Mindfulness Techniques for Maintaining Sobriety
Addiction recovery is definitely difficult, but there are ways to make it slightly easier. These mindfulness techniques can help you maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.
Maintaining sobriety after completing treatment can seem daunting. Luckily there are many techniques you can use to help yourself stay on the path of recovery. Understanding how to use mindfulness in your aftercare strategy can help ease the worry of a relapse and keep you on track.
Mindfulness has made its way into mainstream culture as a broad concept used to increase quality of life. Mindfulness is paying attention to what is going on within and around you. It is turning off the autopilot. When we aren’t paying attention, it’s amazing how quickly thoughts lead from one to another, and then to action – a process that we are rarely ever aware of. Being mindful helps slow this process, teaches us to pause, and allows us to make more conscious choices – imperative in relapse prevention.
But how do we become more mindful? Here are a few techniques to help you experience the benefits of mindfulness in your recovery.
1. Mindfulness Meditation.
To practice simple mindfulness meditation first slowly bring your awareness to your breath. Feel the sensations of air coming in and out of your lungs. When your minds wanders notice the thought, as you would notice a fly buzzing around, and then bring your attention back to your breathing. Try not to judge your thoughts as “good” or “bad” when they come, but make note of our tendency to do this. At first, attempt this exercise for 60 seconds, over time you can practise for longer and longer periods. Mindfulness helps us accept discomfort, and teaches us ways to name, experience, and let go of feelings in the present without judging them. “Urge Surfing” is a technique using mindfulness meditation specifically to help ride out cravings.
2. When Eating Just Eat.
Part of mindfulness is developing awareness of all five senses. We often try to busy our minds, or multitask while we eat. Try this technique at first for a few bites at the beginning of each meal. Attempt to focus your attention on all the sensations surrounding the food you are eating – the textures, smells, colours, tastes. Try setting down your fork or spoon between each bite. We can be so busy shovelling food onto the utensil for the next bite that we don’t taste the food in our mouths. Eating mindfully helps us resist the tendency to replace one compulsive behaviour with another. It usually equates to eating less. It may also improve mood and energy levels – which in turn helps you stay positive about your recovery process.
3. Make a Daily Gratitude List.
Each night make a list of 5 things you are grateful for, no matter how big or small. According to Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, cultivating gratitude in our lives helps us become more mindful, and cultivating mindful awareness can help us become more grateful. At first it may be helpful to focus on what you are grateful for in relation to sobriety as a reminder of the positive influence it has on your life. Eventually you may even be able to express gratitude for a wide range of experiences, not just those that are pleasant.
At The Cabin mindfulness therapy is one of four core treatment components, along with CBT, 12 Steps, and 3 Circles. Building a core of mindfulness skills can be an essential tool as you extend your sobriety beyond the treatment centre.