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Embracing Mindfulness and Meditation in Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

The success of long-term sobriety greatly depends on the person’s mindset and level of motivation. Through mindfulness and meditation, recovering individuals learn to detach themselves from negative thoughts and emotions and focus on the present moment. 

Incorporating mindfulness and meditation in sobriety is helpful for people looking for ways to prevent relapse. This article explores the positive impacts of mindfulness and its various techniques.

What is Mindfulness?

The American Psychological Association defines mindfulness as an awareness of one’s internal and external environments. Through mindfulness, people may learn to avoid destructive behaviors and responses by examining their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without negative reactions or judgment. Mindfulness-based approaches to therapy are becoming increasingly popular nowadays. Some of these approaches include mindfulness meditation, mindfulness-based relapse prevention, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy.

Exploring the Benefits of Mindfulness: Practice, State, & Trait

People have the tendency to worry excessively over past or future events, which may lead to persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety. In such cases, mindfulness is a great coping tool since it involves paying attention to the present rather than dwelling on the past or future. It teaches people to accept their situations, stop judging themselves and others, and be grateful for every moment.

Although the method has its origins in Buddhism and meditation, one does not need to be religious or hold certain views to practice it. Mindfulness techniques are now applied to a range of physical disciplines, such as yoga and tai chi. They have also emerged as a pivotal, holistic approach for treating various medical issues, from depression and anxiety to trauma and substance abuse.

Mindfulness can help enhance skills like non-judgment, grounding techniques, observation, active participation, and effective communication. It may also be used to develop and maintain various behavioral and cognitive skills. Research shows that mindfulness-based therapy effectively lowers stress levels and modifies the emotional and cognitive processes that contribute to a wide range of clinical problems.

There are certain steps involved in developing mindfulness, some of which occur in clinical practice settings. Suppose someone is experiencing an upwelling of negative emotions. The first thing their therapist might instruct them to do is to let them focus on their breathing. That person then centers their attention on tangible objects that surround them, such as the chair, wall color, or their therapist’s clothing.

Staying grounded is essential in order to keep one’s emotions under control and recognize that no matter how overwhelming the negative emotions may be, they are only temporary. When a person feels grounded and in charge of their situation, they learn to accept that their thoughts are just thoughts. They are there momentarily like background noise people usually disregard.

It might not always be easy to care for yourself; this is where Design for Recovery steps in. Call us today at (424) 327-4614 to find out more.

The Positive Impact of Mindfulness on Addiction Recovery

People start using drugs for various reasons, but many eventually develop an addiction because they feel lonely, disconnected, or isolated. When someone’s loved ones are negatively affected by their substance abuse, they may experience guilt and shame long after they have stopped using. The painful feelings of guilt and shame can be worked through through mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness helps them cope with negative emotions and prevent relapse, making it a useful tool in addiction recovery. It allows people to sit with their discomfort brought on by drug cravings, which in turn slows down their automatic response to the use of addictive substances. 

Mindfulness teaches recovering individuals to recognize the warning signs of relapse. By being aware of these warning signs, the person can seek help from a therapist or support group and lessen the likelihood of relapsing.

Since substance abuse alters the brain’s pathways to stimulate drug-seeking behavior, mindfulness in addiction recovery focuses on reversing this behavior. The elements of mindfulness, such as acceptance and non-judgment, are helpful in fostering constructive mental and emotional changes.

Furthermore, research on mindfulness has discovered the following benefits:

  • Decreased stress

  • Less emotional reactivity

  • Improvements to working memory

  • Increased focus

  • Reduced rumination

  • Relationship satisfaction

  • Cognitive flexibility

  • Improved self-awareness

  • Improved self-esteem

  • Enhanced spiritual enlightenment

Mindfulness meditation has also been linked to several positive emotions and health outcomes, such as enhanced immunological function, improved well-being, and decreased psychological distress. On top of that, research suggests that regular mindfulness meditation practice can boost cognitive processing speed and develop greater self-awareness.

Integrating Mindfulness into Daily Life for Sobriety

Mindfulness is useful for everyone, whether or not they have an addiction. A person may begin the practice of mindfulness at any point along their recovery journey. Even if they have never done so, they can easily learn to practice it.

The actual act of practicing mindfulness can be accomplished in as little as a few minutes every day. A single session may help, but maintaining a habit on a regular basis is more likely to yield positive results. Here are the basic steps for integrating mindfulness into daily life:

  1. Find Time. People who practice mindfulness as part of their addiction treatment routine try to incorporate these practices into their daily lives whenever possible. One may cultivate mindfulness in the morning, when they may find more confidence and energy to start their day. They may also meditate during work or school breaks or at bedtime to help them settle their mind, gain internal peace, and fall asleep easily.

