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woman smilingLife is filled with a multitude of difficult and stressful situations. When individuals do not know how to respond to situations that elicit high levels of stress, anxiety, or despair, they may turn to drugs to cope with their painful emotions, thoughts, and behaviors associated with these tough moments.

When individuals react impulsively and engage in destructive behaviors, it inhibits them from being able to transform a difficult moment into a positive outcome. Becoming more mindful during drug addiction treatment seeks to empower individuals to take ownership of their lives by being present in every moment.

Mindfulness, or being aware of the present moment, allows individuals suffering from drug addiction to understand their difficult moments and react in a productive way. Mindfulness not only saves individuals from being consumed by their own negative thoughts and emotions, but the actual act of being mindful helps recovering addicts understand the moment and respond in a way that will nourish their mind, body, and soul.

What is Mindfulness?

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”[1] The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program was developed in 1979 to teach patients with chronic physical and mental health problems how to improve their lives.[2] The goal of this program is for individuals to learn how to decrease unwanted stress and anxiety from their lives by becoming present in life’s daily moments. This is a foundational component to mindfulness techniques used during drug addiction treatment.

It is important that recovering addicts establish the ability to be aware of the moment and their current emotions and thoughts in a nonjudgmental way. Establishing mindfulness will be a crucial component of addiction recovery because it will help recovering addicts build the resiliency needed to face their cravings and difficult situations.

What are the components of mindfulness?

Mindfulness techniques seek to cultivate self-compassion. The goal is to foster self-acceptance and empower individuals during addiction treatment to seek support and spiritual guidance to make healthy decisions.

According to researchers at the University of Minnesota, the following are the 3 components of mindfulness that individuals focus on to establish a mindful state:

  • Intention. The act of becoming aware of the present moment in all situations.
  • Attention. Observing the present thoughts, emotions, and environment in the present moment.
  • Attitude. Becoming nonjudgemental about the thoughts and emotions associated with the present moment.

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways including meditation, yoga, body scans, deep breathing exercises, or walks in nature. Becoming aware of areas and thoughts associated with stress and anxiety can help individuals take a step back and recognize their unwanted thoughts and emotions in a nonjudgmental way so that they do not make harmful, reactive decisions.

How can mindfulness help in addiction treatment?

During addiction treatment, individuals are coping with the physical and mental withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug. These intense physical and mental feelings can sometimes lead to a dual diagnosis of depression or anxiety. Mindfulness serves as a self-soothing strategy to recognize and ease the painful emotions felt during the treatment program and in everyday life.

For individuals in drug addiction treatment, mindfulness has been used in a wide range of psychotherapy techniques. These include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Additionally, mindfulness has become the focal point of certain psychotherapy techniques for substance abuse including the creation of Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) and Mindfulness-Based Therapeutic Community (MBTC) treatment. The goal of these psychotherapy techniques is to become aware of the present moment, manage the existing stress, and replace negative thoughts and actions with positive behaviors.

According to research, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention programs, combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques, teach clients the following mindfulness techniques to prevent relapse and maintain a healthy life:

  • Recognize the events that can lead to a difficult moment.
  • Practice pausing before engaging in impulsive behavior.
  • Identify the underlying causes of the cravings and urge for the drug.
  • Address those needs by replacing the urge with a positive behavior.

Cutting edge research[3] has shown that practicing mindfulness meditation in addiction treatment helps to instill the following results:

  • Establishes nonjudgmental acceptance in present moments.
  • Reduces the likelihood of responding to a present situation in a harmful way.
  • Decreases cravings for the drug when individuals learn to react with awareness instead of in a reactive way.

In addiction recovery programs, these mindfulness techniques are practiced simultaneously with helping clients learn how to cultivate self-compassion. During therapy, clients learn how to be kind to themselves throughout the entire process by focusing on positive thoughts and behaviors one moment at a time.

A mindfulness and spiritual approach to treatment

Covenant Hills Treatment Center offers a faith-based and mindfulness approach to treatment, and helping anyone recover from their addiction. Our professionally trained staff include ordained pastors, dietitians, doctors and counselors to provide you with the spiritual support you need to fully recover from addiction.

Research based psychotherapy and mindfulness techniques are incorporated in the Christian 12-step program to best help clients establish the willpower to prevent a relapse and maintain a healthy and productive life. The shared humanity you will feel along with an in-depth recovery program will empower you to become the whole-bodied and spiritual human being you are meant to be.

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, the program options at Covenant Hills are comprehensive and individually designed to meet the needs of every individual’s addiction. Call today for a free assessment at (800) 662-2873.

Individuals will learn how to use mindfulness techniques to cope with significant stressors when integrated back into their communities. They will connect with the Church community and continue on the road to lifetime recovery by attending therapy sessions and using life management skills. With support every step of the way, clients will accomplish their goals and will finally be able to achieve a meaningful life beyond their addiction.