Mindfulness has been used for millennia to foster self-awareness. The idea of mindfulness is that recognizing internal and external influences on negative emotions and behaviors gives a person the tools to deal with them rationally. There is an increased interest in mindfulness-based recovery treatments, especially for the youth population. Mindfulness-based programs have already been successfully implemented in school settings. The implications for its success in addiction recovery are promising.
Uses for Mindfulness in Recovery
There is some hesitation in accepting mindfulness as a legitimate treatment for addiction. Even those in recovery are left to wonder how it can help them. Fortunately, research shows that the skills learned in mindfulness-based exercises are long-term and quite real. It can be substantially useful in relapse prevention because it helps deal with urges. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is an emerging treatment focused on preventing relapse post-treatment.
Skills learned from practicing mindfulness can include:
- Observation – paying attention to their environment and feelings
- Description – gaining the ability to describe and recognize their feelings
- Participation – taking control of their choices
- Taking a nonjudgmental stance – accepting what is instead of dwelling on what could be
- Focusing on the moment to moment – living in the moment helps deal with urges
- Effectiveness – learning what works best for you and doing those things without second-guessing
Mindfulness helps children become aware when they are acting on auto-pilot; using trait-based tendencies on impulse. They are aware of their behaviors and how they are impacting themselves and others. This is part of the skill of observation. Mindfulness also teaches them that their choices are theirs and they are active participants in their lives. This gives them the self-confidence to make decisions regarding their well-being without doubting themselves. These are all skills that will follow them into adult life and can only benefit them in the long run.
Techniques for Mindfulness-based Treatments
There are a few different techniques that can be used to practice mindfulness. These are not one size fits all, so they should be applied with discretion. The most well-known is traditional meditation. This involves sitting in a peaceful place, in a comfortable position, with the eyes closed. The person focuses on their breathing and completely relaxes their body. This is definitely a cornerstone of mindfulness exercises, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everyone. Many people find it hard to focus on their breathing and issues like anxiety or panic can prevent the relaxation they need. It’s important to find what works best for an individual.
Yoga has grown in popularity for several uses in the past decade. It’s an exercise that allows an individual to stretch their body and practice breathing exercises. This type of deep stretching and breathing is another form of meditation. This is why yoga is such a valuable tool for those who practice it. In recovery, children need to learn that self-care is important, not just on an emotional level, but on a physical level, as well. Yoga seems to be an exercise that a majority of kids can take part in, unless they have physical limitations. Again, this is not a one-size-fits-all technique.
Practicing stillness may be the easiest mindfulness technique, because it’s simply taking a moment to be still and experience one’s surroundings. This is a perfect exercise to do in nature or somewhere a person finds peaceful. Stillness can be something as simple as watching the sunrise or birds in flight through the sky. It provides a moment of silent reflection and an opportunity to reconnect with what it feels like to experience life. These are just a few of the techniques to introduce into treatment for adolescents and teens. There are many resources available for those interested in incorporating them into their treatment curriculum.
Supporting Mindfulness in Recovery
Professionals are the first line of support a child will likely receive in recovery. It’s vital to foster an environment where children feel comfortable enough to become self-aware. It is a practice that can make them feel very vulnerable, and that feeling can lend itself to harmful urges. Thus, engaging in mindfulness techniques with a child helps build a relationship of trust. Children are also prone to learning through example and not instruction. To see a professional use the same techniques gives credence to their efficacy. It also helps promote acceptance and a non-judgmental attitude.
Children typically don’t appreciate feeling as if they are the only ones experiencing what they feel. It’s important that they are met with compassion and empathy. Helping them realize that many people struggle through life and they can succeed in recovery is essential. Furthermore, teaching them self-empathy and loving compassion will help them develop ways to better manage their feelings. It promotes self-care which is just as critical in recovery as treatment.
The bottom line is that children will have to learn a completely different lifestyle and perhaps find a completely different set of friends while in recovery. This can be incredibly stressful, almost earth-shattering for many kids. The structure they are used to is gone and again, they may feel vulnerable. Supporting their recovery with mindfulness exercises will help them deal with these situations not only in recovery, but all facets of life.
Mindfulness practices can be extremely beneficial for adolescents in recovery. At Sustain Recovery, we often utilize this type of therapy to help youths recover from addiction and lead happier, healthier lives.
Contact us today at (949) 407-9052 to learn more.