Mindfulness in addiction recovery and treatment
By Jessica Kantor
The Power of Unplugging
Imagine a day without distractions. Or rather, imagine a day where distractions empowered you instead of throwing you off course. Imagine a day where you get to experience breathing in a new way. A day where every taste, touch, sound can be not only a reminder of yourself but a drive to accomplish what you’ve been procrastinating.
This sounds like something out of a book; or rather, something out of a pharmacological ad booklet.
This is meditation and mindfulness. This is what #NationalDayofUnplugging strives to share with those who have the courage to participate. Classically, #NationalDayofUnplugging is for taking time away from electronics: phones, social media, games, etc. and lending that time to things that you love: family, dancing, eating, etc. With 2017 already shaping up to be a stressful continuance of 2016, it’s time to change the game and add relaxation into the mix.
“So often we spend our moments planning or preparing for or worrying about the next moment, instead of living fully in the moment we’re in — which is essentially the only one we have,” says Meghan O’Connor, M.Ed., NCC. “So if we live our lives this way, we end up missing quite literally everything. That’s something I try to remind myself about a lot.”
O’Connor is the Experiential Therapist at Oxford Treatment Center in Mississippi. She leads mindfulness groups with clients that deal with the disease of addiction. For her clients, cutting out the electronics is easy, they’re already not allowed at the center. It is the focus and isolating of thoughts and senses that poses a problem for many that she teaches.
“In active addiction, people lose that mind-body connection, or even intentionally try to disconnect by seeking the feeling of being out of your body. So we do exercises that help rebuild that connection,” says O’Connor.
Mindfulness as Addiction Recovery
Meditation and mindfulness is not just to be utilized by those seeking treatment. Linsey Adams, CCTP, CADC-I, CAMS-II, CDVS-I, RADT, works at a treatment center in Nevada, Solutions Recovery. She not only teaches meditation and mindfulness to clients but also to behavioral healthcare professionals in the community. She also practices it on a daily basis.
“Meditation and mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head and your surroundings at any given time,” says Adams. “Being aware of these thoughts, feelings, actions and not letting yourself get carried away by them.”
Adams was recovering from a brain injury when she discovered meditation and mindfulness. It not only helped her recover but kick started her career to where she is now.
“Your brain and body go through many changes when you starting practicing. You have less stress, you can sleep better, your brain has more grey matter, your mental and emotional health mends…The list goes on and on,” exclaims Adams.
How do you start?
While one day of unplugging and practicing mindfulness and meditation may not get you a PhD by tomorrow, it is one step in the right direction. “Taking a day to ‘unplug’ and be mindful is a form of self-care, which everyone needs to do.”
Now, your first thought to ‘unplug’ is to sit on the couch and read a book, which sounds lovely, but it takes more than that.
“Among the simple things I like to suggest is watching the steam dissipate above your cup of tea or coffee,” says O’Connor. “Not thinking about anything or just letting other thoughts come in and out, and hanging your concentration on what you’re seeing.”
Adams teaches that there are multiple types of ways to be mindful and meditate. Whether it’s recognizing exactly how you’re feeling in a given moment and making a conscious decision to keep that feeling or change it. You can focus on your breathing for 5 minutes or an hour – Focusing on the inhales and exhales and bringing your mind back to your breath every time you get distracted, “Which will happen!” laughs Adams.
“Even if you just take 30 seconds to be very intentional about noticing the colors or shadows around you, or take 30 seconds to close your eyes and just notice everything you hear,” says O’Connor. “It doesn’t have to be an hour of sitting in silence. There are tiny, quick things we can do throughout the day that help us live more mindfully.”
March 3, 2017 is #NationalDayofUnplugging – but you can practice meditation and mindfulness starting today. For more information, look online; there are a variety of websites that teach how to practice and why it is utilized by millions. The health benefits, mentally and physically, could change your life in the most surprising of ways.