  2. Be Present. Practicing mindfulness means focusing on the present moment. A person focusing on the present can help avoid letting their mind wander into negative thoughts. Mindfulness techniques also allow them to tune out the world around them and are helpful when one is feeling pressured, anxious, or overwhelmed. They may look at the things in the room and call out what they see, hear, or smell. 

  3. Focus on Breathing. Keeping the entire body and mind at ease by concentrating on breathing techniques can aid in the healing process. Taking “breathing breaks” at various points throughout the day is a great way to start practicing mindful breathing. Meditation and other forms of conscious breathing can calm a racing heart and mind, allowing the person to take a moment to pause, relax, and refocus. 

  4. Acknowledge Thoughts and Emotions. The recovery process is often disrupted by negative thinking. By practicing mindfulness, one may learn to accept ideas as they are without analyzing or responding to them. They lessen the likelihood of emotional and physical relapse caused by negative self-talk and thoughts. It’s important to acknowledge and accept all thoughts and emotions, no matter how unpleasant or upsetting they may be—sadness, pain, and grief.

  5. Be Kind to Self. Focusing on the present moment can sometimes be challenging as the mind wanders. Still, individuals must avoid being too hard on themselves. Instead, they must foster self-compassion. If their thoughts wander during the session, they may simply bring them back to the task at hand by concentrating on their breathing techniques.

You don’t have to be alone on your journey to being sober. Design for Recovery is here to help. Call us today at (424) 327-4614 to learn more about our services.

Practical Mindfulness Techniques for Recovery

Practicing mindfulness can be incorporated into any aspect of one’s daily routine. It is not intended to be different from reality but rather an integral and enriching component. An advantage of mindfulness is that it can be practiced whenever and wherever is most convenient. One only needs an open mind and the willingness to explore the world differently.

Many mindfulness exercises are beneficial for addiction recovery, such as:

  • Mindful Meditation. Mindful meditation involves sitting quietly and bringing mental awareness to one’s breathing, thoughts, sensations, and perceptions of the surroundings. 

  • Mindful Walking or Exercising. While working out, people may shift their focus on how it feels for their bodies to move. They can increase their awareness of their senses by going on a stroll focusing on the present moment, and taking in the sights, sounds, and scents around them.

  • Body Scan. During this practice, one may gradually move their focus through the various parts of the body. The best place to begin is from the top of the head and down to the toes, then focus on the sensations of warmth, tension, or relaxation of various body parts.

It is important to note that in order to practice mindfulness effectively, one must maintain the right posture and utilize proper breathing techniques. They may sit or lie in a comfortable setting while releasing all of the tension built up in their body. After that, they should focus on their breathing, the sensations they’re experiencing, and finally, on the thoughts running through their minds.

The exercises above are just a few examples of mindfulness meditation. One can do other things, too, such as spending some time each day making a list of things they are grateful for. They may also engage in active listening by paying close attention to a friend they are speaking with. As a result, they’ll be able to communicate better and strengthen their relationships. Lastly, people should make ample time to stretch, move about, and breathe some fresh air throughout the course of the day. This can help relax and savor the present moment.

People in recovery from addiction may have increased anxiety about making decisions. Mindfulness can be practiced in whichever way works best for the individual. They can discover a method of mindfulness that resonates with them and then commit to it regularly. They may permanently improve their healing process and their lives as they learn positive ways of dealing with stress.

However, it must be noted that people who struggle with addiction should not rely solely on mindfulness exercises as a treatment method. They must talk to their doctor, who can connect them to the best medical or psychological treatment for their specific needs. Mindfulness, however, can serve as an additional resource for people seeking to overcome addiction and boost their quality of life.

Ready to take the next step in your recovery journey? Design for Recovery can help you achieve your goals. Call us today at (424) 327-4614 to learn more about our services.

Mindfulness-Based Approaches for Addiction Treatment

Mindfulness-based addiction treatment may be beneficial in the treatment of nicotine dependence as well as other substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder and drug abuse. Studies have shown that mindfulness-based interventions help improve the cognitive and psychological processes fundamental to self-regulation and reward processing, resulting in a reduction in substance misuse and cravings. 


There are different structured mindfulness-based treatments available, each designed to treat a specific condition.

  • Mindfulness-based relapse prevention, or MBRP, is used as a treatment to avoid relapse in addictive disorders. It combines mindfulness meditation with traditional relapse prevention techniques.

  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT, is used as a treatment for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, is used as a treatment for general stress. It may also help in managing the progression of chronic diseases.

Although course structures may vary slightly from one another, they are delivered by trained medical professionals and scheduled for a set number of sessions over a predetermined time (usually a two-hour session every week for eight weeks).

