Mindfulness is the act of slowing down and being present, noticing your feelings, and paying attention to your internal world. This approach will help you regulate anxiety or depression, avoid relapse, and feel comfortable in your own skin.
Why Are People So Stressed Out Nowadays?
Being mindful is harder today than it’s arguably ever been, but why? In some ways, the answer is a little ironic. Our distant ancestors experienced stress because of life-threatening danger from predators, starvation, and disease. Anxiety, for them, was a survival mechanism that helped them stay alert and wary of external threats.
Today, that survival instinct still lives on in our minds. Plenty of people encounter life-threatening forms of danger, and there’s undoubtedly no downplaying the violence and oppression that many people deal with on a daily basis. However, for the most part, the survival mechanism of anxiety has adapted itself to situations where people’s lives are not actually at stake.
How Mindfulness Can Help You Reduce Stress
Although mindfulness as we know it grew out of Buddhist meditation practices, it is not particular to any religion and is practiced all over the world. Essentially, mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and being fully present with thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.
Our busy lives are full of doing, though mindfulness concentrates on being. The point is to empty the mind of all unnecessary clutter and focus on the present moment. Some forms of mindfulness practices may include:
- Movement-oriented calming strategies like yoga
Yet, even though mindfulness can help you concentrate on the present moment, it does not seek to make you more attached to it. The beauty of this approach is that it allows you to be both aware and unattached. You can concentrate on what’s around you without investing too much emotion in it. The more separation you have from your emotions, the harder it is to be stressed. You can control what you choose to become stressed or not stressed about.
Mindfulness Is Science-Supported
Mindfulness is scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, and it helps to change brain activity in regions of the nervous system associated with attention and emotional regulation. When you direct your awareness to your thoughts, feelings, or breath, your body’s internal stress response lowers. You can respond to what’s going on around you thoughtfully instead of reacting instinctively. It can help you stay calm in stressful situations and avoid making rash decisions such as using substances to cope.
How Mindfulness Can Help With Addiction
Not only does mindfulness help with anxiety, but it also helps with addiction. One of the great benefits of mindfulness is that by slowing down and quieting all the chatter in your brain, you will start to notice things about yourself that you have never noticed before. In particular, you will notice your stress reactions as they happen, which can help you connect your triggers and your addictive behaviors.
Understanding Addiction as an Internal Stress Response
An internal stress response drives addiction, and chronic stress is proven to heighten the risk of substance abuse and relapse. When you are overwhelmed and unable to relax, you are more likely to turn to drug use, drinking, and other numbing activities. Mindfulness allows you to step back and recognize the situations that make you want to “numb out” and turn to substance use.
For instance, you may become tempted to stop by the liquor store after a bad day of work. Mindfulness can help you become aware of this temptation as it occurs to you in real-time. This way, when you have a bad day of work, you will know ahead of time that you are more likely to relapse.
In other words, mindfulness allows you to plan ahead, adjusting your behavior before your cravings feel too powerful to resist. For this reason, the approach is an integral part of any relapse prevention plan.
Getting Support Through Mindfulness Treatment
If you or a loved one are dealing with anxiety, depression, addiction, or any other mental health issues, it’s vital to seek treatment. You may become tempted to fight through your problems alone, but on your own, you are more likely to seek out coping habits that do more harm than good.
With mindfulness, you can recognize these negative coping habits and understand where they stem. You can deepen your self-awareness, reduce stress, and overcome your need to rely on unhelpful solutions. In doing so, you will begin to create healthier habits to help you cope with challenging situations.