Mindfulness for Addiction Treatment

Published On: March 4, 2021

Mindfulness is a type of meditation and involves being fully at the moment or present. Rather than thinking about next week, or being fixated on the past, mindfulness involves staying in the present, and this takes practice.

If you are going through some turbulent times in your life and experiencing unpleasant thoughts and anxiety it is a good time to begin mindfulness, as it will ultimately reduce stress levels, but it does take practice and time.

There are some signs and symptoms that indicate that mindfulness can help you, and we will explore them today.

When Mindfulness can Help

Below, we outline the various circumstances when mindfulness can help:

  • You are struggling with anxiety
  • If you are being treated for addiction mindfulness can refocus you, and help your treatment
  • It will help you to be kinder to yourself
  • You are trying to build stronger relationships with family, and you are focusing on negative emotions
  • You feel stressed
  • You may be trying to control overeating

If you are suffering from behaviours that are damaging your mental and physical health, an example is in alcoholism where the 12-step programme actually incorporates a lot of mindfulness practices, then learning mindfulness can help you, but it does need to be taught by a health professional.

The History of Mindfulness for Addiction Recovery

Mindfulness was first practised in the USA in the early 1980s and originally used to assist drug and alcohol users to recover from their addiction. Our brains move forward to the next thing to focus on, and mindfulness trains the person to slow the mind and to stay at the moment.

Once this happens we are more able to examine what we are thinking about, and how it relates to what is happening in our lives. Of course, this is almost a form of meditation and is helpful in examining thoughts.

People are quick to judge, and sometimes slowing down the process through mindfulness leads to better decision-making. Not all quick judgments are poor judgments, but in certain situations, it is important to have the time to examine them.

Mindfulness is derived from Buddhism and ancient meditation practices, based in religion, and still practised daily by Buddhist Monks like the Dalai Llama.

How to Incorporate Mindfulness into Daily Living

Below, we offer some tips to help you incorporate mindfulness into your daily life:

  • Pay attention by taking time to notice what is around you. Focus on slowing down, try to enjoy what you are experiencing
  • Focus on the moment, the here and now. Don’t dwell in the past or look to the future too much. Be present, not just for yourself, being present and attending is really important as a parent with small children and you will relate much better to them if you are at the moment with them
  • Practice mindfulness meditation, it does take practice, listening to music can help, as do some household chores
  • Try to quieten your inner voice, and observe your thoughts without judgment.
  • Make mindfulness a way of life

Conditions Where Mindfulness can Help

Below, we outline various health conditions that may be eased by practising mindfulness:

  1. Anxiety, in giving us respite from stressful thoughts, and helping to gain a new perspective.
  2. Depression, mindfulness can help us to stop dwelling on negative things.
  3. Helps to deal with relationship stress and conflict-based relationship issues.
  4. Eating Disorders, mindfulness can help to control binge-eating.
  5. Alcohol and Drug addiction recovery.
  6. Managing Stress can help in the management of terminal illness and life-threatening illness, by improving psychological health. Practising mindfulness gives these patients a more positive outlook.
  7. Incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives.

Mindfulness in Drug and Alcohol Recovery

You may not realise it, but mindfulness is incorporated into most forms of Alcohol and Drug Rehab. It focuses on being kinder to yourself and looking at facts without judgment ( the 12 steps in alcohol recovery look at this model).

Once your levels of attention improve, you begin to understand your triggers for drug or alcohol abuse, and can then avoid them in the future. The programme goes on to empower addicts by understanding automatic thought patterns.

When a ‘craving’ starts to arise, the recovering addict is taught how to observe the feelings instead of acting on addictive behaviours.

Tips for Incorporating Mindfulness

To learn mindfulness try the following:

  • Use a mindfulness app to give you information
  • Focus on one thing at a time
  • Go outdoors for a walk
  • Accept yourself and treat yourself kindly

Downside of Mindfulness

Mindfulness has many benefits, but for some people, there may be a downside.

If you are suffering from an acute mental illness, it is not a good idea to practice mindfulness without first consulting your Psychiatrist, as in some people it causes increased anxiety or depression.

Mindfulness used as therapy and practised by a health professional is likely to have a better outcome.

Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness is being aware of ‘some thing’, while meditation is the awareness of ‘no thing’. Six ways to ways to practice mindfulness now.

  1. Stop what you are doing and take a breath, focus on breathing
  2. Put down your mobile phone
  3. Stop doing two things at once
  4. Focus on the here and now
  5. Go outside focus on the flowers
  6. Find mindfulness when doing day-to-day tasks

Mindfulness Treatment

When in a treatment setting, recovering from substance abuse, a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness is often used. Mindfulness can be difficult for some people to practice on their own, so it is important to try to do it every day to get used to it.

When you are mindful you have an inner experience and are still aware of your external surroundings. You do need the self-discipline to focus on the present moment but once you master the technique, you will be able to continue to practice.

Once you get used to it you will feel better, as you are not rushing from activity to activity. By quietening your mind you can achieve a feeling of tranquillity and this is a reason many people smoke marijuana to feel calm, it surprises people that they can achieve the same effect from mindfulness.

Another way that you will feel better following mindfulness is you will experience heightened sensory experiences, making you less likely to seek addictive behaviours.

Another benefit is that you begin to understand your own reactions better, and will realize the trigger factors that cause you to engage in addictive behaviour.

Treating Borderline Personality Disorder with Mindfulness

Women who suffer from substance abuse issues often have borderline personality disorders, and mindfulness helps their recovery by basically teaching them to think about what they are doing and to be kinder to themselves.

People with borderline personality disorders usually have an unstable self-image and a strong fear of rejection as well as being extremely impulsive. So for both women and sometimes for men mindfulness is a very useful technique to learn, especially to deal with self-destructive often addictive behaviour.

If we can steer these people away from engaging in destructive addictive behaviours they can lead a highly productive, and happy life.

Mindfulness for at Risk Teenagers

At-risk teens have more obstacles than normal teens, and not only are they at-risk of substance abuse, but are often financially disadvantaged as well.

Learning awareness and acceptance through mindfulness has helped them to overcome some of these obstacles. Many of the kids have learning difficulties as well as behavioural challenges, and some are known to the legal system.

The hardest thing with these young people is to initially build trust, but once you have done that they are easier to work with. Because mindfulness is partly about not judging yourself, they seem able to learn to do it quite easily, and the fact that you talk about not worrying about the future is highly favourable to this group.

One of their greatest and often hidden worries is about the future. When you fail to perform well at school this is constantly drilled into you, so it is not surprising that they are worried.

Mindfulness worked really well for this group and 9-10 mastered the techniques quite easily.


Mindfulness for addictive behaviour seems to work well across all age groups from teens up. Mindfulness brings peace through simple practices and will actually result in those who practice it leading happier more fulfilling lives.

It makes sense that when used in treating addictive disorders it works just as well, as addictive behaviours are often based on negative thought patterns and trying to feel better about ourselves through ‘altered states’ from drug use.

Once mindfulness is learned it will always be a useful tool to combat future possible risks that can assail us unexpectedly.

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