When you first enter recovery, you may hear people throw the term mindfulness around. Being mindful means being fully aware of the present moment, which can be harder than it initially sounds. Fortunately, there are lots of mindfulness techniques you can use to help you through your recovery journey.
Why Do I Need Mindfulness?
In recovery, especially in the early days, you may find it hard to keep your mind from wandering. You may think about the past and dwell on some of the poor choices you made. Maybe you worry about the future and how hard it might be to hold onto sobriety.
This is where mindfulness is beneficial. Many techniques can help you get through tough times when your mind is stuck in the past. Below are descriptions of a few of the most popular mindfulness techniques and how they can help keep you in the moment.
When most people think of mindfulness, the first thing they think of is meditation. While it is true that meditation is great for mindfulness, many people have a hard time engaging in meditation. They often find it too difficult or foreign to their experience to enjoy or benefit from.
This, however, is a big misconception. When you think about meditation, perhaps you imagine a hyper-spiritual person sitting in complete silence for hours with zen music playing in the background. While that image is technically of someone meditating, it is far from the norm.
Meditation can be done in several different ways. Guided meditations are great for beginners. Many can be found free online with videos or prompt as the guide. 2-minute meditations are also great for someone who is just starting. For this practice, set the alarm on your phone for 2 minutes and just try to focus on your breathing. Do this for a couple of days, then try going 5 minutes, then 7 minutes, and so on. You may feel more comfortable with stillness and more able to relax in those few minutes a day.
Plenty of people think that, with meditation, you have to be able to clear your mind. This is far from the case. Your mind will naturally create thoughts. Mindfulness is not about banishing thoughts but acknowledging them and then returning to focus on your breathing. Allowing thoughts to be present without letting them influence you helps promote mindfulness—taking even 2 minutes out of your day to focus on breathing rather than thought spirals will make a tremendous difference.
Yoga is an excellent practice for those who want a bit more movement in their mindfulness techniques. Yoga involves moving through a series of stretches or poses while bringing attention to your breathing and physical sensations involved in the poses. It promotes mindfulness by making your brain focus on your pose and not worrying about other anxieties you might have.
As a physical exercise, yoga is unique because you don't want to push yourself. In yoga, proper breath control is the most important factor. If you push yourself rather than honoring your body's limits, your breathing can become less of a focus.
With this practice, you will see results over time. If you do a little bit every day, you may notice that your body becomes stronger and more flexible. You'll be able to stretch more and hold difficult poses longer while still being able to control your breathing.
As you can probably tell by now, breathing is a key component of mindfulness. In times of distress, breathing exercises can calm you down and de-escalate the situation. Here are some exercises that can help you be "in the moment":
- Deep breathing: Bend forward like you're trying to touch your toes, inhale slowly as you return to a standing position, hold your breath for a few seconds, and exhale slowly as you return to the folded position.
- 4-7-8 breathing: Breathe in through your nose while counting to 4, hold your breath while you count to 7, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8.
Both of these exercises can help reduce anxiety. They can also help you feel present and "in the moment."
How Mindfulness Applies to Sobriety
In the early days of sobriety, you may find that you are on edge often. This is because there are many stressors you must learn to cope with without using substances. This can not only feel frustrating but overwhelming.
Using some of the techniques here, you may find that the stressors of day-to-day life begin to feel less overwhelming. What you are trying to achieve is a manageable life. Through these techniques, you can get there.
When you let go of your preconceived notions about meditation and yoga, they really can promote mindfulness. You don't have to spend a long time doing these exercises. With only a few minutes a day, you'll begin to notice an improvement in your mindfulness, which in turn helps you maintain sobriety.
Mindfulness can appear difficult to achieve, but it's not as challenging as it may seem. Practicing mindfulness can greatly benefit your addiction recovery efforts. However, knowing where to start might be hard if you have never practiced mindfulness techniques. You may need professional help. That is where NorthStar Transitions, located in Boulder, CO, comes into play. Our experienced staff can help you navigate through this difficult period in your life. We understand the benefits that mindfulness can have in achieving and sustaining sobriety. Let us help you take your life back after addiction. You can take the first steps by calling us today at (303) 558-6400.