Addiction Recovery: 7 Reasons Why Mindfulness is Such an Effective Treatment

Most people probably don’t relate meditation to addiction recovery. However, mindfulness has become a go-to treatment for all kinds of addictions. These include addictions to drugs, sex, alcohol, gambling, Internet, food, and more.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness describes a state of being in the present moment. We release the regrets of the past and we take a break from our fears about the future. Life unfolds in the here and now and mindfulness helps us accept and understand this.

How do we attain mindfulness?

The answers are limitless but common paths include:

  • Breathing exercises

  • Meditation

  • Daily activities

  • Yoga

  • Tai Chi

  • Spiritual practice

What does mindfulness have to do with addiction recovery?

It begins with understanding that addiction is a chronic relapsing condition. Cravings are a big part of those relapses and studies have found that a lack of mindfulness may increase cravings. However, by learning to accept difficult challenges, individuals can avoid reaction patterns. As a result, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have become a common approach for addiction recovery.

7 Reasons Why Mindfulness is Such an Effective Treatment for Addiction Recovery

1. Mindfulness is versatile

Professionals have been able to blend mindfulness into many approaches, for example:

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR)

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

  • Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)

2. It can decrease anxiety and stress

Anxiety and stress can be triggers for substance abuse. Mindfulness is valuable here because it teaches us how to be more aware of challenging situations as we learn to observe more. Hence, we reduce the need for an immediate reaction. In many studies, the practice of yoga has been shown to be helpful. Yoga can lead to better self-regulation and it can also help create a decrease in many symptoms of both anxiety and depression.

3. Improved focus, awareness, and attention

As mentioned above, it’s helpful to recognize your discomfort. The key is to avoid the automatic reaction and the goal is to avoid any reaction at all! Mindfulness practices like meditation have helped those in addiction recovery. They can perceive patterns and identify triggers. They can rely on self-reflection. The default response to discomfort is no longer escape, it is awareness.

4. Fewer cravings

Numerous studies show that mindfulness training reduces cravings. Even better, it reduces cravings even in the presence of negative emotions. A fine example of this research focused on smokers. With mindfulness training, smokers learned to focus on images related to smoking. Brain imaging found that these smokers showed less craving-based brain activity than smokers who didn’t receive the same training.

5. Fewer mood swings

A big factor in addiction recovery is dealing with the mood/craving cycle. Negative moods creep in and they usually bring with them a desire or craving. Research shows a simple but powerful response, breathing, can help reduce mood swings and cravings. Sudarshana Kriya Yoga, or SKY, is known for different types of seated breathing: victorious breath (slow and deep), bellows breath (forced inhalation and exhalation), and cyclical breathing (slow, medium, fast cycles). SKY was introduced to male prisoners diagnosed with substance abuse. After 6 weeks, they showed vast improvement in areas like anxiety reduction, feelings of positivity, and an improved overall function.

6. Learn to be kinder to yourself

Addiction recovery can be blocked by self-blame. Mindfulness, on the other hand, encourages us to judge ourselves (and others) less. We learn to practice compassion and self-love.

7. Mindfulness helps us in many other aspects of our life

Mindfulness brings us into the present moment. We experience that moment fully. This awareness helps us in addiction recovery. It also enriches our entire life.


If you are interested in learning more about how mindfulness can help you overcome addictions, contact us. We can help you live your life addiction-free.  Please contact our intake team at the Center for Mindful Psychotherapy: call us at (415) 766-0276; or email us at intakes@mindfulcenter.org.