The Role of Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

Mindfulness is an ancient practice that remains an integral part of life for individuals and communities throughout the world today. It is often associated with Eastern spirituality, self-improvement, and holistic treatment. But many people don’t appreciate the important role of mindfulness in addiction recovery.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the current moment.

When you practice mindfulness, you are aware of your surroundings, your thoughts, and your feelings. However, you don’t classify anything you think, feel, or perceive as being either “good” or “bad.” When you adopt the practice of mindfulness, you acknowledge your emotions and your perceptions, then return your focus to the present moment. 

Often, people view the world through a prism clouded by unpleasant memories or fears for the future. Mindfulness helps people to see and accept their surroundings and themselves as they actually are.

Mindfulness has been a central component of both religious and non-religious traditions for thousands of years. In fact, elements of mindfulness are incorporated into all major religious, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Also, it is an integral part of yoga and other practices that promote a healthy mind-body connection.

The Role of Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

Mindfulness can play an important role in addiction recovery. After all, this practice empowers you to accept difficulties without avoiding them. Of course, it helps you to act with intention instead of merely reacting impulsively.

A person who practices mindfulness will not use alcohol or other drugs as a means of numbing themselves to their emotional pain. Instead, they will acknowledge their distress, consider the potential ramifications of their response, and then take appropriate and intentional action.

In addition, mindfulness promotes a sense of gratitude and hope. When you stop allowing your preconceived notions to skew your view of yourself and the world around you, you become more open to compassion and appreciation. As you integrate this practice into your daily life, you will become much less likely to want to hide from the world by abusing alcohol and other drugs. 

The Three Components of Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

When you’re exploring the role of mindfulness in addiction recovery, it can be valuable to learn about specific components that can be particularly important. Three such components are acting with intention, embracing the concept of acceptance, and viewing the world in a nonjudgmental manner. 


When you act with intention, you pay close attention to your behaviors. Also, you consider the intended purpose of every action you take. In other words, intentional actions are the opposite of impulsive behaviors. 

Impulsivity can increase a person’s risk for substance abuse and addiction. It can also undermine efforts to remain sober. When you replace impulsivity with intention, you prevent yourself from reacting to negative experiences in self-defeating ways. 


Many people turn to substances when they are experiencing fear, anger, or other unpleasant emotions. Thus, when you’re trying to remain in recovery, you might think that you should avoid emotional distress. The truth is that trying to do this can actually increase your risk for relapse.

Everyone has difficult emotions. However, not everyone reacts by abusing drugs. This means that the emotions aren’t the problem. It’s how you respond to these feelings that makes the difference.

Using alcohol or another drug isn’t a coping strategy. It’s a way to hide or numb yourself. Of course, you can’t hide from your emotions forever. And substance abuse can only make it more difficult once you finally face your feelings.

When you practice acceptance, you allow yourself to coexist with your emotions. This includes the positive ones and the negative ones. You can take a metaphorical step back and view these feelings with a bit of distance and perspective. That way, you can take an intentional action instead of running away or lashing out.

Avoidance of Judgment

At first, the idea of being nonjudgmental might be confusing. How can we improve ourselves and our communities if we’re not differentiating good from bad? However, the problem with being judgmental is that we often allow preconceived notion to prevent us from truly seeing ourselves and others. 

For example, if you consider yourself to be a failure, that judgment can prevent you from making progress. If you view someone else as simply a bad person, that can stop you from seeing their actions as simply a misguided response to trauma.  

When you abandon these biases and opinions, you can begin to see the world as it truly is. You can also view yourself without self-hatred or other negative judgments. Recovery takes hard work, but it also requires compassion and forgiveness. Adopting a nonjudgmental perspective can help you become more compassionate and forgiving toward yourself and others.

Benefits of Mindfulness in Recovery

As described in the previous section, the role of mindfulness in addiction recovery includes several specific skills. The following are among the many potential benefits of fully integrating mindfulness into your daily life:

  • Improved ability to manage stress and pressure
  • Easing of physical pain that can result from poorly managed stress
  • Being able to manage cravings and other symptoms of addiction
  • Reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and certain other mental health concerns
  • Diminished risk of responding to triggers by returning to substance abuse
  • Preventing temporary setbacks from undermining your recovery
  • Forgiving yourself for previous unhealthy behaviors
  • Maintaining healthier interpersonal relationships
  • Developing a more hopeful outlook on life

Practicing mindfulness will not eliminate stress from your life, nor will it protect you from pain. But it will provide you with a framework through which you can respond to challenges and obstacles in a healthy manner, without sacrificing your recovery.

Begin Your Recovery at NRI 

Neuroscience Institute is a safe and supportive place for adults whose lives have been disrupted by mental illness and co-occurring addiction. With our help, you can make the behavioral changes that will help you achieve improved mental health and long-term recovery from addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and services.

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