“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Anyone in recovery has heard this quote so many times they could probably say it backward. Much of recovery is focused on the latter – changing the things we’re able to.
But what about accepting the circumstances we can’t?
How can we find peace and contentment in life while still maintaining sobriety?
Much of this is done by calming the storm within ourselves. When we allow ourselves to live in the present rather than looking back at our past, or longing for the future, we can slowly begin to rewire our post-addiction brain.
Mindfulness techniques are used for many different types of inner work such as healing from trauma, battling depression, or simply gaining overall wellness.
Let’s talk about a few ways mindfulness can help you overcome your addiction in the long run.
What Are Mindfulness Techniques?
The definition of mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. So, mindfulness techniques aim to help an individual become more in tune with the current moment, their inner selves, and their thoughts and feelings.
So much of our lives are lived on autopilot. Many of our worst behaviors and toughest emotions stem from early childhood and little is done to grow out of them, even as we grow out of everything else.
This is because they run the show from behind the scenes. When we practice mindfulness techniques we grab our attention from the backseat and focus on how our bodies and minds feel right as they are.
There are a few ways mindfulness techniques are practiced:
Meditation has been used for centuries and focuses on building and strengthening the mind-body connection. It’s incredibly simple yet one of the most powerful methods for healing and overcoming addiction.
As an addict, you may have been using drugs or alcohol to cope with unconscious emotions you had stuffed so far below the surface you weren’t even sure where they came from. Meditation does the exact opposite.
Meditation helps bring up any neglected memories, emotions, or thoughts that otherwise sit in the back of your mind pulling at all the puppet strings.
A few tips when practicing mindfulness meditation:
- Sit up straight and tall, extending your spine as far as it can go
- Close your eyes and relax each and every one of your muscles
- Allow your thoughts or emotions to come
- Sit with them as long as you are able to
- Do not label your emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but rather as just that – emotions
- Focus on your breath or the way your body is feeling
You can practice meditation this way, or you can incorporate breathing techniques:
- Inhale through your nose
- Exhale through your mouth
- Try to breathe in as deeply as possible – until you feel that ‘full’ sensation in your lungs
- Exhale past the normal point. Expel as much as you possibly can
- As you inhale, hold your breath for a few seconds before you exhale
There are hundreds of meditations to be found on various platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora. These are called guided meditations and are incredibly powerful when used for healing. Professionals will guide you through imagery or audio prompts that allow hidden emotions to rise to the surface.
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How Can Meditation Help Me In My Recovery?
If you’ve gone through the 12 step program before, or even if this is your first time, you may feel as though you’re simply “going through the motions”. This is incredibly common as our conscious brain only plays a role in 10% of our daily actions.
While meditation was once thought of as a “hippie remedy” only used by those who were outcasts of society, this is far from the truth. Thankfully, society has come a long way in how we view non-traditional forms of healing.
According to a recent study, meditation has been proven to activate the “happiness” area of the brain – previously stimulated by drugs or alcohol – while still allowing an addict to maintain sobriety. During active addiction this area of the brain is incredibly engaged, however during recovery it’s much weaker. Meditation serves as a remedy to bring brain function back to its normal baseline.
If you feel overwhelmed by your emotions now that you’re unable to mask them with drugs and alcohol, journaling can help. Journaling holds space for all your thoughts, feelings, and experiences without any criticism or unwanted feedback from others.
Not only this, journaling helps bring to the surface anything that’s stuck deep down inside. As you write you may even begin to find the answers to your own questions!
In addition, journaling provides many mental and emotional benefits as we are able to dump all the ideas swirling around in our heads onto a piece of paper. This can help us see our ideas for what they are, rather than what we perceive them to be. It sounds simple, but the positive effects are profound.
There are a few ways you can practice mindful journaling:
- Diary: Maybe you kept one of these hidden under your pillow as a child. Diaries are simply a written record of your day, any troubles that occurred, any successes you accomplished or any emotions, thoughts, or feelings that arose. This is the easiest form of journaling as you simply dump everything you experienced during the day onto a piece of paper.
- Reflection Journal: This type of journaling on the other hand takes a bit more work. While still simple, it requires you to be consciously aware of any conflicts that arose during the day. Record an event that happened, and then reflect on how you could have changed the way you reacted or perceived that event, and how you’ll be able to do so going forward.
- Gratitude Journal: It’s easy to rattle off a few basics that you’re thankful for: “a house, food, clothes, water…” But what about those little things in life you may take for granted? Gratitude journaling helps you see how many good things you really have going on, that you may never have noticed before. Try to think past the basics and get specific.
- Goal Journaling: This is especially powerful when in recovery. It’s important to keep track of any triggers, setbacks, relapses, or accomplishments you’ve made in your sobriety. This can help you be more aware of what situations or people to avoid, or what has helped you stay away from your drug of choice. Not only this, you can also look back on your goals years from now and smile at how far you’ve come.
How Can Journaling Help Me In My Recovery?
Journaling can serve as an incredibly effective tool in your recovery. Keeping an up to date record of your emotions, feelings, and experiences (especially early on) in your sobriety can help keep you accountable, identify triggers, and aid in re-discovering who you are without drugs or alcohol.
One reason many of those in recovery end up relapsing is due to stress. Whether it’s caused by family obligations, financial hardships, court or probation stressors, or everyday life, they may turn back to a life of addiction when they simply can’t take it anymore.
Journaling is a proven way to reduce stress, in turn reducing the chance of relapse. When we’re able to acknowledge what we’re dealing with we reduce anxiety, stress, and depression in the body.
A few other ways journaling can help in recovery include:
- Help you prioritize problems
- Help you keep your goals in mind
- Help you understand your triggers
- Help you identify negative thoughts or self talk
- Help you sort through any confusing emotions
Is Mindfulness The Key To a Long Lasting Recovery?
When you made the decision for addiction recovery you may have been prepared to battle the painful withdrawals, overwhelming triggers, and the crippling fear of change. What you may not have been ready for, however, were the powerful emotions that would begin to surface after your mind clears.
As the fog begins to lift you’re met with past trauma, old wounds, and negative thinking patterns that may seem to hit you harder than your drug of choice ever did.
This is because for months or years you tuned those emotions out with substances. Take away the substances and you’re left with no choice but to face them.
Mindfulness is key to a long lasting recovery. Not only do mindfulness practices such as meditation and journaling help you live in the present moment, they allow you to let go of the past. You may feel incredibly guilty about things you had done during active addiction, but mindfulness provides a safe space to let those feelings go.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to practice these techniques. No matter what your situation, the goal of mindfulness stays the same: to guide you in living in the present, empower you to nurture your inner self, and open your eyes to the beautiful world around you.
Mindfulness meditation helps make the addiction recovery process easier. And, as you progress in recovery you will have a powerful technique to help you through the trials of life. Most of us on this path needed help to get started, so don’t be ashamed to reach out. Call Ventura Recovery Center for a Confidential Consultation. (800) 247-6111.