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Mindfulness Training in Co-occurring Disorder Treatment

Mindfulness is emerging as an important skill for recovery due to its focus on being present in the moment, mentally, emotionally, and physically. As a strategy for managing stress, for example, it can be a helpful tool in learning to replace self-destructive behaviors with healthier choices by providing a heightened awareness of when a situation seems likely to lead to a relapse. Today, let’s look at some of the ways mindfulness training connects to treatment for a substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorder.

Mindfulness reduces the stress that can lead to relapse.

Before the behavior of returning to drugs or alcohol to cope with a stressful situation, the stress may have been present in your mind and body before you became aware of it. Mindfulness training teaches you how to detect the presence of that stress and how it’s impacting your thoughts, your perception, your body, and more. Being present in the moment can alert you to the tension that’s developing in your head, neck, or shoulders, for instance, and give you an opportunity to respond in a healthy way to that tension while it’s happening and help you stay focused on recovery.

Mindfulness helps us see emotions to address, not mask.

Your role in life may have taught you to hide emotions as signs of a weakness, yet recognizing what emotions you’re feeling at any given moment can be valuable. If you are the caretaker of the household, you may feel the need to “be strong” for everyone around you. It doesn’t mean you have to become visibly emotional in the office or around you family; it can mean recognizing when an emotion surfaces and what’s prompting it. Mindfulness training during substance use treatment can help you learn to accept when feelings of discomfort arise, to acknowledge them, and to respond to them with healthy choices.

Mindfulness helps us connect thoughts to behaviors.

As thoughts turn into behaviors, it’s important to see how quickly that process moves for you. As you learn to stay present in the moment, it becomes easier to see how a negative thought inspired our reaction to isolate, explode, or even reach for a drink (or other substance) as an automatic response. We may also see how one negative thought unaddressed led to more negativity, aimed at others or yourself, before it turns into a self-destructive behavior.

Mindfulness reminds us what’s within our power to change.

Directly linking your thinking and behavior through mindfulness training can help you distinguish between what’s your responsibility and what’s not. You will begin to see what’s directly within your reach to change and allow yourself to focus on it in any given moment. That may mean recognizing even being aware of your feelings doesn’t mean you can change them, but it does mean you can choose to change what you do with those emotions.

Mindfulness training can be an excellent supplemental strategy for stress management.

As you’re working on your recovery from a substance use disorder and possibly a co-occurring mental health disorder, you will be introduced to numerous strategies. Mindfulness training can be one more to practice and learn how to integrate into your professional life beyond a program, especially as part of a plan to create with an addiction specialists. Each tool you collect (and practice using regularly) gives you a better opportunity to remain successful in recovery efforts and avoid relapsing.

For more information contact Embrace Life Recovery Center at 208.595.2298

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