Mindfulness in drug and alcohol rehab

mindfulness in drug and alcohol rehab

It is important to address mental state in recovery by promoting mindfulness. 

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the state of being aware of both cognitive and behavioral functions, also known as mind control. It is often taught through mediation that encourages an intense and active focus on surroundings, thoughts, and feelings in a mindset free from judgment.

The goal of mindfulness is to create an active and present mindset.


Mindfulness is a useful tool that can be utilized alongside several other therapeutic methods to provide relief and act as a treatment for several disorders, including substance use disorder, by increasing mind control. Not only that, but mindfulness can also boost the efficacy of other psychotherapies and counseling, increasing the likelihood of a successful recovery from addiction.1 Other benefits of utilizing mindfulness in both addiction and alcohol rehab, as well as daily meditational practices, include:

  • Relieves stress
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Helps prevent cardiovascular disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce chronic pain

Many of these issues, especially chronic pain and stress, can increase the likelihood for a substance use disorder to develop, especially when prescription medications are involved.2 As a result, utilizing practices to alleviate these issues can aid in recovery and help prevent relapse.


As a meditation, there are several different types of mindfulness, each one focused on elevating awareness of a certain aspect of the body or mind. The three main forms of mindfulness include body mindfulness, which can be developed through yoga or other physical practices to bring awareness to the body; mental mindfulness, which can be developed through meditative practices; and guided breathing.

Each type of mindfulness is dedicated to producing holistic mindfulness through selective activities focusing on slowly boosting awareness for improved results and long-lasting benefits.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Mindfulness-based stress reduction, commonly referred to as MBSR, is designed to incorporate the same practices and benefits of mindfulness-based meditations and activities in a medical setting for the treatment of different conditions, including substance abuse disorders and addiction, through the encouragement of mind control.

Most often, MBSR has used a way to provide patient independence and self-guidance in boosting awareness and the management of emotions.3 MBSR combined with psychotherapies and other treatments can aid in the promotion of healthy and safe coping mechanisms in response to triggers to aid in reducing the likelihood of relapse for those recovering from addiction.

How to Start Being Mindful?

Promoting mindfulness can easily be achieved through minimal lifestyle and routine changes. Basic techniques are easily incorporated into daily life and can provide benefits even with short-term utilization.

Basic Techniques

The easiest way to promote mindfulness in day-to-day life is to begin with the most basic techniques. These are activities or techniques that can be easily incorporated without structuring a routine change, which may be needed for activities such as yoga.

One of the first ways to be more mindful is to practice breathing techniques. These techniques promote awareness of breath and can help bring the mind and body into harmony. Focusing on being present is another basic technique that can easily be done with a change in priorities and attitude. It creates awareness of situations and how the body reacts to different interactions.

While still basic but involving more scheduling, limiting time with technology, and spending more time in nature to expand awareness can also be great methods of boosting mindfulness.

Mindfulness in Rehab

Promoting mindfulness in a rehabilitation setting has two benefits. First, being mindful can aid in recovery, especially for a substance abuse disorder or addiction that focuses on the relationship between cognition and behavior. This can increase the efficacy of in-patient treatment.

However, being mindful can also make rehabilitation itself a better and more comfortable experience. Mindfulness can be promoted in several different ways within a rehabilitation setting, including the basic techniques listed before as well as these three methods:


Zen is a meditational technique originating in China, specifically from Mahayana Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty before the 11th century. Zen revolves around cultivating a safe inner space that is founded on self-restraint and awareness.

Transcendental Meditation Mantras

Transcendental Meditation, also known as TM, is a type of mediation that utilizes mantras, positive sayings and ideas, to guide cognitive processes. Often, it is conducted alongside breathing techniques to promote holistic harmony and a change in perspective.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is another form of meditation that focuses on creating a healthy mental escape suitable to utilize as a coping mechanism. During this, patients are guided in creating peaceful, tranquil images that can become an idyllic escape during times of mental distress.

How Practicing Mindfulness Changes the Brain?

While the results of promoting mindfulness can be witnessed through personal experience and anecdotes, there have also been studies dedicated to exploring the effects. These studies have illustrated different anatomical and physiological effects, especially within the brain.4

Rewiring the Brain

Studies have shown that mediation in general, although especially mindfulness meditation, can rewire and change brain anatomy for improved physiology during rehab therapy.

Mindfulness can alter the amygdala, the region responsible for managing stress. This alteration allows for more peace of mind even during distressing situations, aiding in the prevention of relapse. While mindfulness mediation can minimize the amygdala, it can cause the hippocampus to thicken. The hippocampus is the area responsible for memory and learning

Increases Neural Density

However, the hippocampus is not the only area of the brain that may be thickened by being mindful. Overall neural density can benefit from regular mindfulness practice, which can promote feelings of peace and awareness while also increasing cognitive functions. Improved neural density helps prepare the brain for treatment during rehabilitation programs. It can aid in the efficacy of a program, whether inpatient or outpatient and help lower the risk for relapse even after the frequencies of active mindfulness practices are reduced.


Article contents