Mindfulness in Relapse Prevention
Learn how practicing mindfulness in relapse prevention benefits recovery and improves quality of life
Mindfulness in relapse prevention has become an integral part of cognitive therapy that patients receive in drug addiction treatment programs today. As noted in a 2014 study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, the definition of mindfulness is the awareness that emerges from paying attention on purpose and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience from moment to moment. It includes focused attention that allows individuals to notice when the mind wanders or disengages, so that they may redirect their focus onto what is desired and productive. Mindfulness also includes “open monitoring”, which is non-directed, non-reactive moment to moment of awareness of a whole experience. When used to help manage depression, which is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people of ages 15-44, mindfulness meditation programs produced moderate evidence of improved anxiety, depression, and pain in this study.
Mindfulness based relapse prevention exercises have been found to be effective when used to treat patients who suffer from addiction. Addiction is like major depression in that it is a chronic, relapsing condition. Mindfulness in relapse prevention offers benefits that have been reported by Psychology Today to include:
- Mindfulness based relapse prevention activities help decrease vicious cycles of anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, depression, guilt, regret and shame that cause many individuals in recovery to relapse.
- Longer recovery periods/fewer relapses are possible as a result of practicing the skill of “urge surfing”. This is the ability to recognize an urge or craving to use drugs or alcohol and not acting on the feeling until the feeling passes. This is an effective tool to learn for practicing mindfulness in relapse prevention. A recovering individual who is able to recognize an urge or craving and accept it while patiently waiting for it to pass, without acting on it or trying to suppress it, can eventually become more skilled in successfully riding the events out. Urges or cravings are like waves that rise, peak, and then subside. Most do not last longer than 15 to 20 minutes before they pass.
- Mindfulness based relapse prevention exercises enhance a person’s ability to cope with emotional distress.
- Mindfulness in relapse prevention helps improve the communicating ability of those who practice it.
Through active participation in mindfulness based relapse prevention exercises and mindfulness based relapse prevention activities, such as meditation, individuals in recovery can learn how to deal with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, physical sensations, and compulsions. When individuals remind themselves that these urges are only temporary, they can become more skillful in letting them pass, rather than obsessing on them, or trying to avoid or deny them. This is a healthier strategy that has been found to help people achieve progress in recovery.
The primary goals of mindfulness in relapse prevention include:
- To develop an awareness of personal triggers and habitual reactions and learn ways to pause and avoid reacting when confronted with them.
- Learning how to cope with discomfort and respond to stress in a more productive and skillful way rather than automatically engaging or countering negatively.
- Becoming a nonjudgmental individual who is kinder and more compassionate to his or her own self.
- Create a lifestyle that supports recovery as well as mindfulness based relapse prevention activities.
Mindfulness based relapse prevention exercises and mindfulness based relapse prevention activities are an essential component of after care treatment programs for individuals in recovery. The focus is on integrating mindfulness practices and principles with cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention. It has been found to be well suited for individuals who have been through initial treatment and wish to maintain their recovery and cultivate a lifestyle that supports it.
Learn more about mindfulness in relapse prevention and take a different, longer lasting approach to your recovery today.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.