You worked hard to get sober and continue to follow the treatment plans and therapies suggested by your care team, but fear of a potential relapse has you looking for some preventative measures. No one thing is going to make overcoming cravings or avoiding a slip-up easier. However, there are many small ways you can work to alter your behavior and thought patterns to increase your chances of long-term success.
Mindfulness-based exercises are meant to enhance and not replace traditional support groups and one-on-one therapy sessions. A 2012 paper from the University of Washington concluded that mindfulness and meditation was an effective way to decrease stress, change damaging behaviors, and lower the risk of relapse.
What Does it Mean to Be Mindful?
Mindfulness means paying attention to the little details your senses are feeding you every moment of every day. Feelings, sensations, and external stimuli are all used to ground you. To do this, you need to narrow down your focus to the present while avoiding abstract thoughts about your past or future.
Several types of meditation can encourage mindfulness. In short, mindfulness is a way to regulate emotions by focusing solely on what your senses are feeling. Keep yourself in the current moment without allowing your thoughts to wander. You can accomplish this by:
- Paying attention to your breathing
- Cataloging your physical reactions to stimuli around you
- Noticing how the different parts of your body feel
- Thinking about what you feel in the moment. If it is negative, think of how to reframe it in a positive way
Health Benefits of Mindfulness
Multiple health benefits have been observed in people who practice meditation and mindfulness techniques. For example, there is some evidence that mindfulness can be a factor in lowering the risk of heart disease. Below are several other ways it can improve your physical health.
- A review of the data by the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System in 2015 showed that mindfulness exercises could treat insomnia in some individuals.
- According to a 2016 paper from the Islington Specialist Alcohol Treatment Service in the UK, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders can be managed in part with mindfulness-based therapy.
- Mainstream science accepts that mindfulness can improve cognitive function for many people. In 2018 the Columbian College of Arts and Science concluded that mindfulness could help treat cognitive function for several demographics.
Ways to Practice Mindfulness Every Day
You do not need a zen garden or guided meditation to achieve mindfulness. There are exercises you can practice daily. With time these will train your brain to automatically fall into a meditative state. Not every exercise works for everyone, so you will need to experiment to find which one feels right to you. There are hundreds of possible examples, and you can find many of them online. Below are five of the most common mindfulness techniques.
- Body Scan: find a comfortable position and then move slowly through each section of your body, noting how it feels internally and externally. For example, what does it feel like when your chest expands on each exhale? How do your socks feel against your ankles? Note each sensation and then move on to the next section.
- Look Around You: stand outside or at a window and then look around you. Take in all the things you see, hear, or smell. Try not to think about anything. Keep your mind clear and simply observe and connect with everything you see.
- Self-Hug: quiet your thoughts. Focus on your breathing and relaxing your muscles. Gently wrap your arms around yourself in a self-hug. Keep breathing and try to let your thoughts remain calm.
- Clear Your Mind: find a comfortable position and then clear your mind. It can help to picture a word, item, or phrase that you can focus on to get rid of all other thoughts, and then when you feel confident, release that word, item, or phrase until your mind is empty and calm.
- Deep Breathing: take deep, even breathes. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focus on the way breathing feels and let your body naturally relax as you continue to take deep, even breathes.
What to Do When You Experience Cravings
Cravings can occur anywhere and at any time. Triggers are often innocuous and can be as simple as a particular scent or sound. When you find yourself experiencing a craving, take deep breaths and do some light meditation. When you get somewhere comfortable and safe, try working through the list of exercises you have found work best for you. Doing this will draw your thoughts away from the cravings and into the moment and your surroundings. Guided meditation is sometimes helpful in those situations when it may be harder to think through each step independently.
Scientific research proves that practicing mindfulness is an excellent way to decrease stress and lower the risk of a relapse. You can keep your mind in a healthy, present space by focusing on your senses and what they are reporting about the world around you. Practicing various forms of meditation and therapies can help you learn how to embrace where you are right now. You can build off that instead of focusing on the past or future. Mindfulness also brings physical benefits like elevating your heart health and improving mood and sleep. Everlast Recovery Centers is here to provide you with valuable tools and recovery skills. We believe in providing compassionate care to everyone who visits. Our skilled staff can teach you tried and true mindfulness techniques. Reach out today to find out about the services we have to offer at Everlast Recovery Centers by calling today at (866) 338-6925.