9 Ways Mindfulness Can Support Sober Living (Part Two)

9 Ways Mindfulness Can Support Sober Living (Part Two) | Transcend Recovery Community

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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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9 Ways Mindfulness Can Support Sober Living (Part One)

9 Ways Mindfulness Can Support Sober Living (Part One) | Transcend Recovery Community

There are many reasons behind how an addiction develops. Perhaps you were reaching for something in drugs you never got from your parents. Perhaps you were trying find something in the highs of drinking that doesn’t exist elsewhere in your life. Or maybe the drugs and drinking was a way to handle the pains and heaviness of life. Whatever the reason, mindfulness can bring to you what you might have been looking for in drinking and drugs.

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming conscious of your internal and external environment. It is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting the existing feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and surrounding activity. Recent research on mindfulness suggests that it can be incredibly healing and restorative. For this reason, many psychologists, drug counselors, and sober living homes are beginning to incorporate mindfulness into their healing programs.

Daniel Siegel, Director of The Mindsight Institute at UCLA and author of the book, The Mindful Brain, has been studying the effects of meditation on the brain for over 20 years. He has come to recognize that meditation and mindful awareness can alter brain function, mental activity, and interpersonal relationships. More importantly, Siegel has used mindfulness with his patients suffering from various mental illnesses, including addiction and other forms of stress.

Essentially, he uncovered that mindfulness practice could help those parts of the brain that regulate mood to grow and strengthen, stabilizing the mind and enabling his patients to achieve emotional equilibrium and resilience. Mindful awareness, wrote Siegel, in his book Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, can directly stimulate the growth of those clusters of neurons called the resonance circuits, which enable resonance with others and self-regulation of moods. These are key emotional skills for recovering addicts who are in sober living.

In an article Daniel Siegel wrote for the journal, The Humanistic Psychologist, he outlines 9 benefits, of many, that an individual might experience when practicing mindful awareness. They are listed below.

  1. Body Regulation – When the body is stressed, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system becomes activated and the flight/fight system in the brain is turned on. However, mindfulness turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to bring the body back in balance. The heart rate slows down, breathing becomes long and slow, and muscles in the body relax. This can be incredibly important for recovering addicts who are in sober living. Many addictions develop because of a learned pattern to turn to drinking or drugs when stress is high. However, learning to relax the body instead is a much healthier way to cope with stress.
  2. Attuned Communication – The kind of bond that a mother has with her child is experienced through attuned communication. However, this sort of connection with another human being doesn’t just happen between mother and child; it can also happen between friends meeting for coffee or a couple out on a date. Attuned communication is when two human beings feel as though they are a part of one resonating whole. You might even feel this sort of connection with a stranger, if you look into their eyes, and tune into who they are. Siegel points out in his article that attunement has been a part of every culture around the world and is a part of healthy relationships, particularly between children and their caregivers. Tumultuous relationships in childhood might be another contributor to addiction. Learning how to have healthy, attuned relationships can support sobriety and even prevent relapse.

As Siegel noted, mindfulness can directly stimulate the growth neurons, which enable resonance with others and self-regulation of moods. Experiencing deeper connections with oneself and others can significantly support sobriety. This article began a list of benefits that mindfulness can bring to a recovery addict who is in sober living. The second article in this series will continue this list of benefits.


If you are reading this on any blog other than Transcend Recovery Community
or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert
Come and visit our blog at http://TranscendRecoveryCommunity.com/blog