Mindfulness is, essentially, being actively present and focused in the current moment. It allows you to relieve yourself of the pressure of feeling guilt, shame, or sadness over the past and worrying about the future. These emotions are all triggers for relapse, especially in early recovery when you are heavily focused on processing past trauma and preparing for a new life without drugs and alcohol. When you practice mindfulness, you decrease the risk of relapse due to these emotions because you are giving yourself permission to focus only on what you are doing and nothing else.
The beauty of mindfulness is that anyone can do it; it is free of charge; and you can start right now. Here’s how:
- Be still. Take your mindful breathing to the next level by practicing a sitting mindful meditation. Here you do the same thing with the breathing, but you start by finding yourself a quiet, comfortable spot – inside or out – that makes you feel calm and relaxed. Sit comfortably with your back straight and focus on your breathing as described above.
- Actively release tension. Redo your body scan. For each area where you are holding tension, actively tighten and then release that area. Start at your feet and slowly move your way up, stretching, tightening, and releasing as needed. Focus on how you feel, and massage your temples, jaw joints, neck, and shoulders to help you release some of the tension.
- Walk. Being present rather than losing yourself “in your head” while going for a walk is a great way to practice mindfulness. Notice how the air feels on your skin, the sound of the birds or the wind in the trees, the smells, and the little details that you see along your path. This practice of mindfulness gives you a little physical workout as well as a chance to clear your head.
- Listen. When in conversation with others, the practice of mindfulness can continue when you actively listen to every word. Rather than spending the time when someone else is speaking judging them or the content of what they are saying, or wondering how or if they are judging you, really pay attention to what they are trying to communicate with you. When they are finished, pause and consider what you will say before you speak.
- Do anything. Everything you do in life can be done mindfully. Whether you are vacuuming, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, taking a shower, riding the bus, cooking, or doing any one of 100 things that you do every day around the house and in your life, if you do them mindfully and stay present and in the moment, you improve your recovery by increasing neutral and positive moments in your life and decreasing moments of emotional discomfort.
Are you ready to start practicing mindfulness, or have you already started? What benefits do you experience when you focus on staying in the moment?