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Mindfulness: An Invaluable Tool for Recovery

Mindfulness

It’s Not a Fad

A recent opinion written for the Boston Globe was headlined, “Mindfulness is not a fad. Try it.” Now, if you are among the many people who think mindfulness is just a trend, that’s understandable. Meditation apps, another yoga boom, dating apps for “mindful singles”…it’s almost like “mindfulness” has become today’s version of what was called the “new age” in the 70s and 80s. However, unlike the amorphous “new age,” mindfulness refers to something very specific. Furthermore, developing a mindfulness practice has become an essential tool for recovery.

What is Mindfulness?

Plainly speaking, mindfulness is awareness of the present moment. That’s it. It doesn’t require you to twist yourself into difficult poses, eat a certain diet, or backpack through Southeast Asia (though, admittedly, all of those things can be fun and beneficial with the right teachers.) Furthermore, while mindfulness is a component of certain spiritual practices, there is nothing inherently religious about mindfulness, so you don’t need to join a temple or wrestle with your faith to practice it. All you need to do is bring your attention to the moment. Sounds simple, does it? It is. But it is also very difficult. A study by Harvard psychologists shows that people spend about 47% of their waking hours with their focus on something other than what they’re doing. And what’s worse is that we’re usually unhappy when our mind wanders. We are habitually unfocused, and we suffer because of it.

Starting Out: Getting Set Up

Fortunately, it is very easy to begin a mindfulness practice. You can begin by finding a quiet spot and getting comfortable, but not too comfortable (at the beginning, it’s pretty easy to doze off.) A chair with a fairly straight back works nicely. Give yourself a minute or two to just breathe and settle in, letting your hands rest naturally in your lap. If you’d like, you can close your eyes, though some find this also promotes drowsiness. Try focusing your eyes on a point just past the end of your nose, and let your eyelids drift half-closed.

The Breath

Once you’re situated, start bringing your attention to your breath by breathing through your nose and noticing the sensation, cool air in, warm air out. It’s natural for thoughts and feelings to arise…let them. Notice them without judgment and gently let them go, returning to the breath. You’ll notice the sound of the air conditioner, creaks in the walls, ringing in your ears…that’s all fine. Just remember to return to your breath.

And that’s it. Those are the basics. If you’re just starting out, try practicing for five minutes or so at a time, working up to about 20. And though you can certainly do this on your own, it’s also a good idea to work with a teacher at some point. They can walk you through some of the things you’ll experience.

Scientifically Proven Benefits

Mindfulness has been the topic of numerous studies in recent years, and the results have been very positive. For one thing, it reduces anxiety. A study by the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital shows that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program led to a more significant drop in anxiety than stress management education classes. Furthermore, a study by psychologists Albertson, Neff, and Dill-Shackleford shows that mindfulness techniques can reduce body dissatisfaction and shame and increase self-compassion and body appreciation. Finally, a Harvard study shows that mindfulness can train the brain to reduce distractions, an enormous benefit in the smartphone/multi-tasking age.

Open Your Eyes

So how does mindfulness relate to recovery? Well, take cravings, for example. What is craving? At its base, it’s just a feeling. Once you spend some time practicing mindfulness, you’ll start to see how much of your life is ruled by your feelings. And more importantly, you’ll start to realize that this doesn’t have to be the case. If you are at work and you feel a craving arise, you have the power to say, “Yep, that’s a craving,” (noticing a thought) and get back to work (returning to the breath). You’ll no longer feel the need to control the moment…you can just be in the moment. If you’re in recovery, give mindfulness a try. It has the power to open your eyes to the beauty of life as it is right now. 

If you or a loved one are seeking help with addiction, disordered eating, or substance abuse in Los Angeles, reach out to us at Ocean Recovery today. We are ready to help you on your recovery journey.

Sources

Ocean Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Puddicombe A. Mindfulness is not a fad. Try it. – The Boston Globe. BostonGlobe.com. Published March 11, 2019. Accessed August 2, 2022. https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2019/03/11/mindfulness-not-fad/k4BZXEBWJAlr895mCVDkYI/story.html
  2. Bradt S. Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. Published November 11, 2010. Accessed August 2, 2022. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
  3. Hoge EA, Bui E, Marques L, et al. Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for generalized anxiety disorder: effects on anxiety and stress reactivity. J Clin Psychiatry. 2013;74(8):786-792. doi:10.4088/JCP.12m08083
  4. Albertson ER, Neff KD, Dill-Shackleford KE. Self-Compassion and Body Dissatisfaction in Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Brief Meditation Intervention. Mindfulness. 2015;6(3):444-454. doi:10.1007/s12671-014-0277-3
  5. McGreevey S. ‘Turn down the volume.’ Harvard Gazette. Published April 22, 2011. Accessed August 2, 2022. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/04/turn-down-the-volume/
Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Infinite RecoveryAscendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed August 2, 2022