In many cases, recovery and resolution begin with “interoception” This is a special kind of awareness of our subtle, sensory, body-based feelings. The more awareness we have, the greater our potential to heal and effectively manage our lives. Knowing what we really feel is the first step to knowing why we feel that way. Mindfulness is part of this process, developing greater present-moment awareness, as well as cultivating openness, flexibility and acceptance in regard to our internal and external experience.

Mindfulness practice is especially relevant for people in early addiction recovery. It encourages participants to accept and process challenging emotions and sensations and lessen the probability of avoidant acting out and relapse. It supports personal understanding of underlying reasons for self-harming actions, increased self-care and contact with positive support resources. Research has shown regular mindfulness practice reduces addiction relapse incidence, anxiety levels and depressive relapse.

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) develops awareness of circumstances, thoughts and feelings that have previously triggered relapse, breaking the spiral of habitual substance use. MBRP practice safely exposes participants to thoughts and feelings that often precipitate addiction problems, such as isolation, low mood and craving, helping develop increased levels of resilience in such situations. Other practices recognise specific circumstances that require caution, offering different ways of coping positively and minimising risk of self-harm.

MBRP has proven effective for many addicts in early recovery across the world. It works from the inside out, as opposed to the opposite, increasing acceptance and tolerance of triggers, cravings and connected negative feelings, lowering reactive action, relapse and corresponding negative spirals.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is an evidenced-based approach, working along similar lines, supporting those at risk of depression relapse. Participants develop tools to maintain well-being and long-term recovery. Mindfulness teaches awareness of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in the present, allowing for greater recognition of the feelings and cognitive spirals that create low mood, fatigue and trigger depression. Studies have proven MBCT to be effective and the NHS (NICE) now recommends it as a treatment of choice for people with recurrent depression.

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