In recovery, mindfulness can potentially lessen emotional reactions, facilitate permanent behavioral change, and improve clinical outcomes. Having mindfulness as a coping mechanism in recovery may be helpful for people as it helps in keeping track of their own symptoms and dealing with their cravings.

The regular practice of mindfulness can complement a wide variety of other skills that recovering individuals could pick up during addiction treatment, behavioral therapies, peer support groups, or recovery programs, such as sober living homes. People who incorporate mindfulness in their everyday life may achieve lasting recovery.

At Design for Recovery sober living, we assist our residents in developing self-care plans that serve as a pillar of strength as they move through the challenging early stages of recovery. We provide a safe and supportive space for them to work through their addictions and rebuild their lives.

Residents put in a lot of effort every day to build new skills, habits, and coping methods for dealing with triggers in sobriety. If you or a loved one is recovering from a substance use disorder, contact us at (424) 327-4614 to find out how our sober living home may help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • People recovering from alcohol or drug addiction or mental health conditions can experience immediate and long-lasting benefits from practicing mindfulness. Those who engage in them on a consistent basis benefit from improved cognitive abilities and emotional well-being. Mindfulness training also has other significant advantages:

    • Low blood pressure and heart rate
    • Decreased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress
    • Increased productivity and decreased burnout at work and school
    • Improved physical health and immunity
    • Decreased risk for relapse

Many people with substance use disorders start abusing drugs or alcohol to numb themselves to uncomfortable feelings or intrusive thoughts. Regularly engaging in mindfulness may teach them to embrace their present experiences rather than resist them. They learn that painful experiences are only temporary and manageable. They can also utilize healthy coping skills with the help of mindfulness techniques, such as mindful walking, meditation, mindful journaling, or mindful eating. These methods aid in reducing stress, pain, anxiety, negative thoughts and emotions, and cravings.

When meditating, it’s crucial to remember that good posture and breathing methods are essential for a successful practice. They can sit or lie down and relax to let go of the stress they’ve been carrying around. The next step is to concentrate on one’s breathing, then one’s body sensations, and ultimately one’s inner dialogue.

Alcohol or drug addiction alters the brain’s function and structure. Once a person develops a tolerance, they begin to rely on the drug or alcohol to satisfy their emotional and psychological needs rather than on the naturally occurring neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.

In many cases of rehabilitation, regular and prolonged mindfulness practices can aid in the restoration of normal brain function and help counter the negative effects of drug withdrawal. By reducing mental stress and increasing mental clarity, these practices help people concentrate better and boost their mood, relationships, and general attitude toward recovery and life.

Because there are different addiction mindfulness interventions, everyone can find one that works for them to practice. Whatever they choose, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes a day, they may notice a huge improvement in their ability to deal with stress and treat addiction.

Mindfulness meditation can help people deal with negative emotions, boost their mood, and gain insight into harmful ideas, false assumptions, and addictive behaviors. In addition, mindful walking keeps one present in the moment while also encouraging an appreciation for their surroundings. Breathing exercises can also help a recovering individual relax and gain greater awareness, while visualizing goals can help them focus on their long-term recovery.

Managing cravings and triggers is critical during the early phases of substance abuse recovery and should also be a priority during long-term recovery. Even years after sobriety, it is possible to encounter unexpected triggers of addictive behavior, so practicing mindfulness regularly supports relapse prevention and yields lasting benefits.

During recovery, there is still a greater chance of relapsing into substance abuse if the individual is experiencing emotional instability. Through achieving mindfulness, they are able to accept emotional distress and circumstances as an inevitable part of life. Acceptance and self-compassion are key components of mindfulness and healing.

Research shows that mindfulness may need to be practiced almost daily for many years to intervene in addiction and prevent relapse successfully.

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  1. American Psychological Association. (2023). Mindfulness.

  2. American Psychological Association. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness?

  3. Garland, E.L., Howard, M.O. Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research. Addict Sci Clin Pract 13, 14 (2018).

  4. Zhang, Z., Leong Bin Abdullah, M. F. I., Shari, N. I., & Lu, P. (2022). Acceptance and commitment therapy versus mindfulness-based stress reduction for newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients: A randomized controlled trial assessing efficacy for positive psychology, depression, anxiety, and quality of life. PloS one, 17(5), e0267887.

  5. Priddy, S. E., Howard, M. O., Hanley, A. W., Riquino, M. R., Friberg-Felsted, K., & Garland, E. L. (2018). Mindfulness meditation in the treatment of substance use disorders and preventing future relapse: neurocognitive mechanisms and clinical implications. Substance abuse and rehabilitation, 9, 103–114.



Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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