Cravings are driven by things that are pleasurable. Food, sexual activity, and substances can all be craved, and fulfilling those desires creates memories in the brain that drive a person to continue engaging in behaviors that satisfy them. Cravings are a natural experience and not all of them are necessarily bad, but when it comes to substance abuse, cravings can make it feel impossible to abstain from use, making recovery more difficult.
Learning how to successfully manage cravings is vital in addiction recovery. Without proper coping mechanisms and alternative outlets, cravings can easily lead to relapse. Aside from making lifestyle changes that make it harder to access drugs or alcohol, it is important to develop behaviors that reinforce breaking the link between cravings and the substances desired.
While it may not be easy to stop what triggers cravings to begin with, it is possible to change the thought processes and behaviors that cause cravings to become overwhelming and prevent them from leading to relapse.
What is Mindfulness?
While becoming more mindful might sound like a straightforward process, it can be harder to practice than initially perceived. Mindfulness is the process of becoming more aware of the present. It is focusing on what is happening around you, what you are doing, what you are feeling, and being aware of your surroundings. Focusing on the present can be difficult when the mind has a tendency to wander. Intrusive thoughts can make it difficult to stay in the moment. Memories of the past and responsibilities of the future often take center stage in the mind leaving people feeling anxious and distracted from what is happening around them.
Everyone has the ability to engage in mindfulness, but learning how to access this state of mind can take some time. One of the most effective ways to achieve it is by practicing meditation. Entering a state of mindfulness can reduce the impact of stress and can lead to valuable insights into what a person needs to improve their overall sense of wellbeing.
Mindfulness requires a connection between mind and body to be effective. While the term “mindfulness” may sound like a practice that exists only in your head, truly practicing it requires your body to engage as well. Paying attention to your surroundings, your physical presence in a space, and how you are interacting with the world around you is part of becoming more mindful.
Becoming more aware of your body can produce a calming effect that can ease your mind and make it easier to enter into a meditative state. While this can be hard to achieve initially, with continued practice, it can be a state of mind that becomes more accessible over time.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Becoming more mindful takes practice, but it can be achieved by finding a quiet place to relax. The practice does not require a specific amount of time to be successful, and you may find you reap the benefits more quickly as you become more accustomed to it. To become more familiar with the practice, you can use the following actions:
- Take a seated position: Finding stable ground to get comfortable on is important. Your body must be engaged in the practice in order for it to be effective. Sitting in a chair, on a comfortable cushion, or in the grass is an option. Try not to be seated in a way that leaves your feet dangling or may cause you to lose balance.
- Engage your posture: Rather than slouching down, engage your spine, and sit up straight. Do not stiffen your muscles and back and find a way to sit comfortably so that your head, shoulders, and spine are all aligned.
- Use your arms: Engage your arms and let them lay on top of your legs. Do not stiffen them or let them hang too loosely at your side. Body awareness and engagement can help you become more present in the moment.
- Rest your eyes: As you engage more with your body, let your chin lower. Your eyes may begin to close, and this can help you enter a more meditative state. If you are not comfortable closing your eyes, let your eyes take in your surroundings without focusing on one particular object.
- Breathe: Focus on your breathing, taking deep breaths in, holding them, and slowly exhaling. Breathing in this way encourages relaxation and can ease feelings of stress or anxiety.
As you engage in the practice, your body may begin to slouch, and your mind may wander. Continue re-engaging your mind and body by readjusting your posture and bringing your focus back to your present moment. While the process of meditating may seem simple, it is not always easy to keep your mind and body engaged. Over time, reaching a meditative state can become easier.
Meditation and Cravings
Meditation can help you guide your thoughts away from cravings that may lead to relapse. Acknowledging their presence is important and learning how to navigate away from them is critical in managing them. If you find yourself struggling with cravings, you can use meditation to keep them in check.
- Acknowledge their existence: While meditating, it is important to come to terms with the cravings you are experiencing. This may be as simple as stating what cravings you are struggling with out loud. Acknowledging them allows you to mentally prepare for the influence they have and gives you the ability to actively disengage with them. You cannot necessarily force your cravings to go away so rather than fighting them, learning to cope with them can be more beneficial.
- Think about what giving in means: After you have acknowledged your cravings, take some time to consider what giving in to them means. How will using substances affect you? Is it worth it? Reflecting on what cravings can lead to can help you stay on track and consider alternative ways to achieve fulfillment.
- Go beyond your impulses: Taking time to consider your cravings can help you reflect on your impulses. Mindfulness encourages taking active control over what drives you. What exactly makes you want to use and is your mind trying to justify it? Rather than believing the influence of cravings, putting your energy into the reality of your situation can help move you past them. Observe your own thought process, how the cravings manifest in your mind, and how you work against them. Thoughts will flow in and out of your mind in a moment’s notice. Cravings can too. Allowing yourself space to see them, acknowledge them, and then overcome them is powerful in recovery.
Whether you’re trying to get sober for the first time or are coming back from a relapse, Nexus Recovery Services can help. We’re an outpatient treatment center, and we use a variety of medical as well as holistic therapeutic methods to help people overcome their addiction for good. Contact us today for more information about our program of recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.