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How Mindfulness Benefits The Recovery Process


If the practice of mindfulness is new to you, it is at its essence the idea of being completely present and aware of your thoughts, it encourages you to observe and identify before you react or evoke emotion. Modern tendencies have leaned towards impulsive and emotionally charged decision-making, which could otherwise often be avoided. As we know, substance use and the recovery journey is all about strengthening our self-control, managing cravings and impulses, and addressing underlying mental illnesses. Mindfulness has a range of benefits that can make your recovery journey more effective and resilient with time.

The team at Pacifica Treatment Centre is dedicated to helping you throughout your entire recovery. We offer pre-admission, in-residence, and continuing care programs to ensure that we can offer assistance at any point during your recovery process. Another mission of ours is to provide community members with helpful resources and information to help guide them.

Click here to learn more about Pacifica’s in-residence program

Mindfulness is the Opposite of Avoidance

Avoidance can be appealing in the short term because it appears to solve your problems or help dull the feelings associated with them. Substance use can originate as a means to mask pain, dull trauma or escape grief. However, this escape is very short-lived, it does not solve the underlying problem and will leave you in worse physical and mental health than when you started.

Mindfulness is about acceptance, identifying and facing problems head-on. You will train yourself to accept experiences instead of trying to escape them. By learning acceptance, you can begin working to process the emotions or trauma that are limiting your recovery success and prevent them from rearing up again down the road.

Mindfulness Helps Reduce Stress

Stress is extraordinarily powerful in the ways it affects the human body. Persistently high levels of stress can cause pain, anxiety, trigger cravings, and result in physical deterioration when stress becomes chronic.

Sudden periods of intense stress may be noticeable, however, persistent stress can occur in a much more subtle way. If every day is stressful, it begins to feel like the new normal. You might not realize you are more tense and irritable than you normally are until someone points it out to you. This is where mindfulness can help:

  1. Interrupting Stress Cycles: mindfulness meditation requires you to set aside time in your day, free of distractions, noise, and other disturbances. You focus on breathing and centering your mind, allowing anxiety and ruminating thoughts to fade. Think of this as ‘catching your breath’ for your mental health.
  2. Physical Relaxation: Mindfulness, control of your breathing and consciously relaxing of the body is an excellent way to relieve bodily tension. You often have no idea how tense you are until you use your mind to systematically relax each muscle of the body. This helps you strengthen your mind-to-muscle connection and reinforces your self-control and self-awareness.

Mindfulness Reduces the Recurrence of Depression

Studies indicate at least half of those who seek treatment for a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) will also have a co-occurring mental illness; most commonly depression and anxiety disorders. Mindfulness helps with depression because there is an emphasis on being present and not dwelling on your past. Painful memories can be identified, acknowledged and validated so that they do not continue to weigh on your mind and burden you.

Other studies have found that mindfulness can reduce the risk of recurrence of major depression. Studies involving Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) showed that those in recovery were less likely to relapse, while also experiencing a decrease in depressive and comorbid symptoms and a general increase in quality of life, when compared to Treatment-as-usual (TAU) and medication-alone treatment modalities.

Learn How to Respond Instead of React

A large portion of the recovery process is learning to overcome the ingrained pattern of conditioned reactions. Persistent substance use gradually impacts your decision-making process and will cause you to react reflexively to stimuli associated with drugs and alcohol. However, by staying dedicated to mindfulness therapy, a person can retrain and strengthen the areas of the brain responsible for decision-making and control.

A collection of studies spanning a decade or more have shown that the nervous system has the capacity for plasticity, and the structure of the brain can change as a result of routine training. It is generally acknowledged an increase in gray matter results from repeated activation of that specific region of the brain during meditation. Mindfulness-based therapy leads to improvements in psychological health and well-being.

Mindfulness Encourages Compassion

Compassion is important in recovery for two main reasons. First, it helps you connect with other people, including those also in recovery. Having a strong support system, with a sense of community and belonging is one of the strongest predictors for success in recovery.

Mindfulness helps people resist the urge to be critical or possibly judge others, altering their self-perception. Instead of viewing others and thinking “I’m not like the other people here” you can learn to have compassion for your peers.

The other side of compassion is learning to be compassionate towards yourself. The recovery journey can unearth a wide array of emotions including shame and guilt. Self-compassion will help you manage these emotions while also improving how you speak to and offer yourself forgiveness.

Mindfulness Meditation and Integrative Wellness at Pacifica

Mindfulness has earned its place among many other therapies included in the recovery program at Pacifica Treatment Centre. Other activities may include Yoga, Creative Arts Therapy, Acupuncture, Reiki Energy Healing, and more.

Each of these therapies plays an important role in your recovery journey, each offering its own unique benefits. Wellness programming is varied and takes into consideration the principles of equity, diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. Activities may align with personal goals and can be directly connected to your established care plan.

Click here to learn more about Pacifica’s in-residence program

Substance Use Recovery Programs Available in Vancouver, BC

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use, reach out to the team at Pacifica Treatment Centre to learn more. Pacifica provides in-residence treatment and community-based services for individuals experiencing problematic substance use, in conjunction with concurrent mental health concerns and trauma.

To learn more about our programs or to take the first step toward recovery, call 1-866-446-0668 (24hrs) or schedule an appointment online today!

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