Stress is something we all experience, and even those who are able to manage the daily difficulties and annoyances of life on most days will still face stress at times.
Dealing with stress is a life-long learning process, and learning how to practice mindfulness can help. Read on to learn what mindfulness is, common perks of mindfulness and practices you can implement.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of engaging in the present moment. It is a mental technique that involves using the five senses and growing in awareness of our own thoughts, feelings and surroundings. The goal of mindfulness is to accept the sensations we experience from a neutral perspective, and simple to soak things up without casting judgment or letting stressors take over.
Mindfulness as a practice includes a large array of activities, theories and approaches. Many people think of meditation when they come across the term mindfulness, but there are many more exercises that fit into this umbrella category. Mindfulness can include forms of exercise like yoga, the way we approach eating, spiritual practices like praying or the hobby of cultivating a garden.
Mindfulness is a new term that is ancient in practice and can likely be applied to many things you already do. If you’ve ever taken a pause at your office chair or in your car to take a few deep breaths, you’re already halfway there.
What are benefits of mindfulness?
As our world seems to become busier and busier, more people are flocking to practices that slow down the pace of life. Mindfulness can help us focus on the moment in front of us, giving us better self-awareness, awareness of our surroundings and understanding of others.
Mindfulness also allows us to de-stress. Lower stress levels can contribute to better sleep, a decreased heart rate, elevated mood, less muscle tension and decreased conflict with others. Minimizing stress levels also helps us to manage problems in our lives and face challenges with a level head.
Mindfulness can help us to empathize with others. A moment to pause in the midst of distress gives us the opportunity to look at things from another’s perspective and take the environment into account. Relating to others is an essential social skill that can help us in family life, career and romantic relationships.
Mindfulness may also help individual who face chronic pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who practice mindfulness regularly are able to better regulate negative thoughts about current or future pain, thus decreasing the perception and therefore experience of the pain itself.
Thus, the benefits of mindfulness are bountiful and available for any person who desires to decrease stress in their lives. Mindfulness can also benefit those with diagnosed conditions, like mental health disorders or substance use disorders.
Why practice mindfulness in recovery?
Mindfulness in recovery is a useful strategy for numerous reasons. First, mindfulness focuses on the present moment, and as anyone in active recovery will tell you, the initial challenge of sobriety is overcome the threat of relapse in each moment. Mindfulness can help individuals be aware of their feelings and environment in order to stop triggers in their tracks.
Mindfulness in recovery can also be beneficial at preventing triggers in the first place. Starting out your day with a mindfulness strategy can help you to focus during the day and boost your mood, so small inconveniences or annoyances don’t become temptations to return to drugs or alcohol. A strong foundation can decrease the number of things that drive you to thoughts of substance use.
Mindfulness in recovery can be used as a preventative measure, but it can also be used in the heat of the moment. It’s likely that you’ll be encouraged to come up with coping strategies as part of your treatment (especially if your provider uses cognitive behavioral therapy as a framework). Any mindfulness activity also works as a coping strategy.
Easy mindfulness activities for adults
Check out these easy-to-try mindfulness activities for adults that take little to no training and minimal costs and equipment.
- Go for a walk
- Take a yoga class
- Try out a climbing gym
- Do a guided meditation (available on YouTube)
- Try out a spiritual practice like praying or reading a sacred text
- Spend time sitting outside and observing the nature around you
- Visit a garden
- Draw plants or animals that you see outside
- Listen to ocean sounds
- Take a bath
- Eat a meal slowly and without distractions (no phones or screens)
- Read a book
- Spend time near the water
- Go fishing
- Take a long bike ride
- Visit a new park
- Listen to a meditative podcast
- Listen to calm music, such as chants or instrumental music
- Learn a craft like sewing or pottery
These activities and others can help you learn how to engage with your senses in a positive way. Aim to tryout two or three each week for the next month, assessing each one as you go and sticking to the hobbies that are most fruitful.
Tips for mindfulness in recovery
Mindfulness in recovery may be completely new to you. Use these tips to keep your expectations realistic and your new strategies manageable.
1. Don’t expect results on day one
Learning and implementing mindfulness takes time and practice. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t feel Zen after your first meditation.
2. Commit a chunk of time each day
Repetition is the key to doing mindfulness well. The more consistent you are, the more consistent the results will be.
3. Try a variety of mindfulness activities for adults
Aim for a variety of mindfulness practices at first, using the above recommendations or by finding your own. Some strategies may work better than others, and some are more effective at different times.
4. Learn from others in recovery
Peers in treatment or people you meet at 12-step meetings are likely to have their own coping strategies, even if they don’t use the language of mindfulness. Ask what exercises they use to calm down, center themselves and refocus.
5. Prioritize professional treatment
Mindfulness in recovery is a useful tool, but alternative therapies like this are designed to supplement treatment, not serve as treatment.
Get the professional substance use recovery care you need with Silvermist Recovery. One-on-one care and a customized treatment plan will help you achieve the healing you need in a setting that makes you feel at home. Reach out for support today.