Combating addiction has always been one of the hardest things to face. Addiction often forces people to look for solutions in any place that they can. However, emerging research may suggest that mindfulness, something few people view as a cure for addiction, may be a powerful way to combat addiction. While mindfulness may sound like a vague concept to some, the science is clear that mindfulness can be a crucial tool to successfully battling addiction.
What Is Mindfulness?
According to Dr. Elizabeth Hartney, a former senior lecturer in psychology and counseling at the University of Greenwich in the United Kingdom, “Mindfulness is a state of mental awareness and focuses that have been traditionally used in meditation practices, and has recently become popular as an element of certain types of cognitive behavioral therapy, such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectic Behavior Therapy.” Such mindfulness most commonly involves mental focus that allows individuals to increase their awareness of their sensations, surroundings and internal thoughts.
Mindfulness is divided into three separate elements which work together. As explained by Pinnacle Treatment Centers, “Mindfulness practices, in general, focus on three primary things: awareness, disengagement and perception.” Pinnacle further notes that these elements involve developing awareness of one’s surroundings and sensations, learning to disengage from some of those sensations and learning to then experience the world without those sensations clouding your perception. By using all three of these together, one can achieve a state of mindfulness, enhancing their situational awareness and viewing the world without the interference of strong emotions or desires.
How Does Mindfulness Help Combat Addiction?
Mindfulness increases awareness and perception can allow those suffering from addiction to identify and adjust the behavior which enables their addiction. The methodology of creating mindfulness to combat addiction, according to Pinnacle, is training individuals to recognize environmental facts that facilitate their addiction, disengaging from emotions that drive them to their addiction and making rational decisions to accomplish their recovery goals. Thus, by incorporating mindfulness training into addiction treatment, those struggling with addictions can positively change their behavior by becoming more mindful.
Mindfulness’s positive impact on addicts seeking to change their behavior has already been scientifically documented. According to a review of clinical research regarding mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) from Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, “Studies indicate that MBIs reduce substance misuse and craving by modulating cognitive, affective and psychophysiological processes integral to self-regulation and reward processing.”
The science is precise; people suffering from addiction can rewire their brains to avoid addiction-based behavior through incorporating mindfulness. One such method of mindfulness-based intervention that can be particularly helpful for people suffering from addiction is Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP).
How Does Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) Work?
MBRP seeks to apply the principles of mindfulness to behavior in order to stop former addicts from relapsing into their addictions. As noted by Dr. Hartney, it has the following components:
- Automatic pilot and relapse
- Awareness of triggers and cravings
- Mindfulness in daily life and high-risk situations
- Acceptance of whatever is happening and acting skillfully
- The role of thoughts in relapse
- Taking care of yourself as part of a healthy lifestyle
- Social support and keeping your mindfulness practice going
By utilizing these methods of MBRP, one can not only escape addiction through mindfulness-based intervention but also avoid a relapse by applying similar principles. This is because MBRP, like MBI, utilizes the connection between thought and behavior to help you regulate your behavior by becoming more aware and controlling your thoughts.
How Does Mindfulness Compare to Other Methods of Combating Addiction?
According to experts, mindfulness, particularly MBRP, may be more effective than other methods of combating addiction. As noted by The Greater Good Science Center, quoting James Davis, an MBRP researcher at Duke University, “…mindfulness is likely an effective tool in helping people with addiction because it’s a single, simple skill that a person can practice multiple times throughout their day, every day, regardless of the life challenges that arise.”
Mindfulness can be more applicable because, unlike other methods of combating addiction, you can practice being mindful at any time and in any place. Mindfulness is a form of thinking that teaches you to recognize a connection between your environment, feelings and behaviors. While some other forms of treating addictions may only be in place to cleanse someone of their addiction, mindfulness can stay with someone for a lifetime.
A Parting Reminder
Ultimately, mindfulness-based intervention and relapse prevention are invaluable weapons in a person’s battle against addiction. Addiction is primarily a behavioral problem. Thus, it is no surprise that by teaching people to identify the underlying causes of their behavior, they can learn to combat the tendencies that lead them toward their addiction.
Mindfulness may be a new method of combating addiction, but according to science, it may be one of the most effective.
Luke Argue is a junior in the government department at Patrick Henry College. Aside from writing, Luke enjoys playing volleyball, reading about foreign affairs, and studying world cultures and religions.