“Mindfulness” has become a buzzword in the past few years, and for good reason. In our fast-paced world with so much stimulation and stress, finding stillness has never been more difficult–or more important.
Although mindfulness practices, such as yoga and meditation, have been used for centuries across the globe, new research data is frequently being released on the proven positive outcomes and benefits of mindfulness techniques when applied to addiction and cravings, relapse prevention, mental health, and overall brain function and wellbeing.
What is mindfulness?
At its core, mindfulness is presence. It is the practice of cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgement. This can be done in any number of ways, and thousands of exercises have been created to help facilitate this practice. Many exercises include meditation, breathing exercises, body scans, and embodied movement. Others focus on the senses: smell, touch, taste, sight, and sound. All mindfulness practices have a common theme: to slow down, drop into our bodies, and witness the experience.
How does mindfulness work in addiction recovery?
A mindfulness-based approach to addiction recovery treats the whole person, not just the substance abuse. Mindfulness has many health benefits, and has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety, stress reactivity, distraction, and depression, all of which can be seen as roadblocks to recovery. Mindfulness has been clinically proven to increase self-compassion, focus, cognition, heart and immune system health, rest, resilience, feelings of connection, sense of belonging, and more.
When it comes to relapse prevention strategies, mindfulness can help increase awareness and recognition of negative thoughts, feelings, and triggers that may lead to relapse, and gives them the tools to pause and engage clear thinking rather than impulsive action.
A visual interpretation of Mindfulness-based interventions for substance abuse, including outcomes of decreased substance craving and reduce substance use, is offered here:
Mindfulness-based Interventions (MBIs)
In this review of literature on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) on substance abuse disorders, researchers included 24 studies from 2011 to 2014, to review current evidence on the therapeutic efficacy of MBIs for substance use and misuse (SUM.)
Their findings state:
Current evidence suggests that MBIs can reduce the consumption of several substances including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, cigarettes, and opiates to a significantly greater extent than waitlist controls, non-specific educational support groups, and some specific control groups.
Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)
This randomized clinical trial held between 2009 and 2012 compares the efficacy of Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention to several other common treatment modalities.
The conclusion of the trial states:
At 12-month follow-up, MBRP (Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention) offered added benefit over RP (Relapse Prevention) and TAU (Treatment As Usual) in reducing drug use and heavy drinking. Targeted mindfulness practices may support long-term outcomes by strengthening the ability to monitor and skillfully cope with discomfort associated with craving or negative affect, thus supporting long-term outcomes.
Mindfulness-based Addiction Treatment (MBAT)
This 26-week study held in 2017 examines cognitive and affective mechanisms underlying mindfulness-based addiction treatment (MBAT) versus cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and usual care (UC) for smoking cessation.
The results of the study state:
Compared with those receiving UC, MBAT participants reported lower anxiety, concentration difficulties, craving, and dependence, as well as higher self-efficacy for managing negative affect without smoking.
At Oasis Recovery Center, the principles of awareness and acceptance that our mindfulness-based approach to addiction recovery offers intend to create a solid foundation for lasting recovery, because they can also be applied to any life situation or circumstance that may come up in the future. Oasis Recovery’s client-centered and mindfulness-based approach strives to serve clients on their path to recovery and beyond, to lead more balanced, purposeful, and fulfilling lives.