Mindfulness and Recovery: 5 Ways You Can Boost Your Ability to Avoid Relapse
Mindfulness is simple.
It’s being present in the moment. It’s being aware of what is happening around you. It’s choosing not to spend your life locked up inside your own thoughts, and actively noticing all the beauty around you and acknowledging all you have to be grateful for in recovery.
The choice to practice mindfulness in recovery can be the key to long-term abstinence. Though it is simple to define, it can take time and practice for it to become a natural response, but even irregular mindfulness practice can be beneficial. Here are a few ways that you can make mindfulness a part of your experience in recovery.
1. Being Present with Others
It’s normal for the mind to wander when in conversation with someone else. With so much going on, it’s not always easy to be present in the moment in conversation. Many people also spend a great amount of time thinking about what they are going to say next rather than listening to what the other person is saying. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to see two people at a restaurant or sitting next to each other at home, each paying attention to a smartphone or laptop rather than each other.
Being present with others is just making a number of simple choices, like:
- Making eye contact
- Listening to what the person is saying
- Taking a moment to consider your words before responding
- Allowing the conversation to unfold – no matter what the topic – without judgment of the other person or yourself
- Paying attention to how the interaction makes you feel and setting boundaries as needed
2. Mindful Eating
The foods you eat can have a major impact on how you feel and function each day. Choosing to be mindful in your eating habits can similarly help you to feel better and make healthy food choices, especially when it comes to determining what you are craving or how full you are. Suggestions for mindful eating include:
- Making a plate of food with healthy choices – lean protein, whole grains, and fruits or vegetables – rather than grabbing a bag of something and eating out of it
- Doing nothing but eating (e.g., no reading, watching TV, or working) during mealtime
- Sitting down to eat at a place designated just for eating
- Avoiding eating in front of the TV or while looking at your phone, scrolling through social media
- Eating only when hungry as opposed to eating when bored, for the purpose of celebrating, or to make yourself feel better when sad or anxious
3. Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation are both active practices that help you to lower your overall stress levels while practicing being in the present moment. Practitioners are encouraged to focus on the breath and moving the body through the poses during yoga and on nothing else. It can take practice to truly clear the mind. For the first few sessions, it may feel as if you are constantly allowing thoughts to pass rather than being present, but it is worth it to put in the effort and keep trying until you experience the benefits.
4. Living in the Moment
Depending upon who you are and how you define your life, “living in the moment” will mean something different than it might mean to someone else. For example, if you often choose “escapist” activities like watching TV then being present in the moment may mean learning how to live in a quiet environment, without the distraction of any noise, and finding ways to be comfortable with yourself. If you feel uncomfortable being alone or still and find that you often fill your schedule with activities and meetings, it may mean slowing down a bit and taking some downtime for yourself.
On the other hand, if you tend to isolate and avoid social interactions or anything that will take you outside your comfort zone, living in the moment may mean:
- Attending a new 12-Step meeting in a new neighborhood
- Purposefully reaching out to spend time with others throughout the week
- Simply getting out of the house to take a walk regularly
- Finding a new group or activity therapy that will allow you to meet others in a safe and therapeutic forum
5. Accepting Yourself Where You Are
A large part of mindfulness is practicing acceptance. You are who you are today. Whether or not there are areas of your life that you hope to work on, it’s important to be content and grateful with all you are and all you have accomplished in your life. Similarly, practicing acceptance when it comes to the choices and expressions of others can be helpful as well. Judging others or judging oneself harshly will only serve to increase levels of discontent, stress, and irritation. Instead, you can actively make the choice to:
- Notice any negative thought patterns or assumptions that you think or feel.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Try to understand where others are coming from.
- Create positive goals that will serve to lift you up and lift up the ones you love.
- Choose to find the positive in everything that happens, no matter how negative it may initially seem.
- Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling (e.g., sadness, anger, jealousy, self-pity, etc.) but then let go and direct your focus toward moving forward.
- Try new things and new ways of doing things if something isn’t working.
How will you be mindful in your life today?