How to Use Mindfulness to Overcome Addiction

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.Joseph Goldstein

Mindfulness can be beneficial at any time and in anyone’s life. This is especially true for trauma survivors struggling to overcome addiction.

As you try to overcome addiction and deal with your past trauma, it can feel overwhelming and impossible. Mindfulness can give you hope and help strengthen your prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain that responds to logic) in dealing with the limbic system (the part of your brain that responds to pleasure).

See Mindfulness as the ability to focus on empowering thoughts and feelings while choosing to coexist with nonproductive thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness allows you the power to choose what you focus on and how you react to everyday situations.

But how can you use Mindfulness to overcome addiction?

When you have an urge to use or engage in addictive behaviors, the limbic system tells you to go and have it and hurry! Your prefrontal cortex, however, will tell you that it isn’t going to help and that you’ll actually feel worse after you give in. You want to strengthen your prefrontal cortex so that it can manage your limbic system. That’s where Mindfulness comes in.

If you practice Mindfulness regularly then you’ll be able to make a conscious choice to NOT give in to the limbic system. Finding things that ground you like yoga, meditation, or vividly imagining yourself making the right choice will allow you to strengthen your prefrontal cortex.

So when you are in a situation that may trigger your addiction, step back from it and CHOOSE.

You can say to yourself, “I am feeling upset, and I think that eating will help me feel better. It may for a moment, but then I will just feel worse. I choose to focus, instead, on the positive things I can learn from this experience.” Take a moment and practice Mindfulness each day so you can rely on those grounding thoughts and feelings every time you feel your will slipping.