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Mindfulness and Addiction – Overcoming Cravings and Decreasing Anxiety

We hear a lot about the importance of mindfulness from yoga instructors, therapists, and various online sources. Many people mistakenly associate mindfulness with eastern mysticism or new age philosophies and tend to disregard it. We continue to suffer from anxiety, depression, and hurriedness, but we are unsure of how to even begin practicing mindfulness, nor do we know what it entails.

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Thankfully, mindfulness is not a complicated practice, nor is there a right or wrong way to incorporate it into your day-to-day life. With the right tools and a positive attitude, we can all use mindfulness to help stay in the present moment, overcome cravings, and decrease anxiety.


What is Mindfulness?

According to experts, mindfulness is a form of meditation in which a person focuses on present feelings and sensations they are experiencing. The individual is not supposed to interpret those feelings or sensations but simply acknowledge them. To practice mindfulness, one must use certain breathwork exercises, guided imagery, and relaxation techniques.


The goal of mindfulness is to remain longer and longer in the present moment rather than worry about the past or the future. As a result, of regularly practicing mindfulness, we can expect decreased anxiety, better control over our emotions, and a greater perspective over our circumstances.


There are 7 principles of mindfulness. Knowing these will help you understand what to expect so you can make improvements in your practice as time goes on.


· Lack of Judgement – We must not judge our feelings or sensations while meditating.

· Patience – Mindfulness requires patience, which is a form of wisdom.

· Novice’s Mind – Humility and open-mindedness enable us to be receptive to learning new things about ourselves and others.

· Trusting Attitude – Ability to embrace trust for ourselves and any subsequent emotions we may have.

· Acceptance – An acceptance of any new insights, shortcomings, feelings, or fears during mindfulness practice.

· Ability to Let Go – A willing attitude to let go of other future and past circumstances that may inhibit our practice.


Mindfulness, Cravings, and Anxiety

Those who suffer from anxiety disorders, addictions, or depression are frequently encouraged to practice mindfulness. Staying in the present moment is difficult for most people, particularly in the distractive, busy world we live in. Those with anxiety or addictions are not used to slowing down and savoring each moment.


You don’t need to meditate a certain way or be in a certain position to practice mindfulness. It is a tool we can use throughout the day whenever we feel a craving come on or a fearful thought approaching. We can simply close our eyes for a few minutes, take some deep breaths in, tense and relax our shoulders, and focus on the sounds and feelings we experience or hear. Just a few minutes of doing this enables us to overcome negative thinking patterns and accept our body’s weaknesses without acting on them.


For those with addictions, mindfulness can help change how we relate to the drug or bad habits that we crave. According to one researcher, “Mindfulness can decouple pleasant and unpleasant experiences from habitual reactions of craving and aversion by removing the affective bias that fuels such emotive reactivity.” Unlike other craving mitigation strategies that focus on action, mindfulness can help eliminate the negative cycle that starts in our brain. Studies show that this practice, like hypnosis, has been particularly successful for those who are trying to quit smoking because it gets to the root of the negative thinking cycle by putting us back in the present moment, simply accepting (but not acting on) our negative feelings.


Thankfully, most therapists are well versed in mindfulness practices and encourage their patients to research and partake in them. If you or someone you know are struggling with anxiousness, anxiety, or depression, find a therapist who can help incorporate mindfulness into your treatment plan.


Do you or someone you know to struggle with anxiety, depression, or addiction? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.

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