What Is Mindfulness and Why Is It Important in Recovery?

We live in a fast-paced world. Most of us go about our lives with our minds on “autopilot.” We can function in this mode because we are immersed in our habitual daily routines. However, when we are constantly living on autopilot, we neglect genuine connection and interaction with the world around us. Coasting through life can be why we are stuck in harmful patterns of thought and behavior, which can worsen our mental health.

What is the solution for no longer living your life on autopilot? Mindfulness. Mindfulness is an essential practice for those in recovery from substance use or mental health disorders and for everyone looking to gain a deeper connection with the world around them. It is important to understand the value of mindfulness on physical and mental health to better prioritize it in your daily life.

Mindfulness is Awareness

Mindfulness is an ancient practice. The idea of mindfulness encompasses complete awareness of the present moment, including what is happening around and inside of you. Instead of sitting back and letting life happen, mindfulness encourages you to engage with the present moment as if it is the only moment that exists. As the present moment is all that you will ever have, mindfulness keeps us immersed in that moment.

Elements of Mindfulness

Mindfulness plays a crucial role in our mental wellness. For those new to the idea of mindfulness, it is best to recognize it as an umbrella term for awareness. Under this umbrella term, mindfulness connects several essential elements to make it a valuable practice. These elements include:

  • Concentration and attention
  • Objectivity
  • Non-judgment
  • Acceptance
  • Trust
  • Letting go
  • Patience
  • Curiosity
  • Gratitude

Some treatment centers or general research may recognize these elements as pillars, attitudes or components of mindfulness. It may help to understand that these elements can also vary between mindfulness practices, although, in general, these elements work together to instill awareness through a more positive lens.

How to Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is just as much of a skill as it is a practice. For some, mindfulness may begin as a practice to achieve or sustain it as a necessary skill. Nevertheless, it is vital to recognize that although mindfulness can be practiced through various means like meditation, it can be achieved anywhere at any time.

In day-to-day life, mindfulness emphasizes the importance of paying attention. If you cannot find time for intentional mindfulness practice, there are still ways to practice it throughout the day. As you make yourself a meal, answer e-mails, sit in traffic or speak with a loved one, try to become more aware. Bring awareness to your breath, your feet on the ground, the sounds you hear around you and how you feel inside. Recognize that there are things worth noticing, whether it be something simple like the laughter of a colleague or the visual of a bird flying in the sky.

Intentional Mindfulness Practice

There are incredible benefits that result from setting aside time to practice mindfulness intentionally. Consider engaging with the following exercises in a quiet place with little to no distractions when you have time. For beginners, set a timer for about 10 minutes as you go about the following practices:

  • Mindful breathing
  • Body scanning
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga 
  • Outdoor activities

The Value of Mindfulness in Recovery for Substance Use

Mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are becoming an increasingly popular and valuable holistic treatment modality for treating mental health and substance use disorders.

Prior to addiction treatment, an individual may develop an addiction from using substances mindlessly. Substance use takes control of an individual’s emotions and behaviors, which removes an individual’s autonomy and ability to engage with the present moment.

When mindfulness is prioritized during treatment, individuals can honor their thoughts and feelings without judgment. They can take control back over their emotions while learning how to regulate their thoughts. More often than not, substance use and addiction can cause a person to feel stuck in negative thinking patterns without even realizing it. Mindfulness helps them explore their thoughts, feelings and triggers in a safe and supportive environment.

Other Benefits of Mindfulness in Recovery

There are physical and mental health benefits for individuals that practice mindfulness during their recovery. Most treatment centers will provide holistic treatment modalities, such as mindfulness, to complement traditional treatment methods and make treatment more effective overall.

It is essential to understand that the following benefits are experienced from consistent use of mindfulness and mindfulness practices. In general, mindfulness can help alleviate psychological suffering and assist individuals in recovery to live happier and more fulfilling lives. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced rumination
  • Reduced physical cravings
  • Improved emotional regulation
  • Improved interpersonal relationships
  • Increased subjective well-being
  • Deepened search for life’s purpose and meaning
  • Reduced potential for relapse

Cliffside Malibu is a comprehensive addiction treatment center that provides various holistic treatment modalities. We recognize the influence that mindfulness can have on treatment progression and relapse prevention, so we help our patients take advantage of mindfulness practices. To learn more about our holistic treatment modalities, or to learn more about the value of mindfulness on recovery, call us at (855) 403-5641.