Throughout life, challenging emotions, such as anxiety and stress, are bound to surface from time to time. While these are normal and natural emotions, leaving them unmanaged can hinder well-being and especially challenge an individual’s sobriety journey.
Fortunately, many coping strategies can help individuals better address and overcome adversity as it arises. One of these important strategies is mindfulness, a practice that can be accomplished nearly anywhere at any time.
Becoming familiar with mindfulness and the benefits that it can have on an individual’s well-being and recovery can be instrumental for healing. Further, an individual can begin reaping these benefits immediately.
What Is Mindfulness?
According to News in Health (NIH), mindfulness is the practice of being completely and totally aware of what is happening in the present moment. Being mindful requires an individual to recognize all that is happening around them and all that is going on inside of them.
Mindfulness is a practice that can be utilized during any activity. However, some may find that dedicating specific time to mindfulness practice, such as meditation, may produce even more valuable benefits for well-being.
Although the main element of mindfulness is awareness, several other elements can be trained through the use of mindfulness practices. A few examples include:
- Nonjudgement and objectivity
- Acceptance and letting go
- A beginners mind
- Appreciation and gratitude
- Kindness and curiosity
The Opposite of Mindfulness: Autopilot
While mindfulness is an ancient practice, it is often not prioritized in today’s society. It is common to live life on “autopilot” or, in other words, merely go through the motions. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many to exhaust their time and energy by focusing on the future or dwelling on the past. However, this can cause individuals to miss out on incredible opportunities to be present and to act on the needs of their bodies and minds.
Some may acknowledge “autopilot” as remaining in a person’s comfort zone. Further, while some may strive to remain in their comfort zones, others may be forced to stay there as a result of mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression. Mindfulness offers a way to break out of these comfort zones and “stuck” patterns of thought.
There is no question that remaining in the present moment is a difficult task. Fortunately, as much as mindfulness is a practice, it is also a trained skill that can be strengthened over time.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Research shows mindfulness can produce various benefits to one’s physical and psychological health. These benefits can result from mindfulness-based treatment interventions (holistic therapies) as well as general mindfulness practices, such as mindful breathing or yoga.
One of the most notable benefits is the reduction of psychological stress. The brain structure known as the amygdala is central to activating the brain and the body’s stress response. When an individual engages in mindfulness, the amygdala experiences reduced brain activity. As a result, the body will feel calmer and more relaxed.
When the stress response is not properly regulated, it can compromise an individual’s immune system and overall health. Additionally, for those in addiction recovery, stress can increase the risk of relapse. Utilizing mindfulness can directly strengthen an individual’s recovery and overall well-being by reducing stress.
Enhances Emotional Regulation
Another benefit of mindfulness is that it enhances emotional regulation. According to a journal by Frontiers in Psychology, “Emotion regulation includes all of the conscious and non-conscious strategies we use to increase, to maintain or decrease one or more components of an emotional response.”
Strategies such as avoidance, rumination, and suppression were positively correlated with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. However, mindfulness practices strengthen positive emotional regulation strategies, including problem-solving, reappraisal, and acceptance.
By using mindfulness elements to focus on one’s internal emotions – through lenses of nonjudgement, acceptance, and curiosity – individuals may no longer feel controlled by problematic patterns of thought and emotions.
Strengthens Empathy and Self-Compassion
Research has also shown that mindfulness practices can strengthen empathy and self-compassion when used regularly in daily life. Self-compassion is the ability to address personal emotions and struggles with a sense of warmth, concern, and kindness. This can be increasingly challenging for individuals with mental health disorders and substance use disorders (SUDs). Likewise, being self-compassionate increases resilience under stress.
Additionally, empathy is the ability to place oneself in the shoes of another. Empathy helps individuals better understand the subjective experiences and perspectives of others without comparison. Mindfulness practices can help individuals to become more compassionate and empathic because they encourage utilizing perspectives of objectivity and kindness.
The list of benefits mindfulness can have on an individual’s well-being and recovery is endless. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) notes the following additional benefits worth mentioning:
- Reduces symptoms of SUD and addiction
- Reduces chronic pain
- Reduces blood pressure
- Reduces insomnia and improves sleep quality
- Reduces symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Improves mental health of individuals with chronic disorders, including cancer
- Can help individuals better manage problematic eating behaviors
Mindfulness is the practice of being completely aware of the present moment. Learning how to incorporate mindfulness into your recovery can be instrumental in your healing. At 12 South Recovery, we believe in the power of mindfulness and holistic therapies to complement the use of traditional treatment interventions. We aim to treat you as a whole person, not just your diagnosis or the symptoms of your condition. By helping you increase your self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-esteem, you will better understand your whole self and gain a deeper meaning for your healing. Some mindfulness practices we offer include nutritional therapy, art therapy, reiki, breathwork, and more. For more information about our facility, call us today at 866-839-6876.