How Does Mindfulness Affect Addiction Treatment?
Mindfulness As An Addiction Treatment
Mindfulness is an addiction therapy that is proving to be successful at preventing relapse, and that can be integrated into other treatment programs. It is something that can learned and performed anywhere. One of the reasons mindfulness may contribute to sobriety is that it provides a healthy way to deal with and reduce stress1 and can increase self-acceptance2.
What is it? One definition describes it as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”3. Essentially, it is consciously being aware of how and who and what you are right now, and doing so without judging yourself. Other ways of describing or thinking about mindfulness are “objectivity”, “neutralness”, “observing without judgment”, and “self-observing”. In mindfulness, you become an objective observer or scientist, consciously becoming aware of yourself, your experience, and your surroundings.
The idea of what we now call “mindfulness” is not new. Hundreds of years ago, Leonardo da Vinci stated, “An average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.” In other words, the average human is not mindful. When we become mindful--when we become aware of what we are doing and experiencing--our human experience becomes richer and more meaningful.
While there are multiple elements of mindfulness--including observing, savoring, meditating and breathing--conscious, non-judgmental observation is its core. Whether you are at a party, at work, out with friends, or at home, you can choose to intentionally notice the sensations you are experiencing and the thoughts you are thinking. How does your food taste? What do your fingers feel as they move around the keyboard clicking keys? What is it like being with your friend? What emotions are you feeling? Simply be aware of what is going on, without passing judgment.
You can use mindfulness to examine how your own addiction works or relapse occurs, and to stop them. In an article in The Fix, Jenifer Talley says, “The process of becoming nonjudgmentally aware of the components of a compulsion weakens its power. That’s why increasing numbers of clinicians are eagerly incorporating mindfulness into the treatment of substance use disorders, eating disorders, sex addiction and other compulsive behaviors.”4
Observe Instead of React
One of the ways this works is by helping the person become aware of what is going on, and instead of reacting, to continue observing. Since cravings are temporary, by watching, one can become aware of what triggers the craving, of the craving itself, and then of the craving’s abatement without actually giving in to the craving.
Judson Brewer M.D. Ph.D. puts it this way, “mindfulness helps individuals pay careful attention to their cravings, such that they can see what they are made up of – thoughts and body sensations. Importantly, with this awareness, they can notice cravings as they arise, see how they change from moment to moment (instead of lasting “forever” as some of my patients have described), and as a result, stay with them and ride them out instead of acting on them.”5
You can practice mindfulness throughout the day by asking yourself intentional questions such as: What emotions am I feeling? What sensations is my body experiencing presently? What am I thinking? As you observe your thoughts, you can intentionally decide whether or not to believe them.
Mindfulness is one of the therapies that Paradise Creek teaches at its recovery center for sexual addiction. Call (855) 442-1912 to learn more.
Are You Using These Free Therapies For Sex Addiction Treatment?
Free Therapies: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
Sex addiction is a complex issue. Effective treatment can require a variety of techniques and therapies. Practicing self-compassion and mindfulness are two therapies that can help you in your recovery. They are free, and you can start practicing them right away.
Focus on Breathing:
In mindful breathing, you simply become aware of your breathing. You don’t try to slow it down or speed it up. You don’t try to breathe deeper or more shallowly. You simply focus on breathing.
Kelly McGonigal, PhD suggests three ways to practice mindful breathing. First, is to repetitively think “inhale” or “exhale” as you breathe in and out. Second, is be aware of the sensations breathing creates, such as the movement of your belly or the feel of the air in your nostrils. Third is to count each exhalation until you reach the number ten, then start over. With all three suggestions, when your thoughts drift to something other than your breath, that’s okay, just refocus on your breathing1.
Rather than dreaming about the past or longing (or worrying) about the future, savor the present moment. Whether you are eating a meal, spending time with a friend, walking, working, exercising, playing, talking or typing, become aware of what you are doing and delight in it. Notice the sensations you are experiencing. How does your food taste? What do your fingers feel as they move around the keyboard clicking keys? What is it like being with your friend? What emotions are you feeling?
Savor the sunset right now--the vivid pink and orange and purple colors changing shade and brightness as the clouds move and the sun sinks deeper behind the mountains. Savor being with someone you love. Savor the food you are eating. Savor the feel of the breeze, or the heat or the cold. Savor the feel of your feet hitting hard ground as you walk, or the supporting cushion of your shoes.
You can do guided or self-guided meditation, and the meditation can take different forms. Focusing on different sensations: the earth, your feet, what you hear, your skin. It can include imagination, such as imagining a healing energy flowing through you. You can use music or not. Kelly McGonigal, even shares the idea of walking while you meditate.2
Pause and Observe:
Simply stop and notice. What are your surroundings? How are you standing or sitting? What do you smell or hear? How are you reacting to your thoughts and feelings? Do not pass judgment, just observe and become aware. This “Pause and Observe” exercise can help ground you in the present so that you are not worrying about the future nor feeling shame for the past.
Become Your Best Friend:
If your best friend made some mistakes, wouldn’t you give him the benefit of the doubt, encourage him, support him, and focus on his good qualities? Treat yourself the same way. Find the good in your situation and in yourself. Focus on the positive. This is not to say that you should ignore what needs to be changed, but rather that you love yourself and accept yourself as you are, even as you strive to change.
To learn more about overcoming sex addiction using mindfulness and compassion, please contact Paradise Creek Recovery Center at (855) 442-1912.
"I’m ok": How being mindful and compassionate helps to overcome shame and unworthiness
(Post share from the IRATAD Blog)
What keeps many of us from being healthy psychologically, socially, spiritually, and even physically, is a profound sense that we are not ok, that we are flawed and broken in some way, that we are different than others. When things go wrong, it isn’t that we have problems, it’s that we are a problem, we don’t make mistakes, we are a mistake. This feeling of profound unworthiness is often rooted in childhood experiences, and is perpetuated by our western culture that places great value on outward appearances and material wealth which in turn breeds separation and shame. We are constantly bombarded with messages that we cannot be content, that we need to have more, to do more, to be more.
Read More . . .