It’s a term that’s been used a lot recently in the yoga world, among meditation circles, and in reference to spiritual practice. In addition to this, doctors and psychotherapists have studied mindfulness-based practices and found measurable benefits for patients who use them. These positive benefits like improved emotional regulation and decreased impulsivity can help you be successful in your recovery.
What is Mindfulness?
Put simply, mindfulness means being present in the moment. What may seem like an easy task presents a real challenge for many of us, requiring practice and concentration. According to the DHS, 30% – 50% of a person’s day can be centered on thoughts of the past or the future. Ruminating about mistakes made in the past or worrying about potential outcomes in the future robs us of enjoying the present moment.
By pausing to center yourself on the here and now, you can reap numerous benefits.
In a state of mindfulness, you will experience relaxation. Pausing to take a few mindful breaths activates your parasympathetic (“rest and relax”) nervous system. Deep breathing with long exhalations lowers your heart rate and decreases your blood pressure, bringing forth a sense of ease throughout the body. Remembering these techniques can help you ease cravings when they arise or take a mindful pause when you experience a triggering event.
Be More Empathetic
Having empathy for oneself and empathy for others is another key to recovery success. Mindfulness helps by allowing a time of reflection where you can see yourself in others and connect with others in a meaningful way. Specific kinds of mindfulness practices also center on “loving-kindness” meditation, where one actively tries to cultivate goodwill towards all beings. This can become a positive coping skill to use if feelings of negative self-worth creep in and tempt you to use.
How to Practice Mindfulness Daily
To begin practicing mindfulness, start small and do a little each day. Begin with just a few minutes a day and build up to an amount that feels comfortable to you. You can choose to practice mindfulness once a day or multiple times a day. As you continue your recovery journey, making mindfulness a daily habit will aid in your success. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Set an Intention
When you wake up in the morning, before starting to check your email, rushing to get ready for work, or browsing social media, take a few moments to breathe intentionally. Try a few deep breaths. Then, set your intention for the day. What goals do you want to accomplish? How do you want the day to go? How will you have an impact at work or in your social circles? Be clear on how you want the day to go.
The most common form of mindfulness practice used throughout the world is breath meditation. Meditation involves keeping your attention on one object for an extended period of time. As your mind naturally wanders, you slowly and gently bring your attention back to the object until it wanders again. The act of bringing your attention back works the mind like a muscle, putting you in the driver’s seat and reducing your reactivity to your own thoughts and emotions. Because we are always breathing wherever we go, the breath is an ideal object for meditation since it is always with us.
Exercise can be a mindfulness practice as well. If you’re present and focused on your physical activity, exercise can have your body, mind, and nervous system working towards the same goals and focusing on the task at hand. Whether it’s taking a walk, working out at the gym, or even working out with a group, being present and attuned to your body will bring you new energy and reinvigorate your senses.
Set the Phone Aside
We turn to our phones to fill spaces of quiet, avoid boredom, or even alleviate stress. Instead of turning to your phone to fill a void, decide instead to put your phone away. Putting your phone away, out of reach, or even in its “do not disturb” mode will help you focus a small amount of your day on something else. It enables you to be present.
Learn more on how you can make mindfulness a daily practice here.
Mindfulness is a Journey
Mindfulness takes practice. It is not something you will master overnight. It is a day-by-day process. Remember to be gentle and patient with yourself. Creating any new pattern in your life will take time. Think of mindfulness as a way to connect with yourself every day and to help you continue to make your recovery journey a success.