What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is based on an ancient Buddhist practise and is basically the art of staying present in the moment. If you stop and sit down quietly you will notice that your mind is rarely ever still, it races back into the past and catapults forward into the present. It worries that you did not turn the hair straighteners off when you left the house or that you will not have enough money to pay the car insurance next week.
This monkey mind stresses itself out and Mindfulness is actually a very simple concept. For example, take a piece of chocolate, smell it, put one square in your mouth, feel the texture, let it melt, taste how delicious it is, feel the textures change. Engage all your senses and feel every sensation. While you did this you were not chewing over the past or racing off into the future. You were absolutely engaged with what you were doing and the deliciousness of the chocolate.
The concept of Mindfulness has been developed further into therapies and other techniques to help combat stress and improve the quality of people’s lives. It is one of the types of therapy which is proven to assist in the treatment of addiction and alcoholism.
Addicts and stress
Stress and being unable to deal with it in a healthy way can be one of the triggers for an addict to rely on drugs or alcohol. It may have even been one of the reasons for them starting to use substances in the first place. The world is filled with events and emotions that can trigger stress and fear there is no way to avoid it. Everyone, addict or not, faces uncertainty on a daily basis over things like jobs, financial security, illness, relationships and death.
Even waiting for your coffee in a big queue and worrying you will be late for work or that the train will be delayed can trigger stress. Being constantly on the move and relentlessly trying to anticipate the next thing that is going to happen is hugely stressful and pretty much the state of the modern world.
Are addicts are more susceptible to stress?
A study at Rockefeller University showed that addict’s in early recovery are much more vulnerable to stress than ordinary members of the population. This potentially can also make them prone to relapse because using drugs or alcohol was always the solution to these feelings before finding recovery.
In response to stress the human brain releases hormones, chemicals and neurotransmitters. First corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) is released, which triggers adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal glands, and cortisol is produced. When cortisol is present in the bloodstream, it tells the brain that CRF and ACTH do not need to be produced any longer unless the stress is life-threatening or very serious.
The study involved stopping the production of cortisol in both drug users and non-drug users using a pill. Those with no substance abuse problem reacted with high levels of ACTH but for those who had recently used heroin, ACTH increased only slightly. When researchers tested a group of people in opiate withdrawal the ACTH levels doubled in comparison to the test group who were not using drugs, showing that the brain of a drug addict in recovery is much more sensitive to stress. This is just one factor which increases the addict’s susceptibility to relapse during stressful situations especially in the first few years of recovery.
How can Mindfulness help?
Scientific studies have observed that MRI scans of the brain show a reduction in the amygdala after an 8-week course in Mindfulness. This part of the brain controls fear and emotion and is sometimes nicknamed the ‘fight or flight’ centre.
Additionally, a thickening occurs in the prefrontal cortex which is linked to awareness, concentration and decision making. Another couple of interesting things were seen to happen. Firstly, the functional connectivity between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker and secondly, the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain get stronger.
Moreover, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh believe that this indicates that primal responses are superseded by more thoughtful ones. “The scale of these changes correlate with the number of hours of meditation practice a person has done,” said Adrienne Taren, one of the researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.
Mindfulness as non-judgemental awareness
To sum up, mindfulness is more than just being in the moment, it is also about observing life with non-judgemental awareness. By practising the art of mindfulness you begin to train the brain to consciously accept the stressors of life on life’s terms and begin to deal with them in a calm positive manner. Tomorrow is not here yet, and yesterday already happened and the only moment you truly have is now.
Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery at Seasons Bali
Seasons Bali Luxury rehab incorporates the principles of mindfulness into the holistic addiction recovery program on offer. If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol call one of our experts to find out more about how we can help.