How Mindfulness Can Help People Cope With Addictions
Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness isn’t some esoteric Buddhist practice. In the simplest of terms, mindfulness means focusing your awareness to the present moment. Being aware of one’s feelings and accepting oneself is also a byproduct of mindfulness – and it can be achieved through meditation.
Two things always lead addicts to indulge in their addictions – uncomfortable emotions and cravings. Addicts, or for that matter most of us, hold on to this belief about how our lives should be and when our lives aren’t how we desire them to be, it leads to a slew of emotions that we’re uncomfortable dealing with. Anger, sadness and jealous slowly but surely creep in. We stop being content or happy with what we have and start looking at our shortcomings, limitations, and situations in a bad light.
Uncomfortable emotions immediately follow cravings – that feeling that several glasses of whiskey or popping pills is going to numb the pain.
Mindfulness meditation can break this vicious cycle by:
1. Letting go
Desire is an intrinsic part of being human. We always want a better job, a better relationship, more time to ourselves or that big condo across the street. Desire, to some extent, help us improve ourselves by working hard and setting goals. But desire can also make us unhappy and unable to be grateful for what we have now. Through mindfulness, we can let go of these desires and feelings of jealousy, anger, sadness, and competitiveness. It can also help us let go of suffering or past traumas.
Once we let go, that chic condo, that “perfect” job and that “ideal” relationship don’t dominate our thoughts, feelings, and life.
2. Rewiring the brain
Perhaps the most awesome thing about mindfulness is that it has the ability to rewire and retrain the brain. Until recently, most scientists believed that the brain’s ability to create new structures and neural networks stopped after childhood. But recent research shows that mindfulness meditation has the ability to alter the brain’s structure and build new neural networks for self-observation, self-awareness, and well-being. How cool is that?
3. Accepting oneself
One of the key teachings of mindfulness meditation is increasing self-awareness and curiosity. How do I feel in this moment? What are my thoughts in this moment? Once we’re aware of our thoughts and feelings, we start accepting ourselves. With self-acceptance comes an automatic decrease in self-criticism, harsh judgments about oneself and negative feelings towards oneself and one’s life.
We could all be a little kinder and little more loving to ourselves. We’re often quick to compliment others on how nice they are or just tell them “I like you” or “I love you” but how often do we compliment ourselves? When was the last time you said “I love you” to yourself? Not nearly as enough as you tell your loved ones.
Mindfulness meditation can be incorporated in your daily schedule. Just 5 or 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation can produce significant results in your outlook. The key is to practice it daily and start becoming aware of the present moment. Most of us operate on autopilot. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop and smell flowers on our way to work or feel the breeze on our cheeks while running instead of being preoccupied with reaching somewhere?
Battling with addictions? Do you need help controlling your thoughts and emotions? Counseling can certainly help. Feel free to contact Orly Gueron a Licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship specialist in Aventura, FL!