When people are in the early months of recovery, they often experience a kind of mental fuzziness. They may struggle to think clearly as their mind adjusts to life without substance abuse. This is also a time when their emotions are erratic. Those who fail to cope with these challenges in early recovery are more likely to relapse. Mindfulness meditation can be a great tool at all stages of sobriety. It gives people more control over their emotions and increases mental clarity.
Mindfulness involves purposely paying attention to the present moment. It also involves being aware of thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they occur without being carried away by them. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental form of observation.
Mindfulness is known as sati in an ancient Pali (a language from India). It is a key tool for Buddhists who are trying to reach enlightenment and involves three elements: awareness, attention and remembering. The individual needs to be aware of the object they wish to focus on. They then need to focus their attention on this object and remember to keep it there.
Mindfulness has been traditionally been of interest to people following a spiritual path. In recent years it has become also popular with individuals who would not be considered spiritual seekers. This is due to the growing interest in the following health benefits of mindfulness meditation:
* Mindfulness increases a person’s ability to manage stress. This is because the practitioner will be focused on the present and without worrying about the future. The individual becomes more aware of the tendency of the mind to anticipate future problems. Once this tendency is observed, it becomes easier to manage. A number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of mindfulness as a means to stress reduction. Stress is a contributing factor in many mental and physical diseases, so increasing a person’s ability to cope with stress is beneficial.
* People who practice mindfulness appear to suffer from less anxiety.
* Mindfulness is also believed to be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of depression. It works by allowing the individual to become free of their usual negative thought patterns.
* When people are mindful, they become far more aware of what is happening in their body. This means that they are able to notice the warning signs that arise when something is not quite right in physical or mental functioning. It allows the individual to take action to remedy a situation long before it becomes a noticeable problem.
* Mindfulness may increase a person’s ability to deal with pain. This is more easily explained by using the Buddhist metaphor of the two arrows. When people are hit by an arrow they will experience pain and discomfort. They will usually make things worse by allowing their mind to go into panic. This is like being hit by a second arrow, because it doubles the amount of discomfort they experience. An individual who is skilful at mindfulness will be able to avoid this second arrow.
* Mindfulness may enhance the body’s ability to fight off disease. It has been demonstrated that high levels of stress damage the immune system. This makes the stressed person more prone to illness. Those who regularly practice mindfulness should benefit from a much stronger immune response so they can more easily ward off invading infectious agents.
* People who practice mindfulness meditation are far more aware of their own thoughts. This leads them to make much better decisions. Those who are dealing with muddled thinking tend to make poor decisions that can negatively affect their life.
* Those individuals who are mindful begin to see that emotions are transitory in nature. They come and go. Strong emotions are easier to manage when the person knows that they will pass.
There is substantial interest in the benefits of mindfulness for people recovering from an addiction. Those who become sober need to face many challenges, and any tool that can help them do this is of great value. These are some of the benefits of mindfulness meditation for people in recovery:
* Early recovery is like an emotional rollercoaster. By practicing mindfulness, the individual will feel more in control and better able to deal with the highs and lows.
* Cravings usually continue to arise in recovery. Mindfulness allows the individual to observe such thoughts without being carried away by them. People learn that they are not always responsible for their thoughts, nor do they have to be a victim to them.
* People who practice mindfulness will be better able to spot the warning signs that they are losing their hold on recovery. This way they will be able to avoid a relapse.
* This practice makes life in sobriety far more enjoyable. The individual is able to get pleasure from even the simplest things.
* Those who practice the technique find it easier to manage their interpersonal relationships. This is particularly important for people in recovery, who may have many damaged relationships and need to tread carefully.
In order for people to develop a general level of increased mindfulness in their day-to-day life, it is beneficial to establish some type of formal practice. Almost any activity can be used for increasingly mindfulness, so long as the individual is able to devote their full attention to it. Here are some of the most common activities:
* Traditional meditation, in which the individual focuses on their breath or a similar action. In Buddhism, there are ten recommended objects that people can focus on.
* Moving meditation such as Tai Chi or yoga can be used to develop mindfulness.
* Mindful eating involves paying complete attention to the process of eating. This technique can be particularly useful to people who are trying to control their weight.
* Walking meditation involves giving full attention to the process of walking.
Mindfulness of breathing is one of the most effective techniques for developing mindfulness. Every human breathes so there is no need to need to buy any special equipment. There are different ways of practicing mindfulness of breathing, but it is best to start off with a simple technique. These are the steps of mindfulness meditation:
* Sit comfortably with the back straight. It is not necessary to sit in the lotus position, as sitting upright in a chair will do.
* The meditator begins by taking a couple of deep breaths to relax their body.
* They then allow their breath to return to normal and should not try to control it in any way.
* The goal is to now to simply observe the breathing. This involves being aware of the sensations caused by the breath as it moves through the body. People may choose to label the effect that breathing has on their body by silently repeating rising and falling.
* The mind will regularly wander away from the breath, which is normal. The job of the meditator is to continue bringing their attention back.
Here are just a few of the things that people should consider when practicing mindfulness meditation:
* There are many books, videos, and audio materials dedicated to mindfulness practice. These resources can be helpful but the technique is quite a simple to learn. The real difficulty is putting this knowledge into practice. Reading books on the subject can just be a way to avoid being mindful. Unfortunately, it is not possible to benefit from mindfulness by just thinking about it.
* It is best to set aside a daily time of formal meditation. This can begin at 20 minutes per day and build from there. Those who are especially busy may find it easier to split this into two ten-minute sessions.
* New meditators can become alarmed to discover just how much mental chatter goes on inside their brains. This distraction can make it difficult to remain focused on the present. Some people assume that this means they are no good at meditation, but it actually means the opposite. If they hadn’t attempted to be mindful, they would not have noticed the insistent chatter that going on in their head.
* When the meditator notices that they have become lost in thought, they should not become angry. Instead, they should focus on feeling happy that they noticed their own lack of focus. It is a good sign.
* It is recommended that people find an experienced mindfulness meditation teacher. There are many interesting paths to take in this practice, and it is easy to get lost without a guide.