The first article in this two-part series, 9 Ways Mindfulness Can Support Sober Living (Part One), discusses mindfulness and the ways that being mindful can support healing, growth, and sobriety. The first two of nine benefits of mindfulness, outlined by Dr. Daniel Siegel, were provided. This article includes the remaining seven of these benefits.
- Emotional Balance – For many, the emotional life can create chaos that could disrupt an otherwise average day. When emotions become too overwhelming or when they are entirely absent in life, mental illness might result. However, mindfulness can promote a healthy emotional balance that brings a sense of overall well being in life.
- Fear Extinction –The presence of fear is occasionally stimulated by a real trigger, and sometimes by an imagined one. For instance, those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder might re-experience a traumatic event, even though it is not happening in the present moment. However, mindfulness can unravel those inner triggers and help to extinguish the trigger of fear and anxiety. Mindfulness can help with unlearning fear to a particular stimulus.
- Response Flexibility – This is the term that Siegel uses to simply say that mindfulness can transform your reactions to responses. In other words, with mindful awareness, you will learn the ability to put a pause in between a trigger and a conditioned response. It’s a way of stopping before you react and instead, respond to that stimulus in a way you may not have before. This can be incredibly useful skill for recovering addicts.
- Insight – This is also known as self-knowing awareness. Siegel describes insight as the ability to explore memories of the past, along with memories of the present, and imagine how it might be in the future.
- Empathy – This is a skill that most therapists, counselors, and parents have. It’s the ability to place yourself within the inner landscape of another person. It’s not the same experience as attunement, which is more emotional in nature; rather it is the connection with another that takes into account his or her entire inner world – thoughts, ideas, attitudes. Mindfulness promotes our ability to be empathetic with others.
- Morality – This is the capacity for recognizing behavior that is for the good of the whole. It is not only the recognition of socially beneficial behavior, but also taking action. Siegel points out that many individuals know what is good for the community, family, or group, but when alone, he or she may not actually engage in this behavior. Mindfulness supports a growth in moral behavior and decision-making by not only stimulating the moral imagination but also facilitating moral behavior.
- Intuition – This is the ability to process information sourced from parts of the mind and/or body other than the thinking mind. A mindfulness practice helps to wake up these inner resources and opens us to receive intuitive information from other sources within.
You might see how these benefits can support sober living. In fact, a new study done at the University of California in San Diego and the Naval Health Research Center points to the benefits of using the practice of mindfulness to reduce stress in military personnel. Mental illnesses that the practice of meditation and mindfulness can help with are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and forms of anxiety. The study had Marines participate in an 8-week course on mindfulness, designed for those who perform in highly stressful environments, such as combat. The course included having Marines focus on parts of the body, becoming aware of parts that held tension, and learning ways for the body to balance itself.
Shifting your experience to the present moment, which is another way to describe becoming mindful, can be an incredibly healing practice. It can support stabilize your sober living experience, prevent relapses, and help you respond to triggers with presence and health.
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