Mindfulness Training is rapidly changing the standards of addiction treatment. It has become a go-to therapy for a variety of psychological disorders. Recent research has shown mindfulness training to be highly effective in combating addictions to opioids, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Many treatment centers incorporated meditation in their therapeutic programs even before there was research to support it. Before science took a stance, it was clear that mindfulness techniques help people connect to their bodies’ internal regulation systems. This can help clients combat the psychological difficulties that are often numbed by the use of illicit substances.
Mindfulness training is a crucial piece of relapse prevention. The ever-present dangers for recovering clients are encounters with triggers that could set off relapse. Mindfulness training targets the roots of addictive behavior by focusing on the two main predictors of relapse – negative emotions and cravings.
Mindfulness training has been shown to positively alter areas of the brain associated with cravings, negative affect, and relapse. The body is a machine with an internal calibration system that must be monitored and maintained. Should that system get out of whack, a person is more likely to succumb to relapse. Mindfulness training connects people to their intuitive ability to recognize and respond when their system needs recalibration. After recognizing their needs, they are better able to apply strategies to keep them on a healthy and productive path.
For addiction, trauma, and general mental health and well-being, mindfulness is a type of accessible and functional meditation and awareness that takes practice like any other skill.
Simple mindfulness training practices can include mindful breathing, mindful walking, meditation, mindful eating, and the incorporation of mindfulness into other daily activities. As a person practices mindfulness, they actively draw their attention away from stressors, panic, and cravings. They then work to draw their attention to something more simple – to relax, reset, and calm the mind and nervous system.
One common mindfulness training practice utilized by clinicians at All Points North Lodge is a mindful scan of the sensations in your body. When the nervous system is impacted by emotional trauma, some elements of that trauma can linger in the body. As we work through the waves of trauma, mindfulness training can help us identify the physical sensations associated with the emotions that arise.
As trauma-reaction emotions heighten, it can be helpful to stop and just notice what you are feeling in your body. Are your hands tingling? Is your head beating? Does your chest feel hot? Is your breathing quickened? Mindful body scans can help you come down from a heightened moment of stress, anxiety, or craving by connecting you back to your body. Mindfully identifying the sensations in your body can help bring your mind back to reality and calm the overwhelm.
Another easy-to-use mindfulness training technique is to isolate each of your five senses. Take a moment, take a deep breath, and work slowly to identify what you are noticing through each of your five senses. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you see? What do you taste? What do you feel?
Mindfulness can absolutely be used in times of emotional crisis. But it is a skill that must be practiced and honed. Working on mindfulness training in times of normalcy or emotional regulation will prepare you to hone the tools during times of crisis or heightened emotions.
Calm the chaos with consistent mindfulness training as a part of your journey to increased well-being, mental health, and recovery.