Mindfulness In Your Recovery
The concept of mindfulness has many meanings, both in and outside of the recovery community. But simply put, it’s a mental state of being aware of the present moment while acknowledging thoughts, body sensations and emotions. For some time now, researchers have explored the implications of mindfulness meditation and recovery. Studies suggest that consistent practice will create new neural pathways and increase dopamine release for most practitioners. Additionally, research shows increased cognitive functioning in areas of the brain responsible for reward/pleasure, executive functioning and stress reactivity.
So the question becomes, what exactly is meditation?
There’s no simple answer to this. Meditation takes many forms, but most people practice by quietly sitting and observing their thoughts, emotions, breath and body. After engaging in a meditative practice, most people report feeling extremely relaxed and present in the moment. Mindful meditation can have profound effects on one’s recovery because it can directly impact the brain. After engaging in destructive behaviors with addiction, it can be incredibly difficult to stimulate change. Fortunately, meditation is well known for propagating neuronal changes that lead to increased happiness and overall wellness. By continuously practicing mindfulness meditation, especially in early recovery, one can begin to heal their brain and introduce helpful changes in their daily routine.
5 Mindfulness Based Practices
- Focus on your breath
Breath work is a tried and true approach for remaining calm, cool and collected during turbulent times in life. Rather than dive into all the different breathing techniques available, we’re going to focus on one of the most common exercises.
To start, try sitting down in a chair or on the ground. Close your eyes or soften your gaze and fixate on a single point in front of you. Take a few slow deep breaths through your nose and exhale from your mouth. Then, as you breathe in, imagine your belly is filling with air. Try to bring your attention to your breath and notice what sensations arise in your body. As you breathe out, imagine the stress and tensions of life leaving with the air. Try doing this for several minutes.
- Be in the moment
Although this is much easier said than done, this practice is well known for creating inner peace and contentment. A lot of people report being physically somewhere but their mind is wandering elsewhere. Rarely are people focused on the present moment. When we’re living life on autopilot, we often miss the little and big enjoyable moments. Being present in the moment is all about increasing our awareness and living in the reality of now.
- Try being still
For some of us, this is INCREDIBLY challenging! Our society tends to tell us that being busy and running around means we’re more productive than others. While this might be true, it’s not always a good thing. Stepping into stillness can allow us to be present, aware and mindful of our life as it currently exists.
- Body scan
As you develop your meditation practice, you’ll eventually encounter a body scan. Essentially, it’s the practice of becoming attuned to your body and sensations that may arise. With practice, body scans can inform us of how our emotions, feelings and sensations manifest themselves physically.
The last key mindfulness practice is compassion. People are engineered to connect and build relationships. By developing a tone of compassion for ourselves and others, we can enhance our connection to the world. Mindfulness and compassion help teach us to let go of judgment and biases that prevent us from forming deep connections. In turn, we become open and tolerant to other people’s opinions and behaviors, regardless of whether or not we agree with them.