re thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, or smelling in the present moment. Allowing you to ask yourself questions like “Why does this thought give me the urge to drink?”, the answers may reveal substance use triggers. However, you will be ready to address them in positive ways, also called positive coping strategies.
Mindfulness also involves observing thoughts and feelings without labeling or judging them, accepting them for what they are: just “thoughts” or “feelings.” Another mindfulness skill is letting go. Being fixated on your thoughts can increase stress and prevent you from focusing on other matters. You are less likely to overreact or get overwhelmed by letting go.
Living in the present, accepting, being non-judgmental, and letting go are considered key principles of mindfulness.
Mindfulness and Substance Use Disorder Treatment
Firstly, treatment involves detox to help eliminate physical dependence on the substance of choice; secondly, approach psychological dependency and co-occurring disorders that lead to or worsen addiction. Once you leave rehab, you will need practical skills and tools to maintain your sobriety.
Mindfulness is an essential skill for dealing with drug or alcohol cravings through awareness of substance use triggers. Research evidence shows that mindfulness has lasting positive effects on clients undergoing mental health treatment for substance use disorder.
Therapists may include the technique as part of cognitive-behavioral therapy, stress-reduction therapy, or other forms of mental health therapy. Cognitive therapy aims to help you understand how your thoughts and emotions affect your behaviors, and how those behaviors can lead to addiction.
Mindfulness is like the key that unlocks your awareness of those behaviors, so you can process them in ways that support continuous abstinence.
How Does Mindfulness Impact the Brain?
According to one study, mindfulness exerted changes in areas of brain structures associated with stress, memory, empathy, emotional regulation, and sense of self. In a systematic review of another study, researchers concluded that Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) can reduce the use of addictive substances including alcohol, opiates, cocaine, marijuana, and amphetamines. There is also a link between MBIs and a reduction in cravings. The ability to manage triggers, such as cravings, instead of giving in to them is crucial in stopping the cycle of addictive behaviors.
Benefits of Mindfulness in Substance Use Disorder Recovery
Thoughts strongly influence feelings. For example, repeated unhealthy or obsessive thoughts may lead to feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or depressed. While you have no control over what enters your mind, you can control how you respond.
Mindfulness is a practical tool that helps as you adjust to a life free from substance use. Here are some main benefits you can get from practicing the technique:
- Manage stress: Stress occurs when the body’s “fight or flight” system is activated. Inflicting panic, anxiety, or depression. Researchers agree that mindfulness techniques can help people cope better with stress and life challenges. There is evidence that grey matter in the brain’s amygdala becomes small after long-term mindfulness practice. The amygdala is the area of the brain associated with stress.
- Manage cravings: Awareness of your thoughts and feelings helps you pinpoint substance use triggers as they happen at the moment. That gives you the power to consciously decide the outcome. Will you give in to your desire to use or will you process the feeling and let it pass? You’ll have a chance to weigh the pros and cons of your decision. It is also a crucial time to turn to people in your support network for help.
- Minimize the effects of mental health conditions: Mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can reduce your quality of life. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been showing a positive impact on physical and mental health, social functioning, and overall quality of life in adults.
Unconscious behaviors influenced by what goes in your mind or environment can be detrimental to your well-being while in recovery. The skills taught in mindfulness are designed to allow you to observe what’s going on in your mind and around you. You will be able to describe the experience, avoid labeling or judging, and take steps to achieve a positive outcome.
Overall, being able to filter out negative or intrusive thoughts helps minimize the chance of a lowered sense of self-worth or doubts about your ability to refrain from drug or alcohol use. By practicing mindfulness daily, you can create a more positive mindset, enhance your chance for a lasting substance-free life, and improve your relationship with yourself and others.
Mindfulness at WITHIN Meditation
WITHIN Meditation provides an opportunity for you to continue practicing mindfulness in support of your recovery after formal addiction treatment ends. Our meditation classes and Mindful Living Course can help you manage your relationship with negative thoughts and develop conscious awareness of your environment and own internal state. You can use these skills to cope and achieve a more peaceful and productive life.
apa.org – Breaking Free from Addiction
sunshinebehaviorialhealth.com – Choosing a 90-Day Rehab Program for Drugs & Alcohol
mindfulness.org – The Science of Mindfulness
sciencedaily.com – Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes Brain Structure in Eight Weeks
pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Are Mindfulness-Based Interventions Effective for Substance Use Disorders?
scientificamerican.com – What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?
onlinelibrary.wiley.com – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Improving Health, Quality of Life and Social Functioning in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis