Have you experienced an eventful day with stress and confusion pulling you in different directions? When these stress responses happen, you may find yourself enjoying the here and now less. Mindfulness practices can help you cope with stress and rekindle your love for life. It has also proven effective in helping people recover from the many mental health problems associated with substance use disorder (SUD).
The word “mindfulness” simply means giving your full attention to things in the present moment, such as your breath. You may think that focusing on your breathing is easy and natural, but modern life has made that challenging. Practicing mindfulness helps you improve attention and is also a great stress reduction strategy. The health benefits can also include better communication and relationship skills.
The Brain Science Behind Mindfulness
Mindfulness-induced relaxation engages the body’s parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for restoring the body to base levels after a stress response. According to neuroscience research, mindfulness decreases activity in the amygdala—the area of the brain that processes and responds to fear and threats. Mindfulness also increases the connection between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which controls cognitive functions like impulse control, memory, and reasoning.
The magic of mindfulness happens when you induce a unique state of brain activation which, over time, can result in long-term changes in brain function and emotional well-being. This is all because of the brain’s fundamental property of neuroplasticity—how the brain adapts in response to external environment and experiences. Mindfulness can even protect the brain from declines due to aging and chronic stress.
Many people who practice mindfulness can testify that it has fundamentally changed how they experience life. Practicing mindfulness regularly can lower your heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. In doing so, your communication and relationship skills may also improve, leading to a more satisfactory quality of life.
Addiction Recovery and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
In the field of addiction recovery, health professionals use an intervention called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Focusing on the timing and pace of breath, for example, may help boost mood and calm emotional stress. This is because the part of the brain that controls breathing is also a region associated with emotional regulation, attention, and body awareness.
MBSR also improves sleep quality—which is good news for many recovering individuals who suffer from insomnia and sleep problems. Getting quality sleep can help decrease cravings and thus prevent relapse. The MBSR structure combines meditation, body awareness, yoga, behavioral exploration, action, and movement. The core of MBSR is non-judgmental acceptance, which helps recovering individuals rise above feelings of shame and guilt about SUD and other mental illnesses.
Practicing and Advocating Mindfulness
Now that you have scientific knowledge about mindfulness practices, it is time to dive into it. You can work with a therapist or a group to embark on this journey. There are also many online resources to guide you through it. Set aside some quiet time each day for mindfulness. Observe your breathing and thoughts. Let your judgments roll by even when negative thoughts or emotions arise. The gist is to practice kindness to your wandering mind.
Mindfulness can also be active and playful. Take walking meditation for example. Slow down your steps and notice the support from the ground. Observe your two feet shifting weight while making the move. Notice your breathing patterns and count the in-breaths and out-breaths while walking.
There are many other forms of mindful practices, including body scans, self-compassion meditation, nature walks, mindful eating, and mindful listening. The core message is to focus on one thing at a time, either your body, breathing, or the activity you are doing in the present moment. With time, you can ease into the pace and enjoy it as a daily ritual of self-connection.
Promoting Mindfulness at Work and Home
When trying to promote mindfulness as a self-care practice at work or home, try to lead by example. When your life displays unhurried focus and authentic care, others will be curious about how you achieve it. For recovering individuals, your progress and change can motivate others to inquire and experiment with mindfulness.
You can teach others what mindfulness is, and how and why it helps improve your quality of life. Build break times into your schedule so that you can maintain your peace throughout the day. Allow your life to slow down and encourage others to do so. If you have children, teach them how to practice the basics of mindfulness. At such an impressionable age, children can benefit greatly from this self-care tip.
Most importantly, mindfulness practices help recovering individuals rebuild social relationships. They can be better listeners and sympathizers. Life becomes richer and broader with an attitude of appreciation for yourself and others.
Mindfulness helps people with SUD recover from co-occurring emotional and mental health issues because it sets off a unique state of brain activation. Because of the brain’s fundamental property of neuroplasticity, regular practices of mindfulness can even reshape brain structures. If you are looking for a treatment center that promotes mindfulness and other holistic treatment methods, look no further than Laguna Shores Recovery. Here we have experienced mental health professionals who can coach and support you in these easy-to-use but brain-changing exercises. We will design and customize a comprehensive treatment plan for you by using a combination of therapies. Most of our staff have been through recovery and they value a holistic approach to healing the body, mind, and spirit. We are determined to provide you with an empowering experience so you can flourish in recovery from SUD. For more information, call (954) 329-1118.