When it comes to addiction, or really any habits that we’d like to break, using mindfulness to change our cravings and desires continues to show huge promise. It helps us bridge the gap between what we know and what we feel and end up doing.
In our minds, we all know that drinking heavily or using drugs to self medicate isn’t good for us, but it’s not the cognitive mind that is at work when we pick up the bottle or the needle. Our minds have been conditioned to reward ourselves with these activities, even though we know that they are ultimately destructive. In that moment of use, they bring some sort of relief.
The moment we get triggered to smoke, for example, it’s likely a subconscious feeling or emotion that causes us to reach for a cigarette. This moment is where mindfulness comes in. We learn to recognize those triggers and emotions in the moment. We are also able to recognize that they are passing.
This recognition can help us feel into them instead of think about them. ‘Willpower’, ‘whiteknuckling’, and ‘resisting’ isn’t the answer. Those approaches don’t work because, when we try to use them, we are fighting what is. Taking the mindful approach means feeling into our bodies when these triggers and emotions arise and just noticing that they are there, they will pass, and they aren’t a part of our identity. This can help us retrain our brains into acting differently.
There is recent research that backs this idea up. Psychiatrist and addiction expert Judson Brewer conducted a study to help determine whether mindfulness training could help people quit smoking .
Here’s an excerpt of what he discovered:
“Now with mindfulness training we dropped the bit about forcing and instead focused on being curious. In fact we even told them to smoke. We even said go ahead and smoke just be really curious about what it’s like when you do. And what did they notice? Here’s an example from one of our smokers: She said mindful smoking “Smells like stinky cheese and tastes like chemicals. Yuck.” Now she knew cognitively that smoking was bad for her. That’s why she joined our program. What she discovered just by being curiously aware when she smoked was that smoking tastes like shit.”
Most of us are accustomed to trying to think our way out of our emotions. The key is to feel into them. Mindfulness gives us a way to do that in recovery. At the Kiloby Center, we develop that support even further by making ‘resting in the present moment’ a cornerstone of our methodology.
Read more about the treatment we are using, and the results it has shown, here.