Mindfulness Meditation: Effective Treatment Strategy or Pop Culture Buzz Word

We’ve all heard about the concept of mindfulness meditation, a technique that develops a sense of awareness and an ability to relate to feelings and emotions in a different way – by observing and recognizing, not by judging.

While mindfulness can be helpful when incorporated into quality drug and alcohol treatment or rehab, some treatment professionals are concerned that the practice of mindfulness meditation may be overhyped. It isn’t a quick cure-all, a magic fix, or a substitute for quality drug and alcohol treatment or rehab.

Most treatment professionals believe that mindfulness is most useful when used in conjunction with lifestyle modification and effective relapse prevention strategies, as it helps people in recovery distance themselves from cravings, especially during the early days of recovery. The relaxation associated with meditation can also help with withdrawal symptoms during the detox period.

The practice of mindfulness is a simple technique that can help in many aspects of life – not solely addiction treatment. For example, one research study indicated that combat soldiers who practiced mindfulness for 12 minutes a day experienced increased mental resilience that helped them stay alert and confident. Another study indicated that regular mindfulness meditation, which improves concentration and attention, raised standardized testing scores in American schools.

It’s important to note, however, that although mindfulness meditation is beneficial for many people, it works best for people who are open to change and who are already accepting of their thoughts and emotions. It can be incorporated into everyday life and can empower people to be fully in the present moment, to be aware of what is going on and to "let go" of any emotional charges triggered by stressful events. Some people find mindfulness the "ultimate experience of freedom" in everyday life.

Mindfulness meditation is sometimes contraindicated for extremely depressed people who aren’t ready to delve deeply into their thoughts. However, meditation may be useful once the depressed person is stabilized.

Learning Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is simple and can be practiced any time of day. Although books, computer programs and phone apps are readily available, you can develop the basic techniques on your own by following a few guidelines:

  1. Find a quiet spot where you won’t be distracted.
  2. Turn off your cell phone ringer and all other electronic devices.
  3. Set a time limit for your mindfulness session. Five or 10 minutes is enough at first.
  4. Sit in an upright position. You can sit on a comfortable chair or on cushions on the floor, as long as you can maintain the position without discomfort. Although it’s okay to lie down, there’s a possibility you may fall asleep during your session.
  5. Close your eyes if you want, or leave them open.
  6. Breathe normally as you relax and concentrate on the sensation of your breath going in and out.
  7. Don’t worry or struggle if your mind wanders; this is normal. Simply notice the thought or emotion, and then return your attention to your breath. Don’t get caught up in the content of the thought or emotion and don’t judge yourself. Simply notice and allow the thought to go by as you return to your breathing.

Now “go out into the world” and practice the learned for one day, experienced mindfulness -practitioners encourage newcomers by citing the following:

“Don’t get upset about people or situations – they have no power if you don’t give them a meaning”.

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