In life, we all go through periods of stress, anxiety, and internal struggle. But how we cope with that is what makes the greatest difference. One of the most common ways that people deal with mental struggles is through substance use, but this often leads to more significant problems in life down the line. With addiction, one of the most important lessons to learn to prevent a relapse is how to cope with stress and anxiety more healthily. Stress and anxiety are often a part of life and cannot be avoided, but by putting healthy coping techniques in place, you can prevent relapse and live a happier and healthier life overall.
In recent times, mindfulness has become the most popular buzzword in the self-help and psychological community for coping with stress and anxiety while also assisting people in addiction recovery. But what exactly is this practice? And how can it help you lead a more stress-free and peaceful life? See below to find out!
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is essentially the practice of keeping your awareness in the present moment with a compassionate and non-judgmental mindset. Mindfulness is most commonly associated with meditation, but there are many ways to practice mindfulness besides this single technique. Mindfulness practice originated out of Buddhism, but it became primarily popularized in the west through the creation of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) technique by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This method was created for the sole purpose of helping people reduce their stress and promote greater emotional regulation. But over time, research has shown that mindfulness practices can be very beneficial for a variety of other mental and physical health applications as well.
Mindfulness for Addiction Recovery
One of the most recent findings in the psychological community is the beneficial applications of mindfulness for people in addiction recovery. Addiction is often described as a habit or pattern of the body and mind that becomes deeply ingrained in the nervous system and brain. Research has shown that mindfulness directly helps to change long-held habits and mental patterns, giving you the tools to switch your behavior and even potentially reshape your brain. The effects of mindfulness on the brain mainly relates to the process of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s natural capacity to change and form new connections between neurons or brain cells. Through meditation practice, you can directly affect neuroplasticity and start rewiring your brain. Therefore, through the regular use of mindfulness exercises, you can begin shifting the patterns of your mind in healthier and more positive ways.
Mindfulness also helps with addiction recovery by reconnecting you with a more embodied experience. Many people turn to addiction to numb themselves from their internal state. But mindfulness practice helps you to uncover what is lying inside of your mind and body but in a gentle and sensitive way. Mindfulness practice guides you through these experiences and emphasizes compassion and non-judgmental awareness so that you can face your demons and learn to accept them as they are, rather than trying to make things how you want them to be. The role of acceptance in mindfulness is a powerful tool to help you shift your perspective and live a more peaceful and tranquil life, regardless of what turmoil may be going on around you.
How Mindfulness Can Help with Stress Management
As discussed above, mindfulness practice was initially introduced into psychology as a method for stress reduction. Therefore, one of the primary effects of mindfulness is as a beneficial tool for stress management. Stress cannot be avoided because the nature of the world is uncontrollable. We cannot stop pandemics from arising or earthquakes from coming, but we can control how we react to these things and how we let them affect our internal state. At the end of the day, the only thing that you truly have control over is yourself. Mindfulness practice gives you the tools to look at stressful events more objectively without any of the emotional investment or attachment.
One of the greatest techniques of mindfulness for stress management is called the STOP technique. This technique is an acronym that consists of 4 steps which are Stop what you are doing, Take a few deep breaths, Observe your surroundings, and then Proceed mindfully and thoughtfully. Through this simple technique, you can give yourself internal space to respond to stress more compassionately rather than letting emotional reactivity take you down a negativity spiral.
How Mindfulness Can Help with Anxiety
Mindfulness is also commonly used as a popular tool for coping with anxiety. Mindfulness practice directly targets the common symptom of anxiety of rumination or maladaptive thinking processes. Often when you are feeling anxious, you may get caught in negative or obsessive thoughts. But by practicing mindfulness, it can take you out of these thinking patterns and switch you into a more embodied experience instead.
The primary way that mindfulness helps to cut through anxiety is through the emphasis on acceptance. Anxiety is often spurred along by a lack of acceptance, but mindfulness helps you to accept things as they are, rather than how you want them to be. The practice of mindfulness is actually perfectly summarized by the serenity prayer:
“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.”
Mindfulness practice directly teaches you how to accept things while also giving you the tools to discern what things you can actually affect. When you can accept things that you cannot change, then you realize that there is no point in worrying about them, and any anxiety you may have will naturally fall away.
Mindfulness is an excellent tool for people in addiction recovery because it directly helps them to deal with stress and anxiety that may have been underlying their addictive behaviors and can prevent future relapse. By incorporating mindfulness into your life, you can not only further your recovery process but also improve your life overall. So, try incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine to start living a happier and healthier life today!