One of the reasons yoga and meditation have become so popular is their ability to teach mindfulness.
Mindfulness means simply being aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the present moment – and doing so without judgment, criticism, or interpretation.
The relaxing and de-stressing benefits of mindfulness have been of interest to companies, organizations, and schools who now incorporate mindful practices like yoga and meditation into their workplace.
But mindfulness is also tremendously helpful for those in recovery and is the basis for Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention.
What Is Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)
Battling an addiction is not for the faint of heart. And the likelihood of relapse in the first year of recovery is high. That’s why MBRP was developed. It teaches those in recovery to use mindfulness to manage knee-jerk reactions to triggers.
MBRP teaches individuals how to take a step back, be present in the moment, and see the option of multiple possible outcomes to a situation when they’ve been triggered. It reinforces the idea that the person has a certain level of control and doesn’t need to turn to behaviors or substances that hurt them in the past.
The Primary Goals of MBRP
MBRP is well suited as a compliment or follow-up to an initial treatment program. It helps those who wish to maintain the changes they’ve already implemented through such programs. It strives to do this by setting the four following goals:
- Develop awareness of personal triggers and the reactions they cause, and step back to realize that these reactions need not be automatic.
- Learn to recognize challenging emotional and physical situations and respond to them in more skillful ways in order to change one’s relationship with discomfort.
- Encourage a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to oneself and their own experiences.
- Recognize and build a lifestyle that supports both mindfulness practice and recovery.
In other words, MBRP aims to support those in recovery by teaching mindfulness skills to avoid relapsing back into old habits when facing triggers.
Mindfulness sounds easy enough. But as we said earlier, it takes practice.
At its core, mindfulness is essentially paying attention to where you are and what you’re doing. Then the awareness becomes more specific – who you’re with, why you’re where you are, what you’re putting in your body, etc.
The trick is to be able to answer these questions without judgment. So that if, for example, someone has entered a casino or taken a sip of a drink, they don’t beat themselves up over it. Instead, they track their behavior either on an app, by writing it down, or even by placing a penny (or whatever) in their pocket each time the urge strikes.
They may also choose to make a note measuring the need for the behavior at the time. It could be on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is mild interest and 10 is “I gotta have it now.”
Having this data, along with the ability to pause for a moment before engaging in the unwanted behavior, can result in major insight and empowerment over cravings. In MBRP, this is known as urge surfing.
How Does Urge Surfing Work?
Just as a surfer looks out over the ocean to pick up waves as soon as they begin to form, those in recovery can practice becoming aware of urges before they become problematic. When an urge occurs, they simply notice it and name it as an urge to use.
They then observe what’s happening internally. What are the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations around the urge? From there, they can visualize the urge as a wave and begin to tune into their breathing. Consciously slowing and deepening the breath can become a metaphorical surfboard to ride out the rise, the peak, and the subsequent letting down of the urge.
As with all mindfulness activities, this takes practice to be effective. But the more often the person in recovery recognizes the urges, the more experienced he or she becomes at ‘surfing the urge’ and learning how to bear cravings more skillfully.
MBRP Vs. Traditional Treatments
Just to be clear, it’s not a competition. One is not right and one is not wrong.
MBRP simply focuses on managing urges through thoughtful observation. It’s about self-compassion and is a tool that’s meant to be applied to every aspect of one’s life.
Basically, MBRP stresses that the problem is not the drink, the cigarette, or the spin of the roulette wheel. Rather, it’s about recognizing how one USES those items or behaviors to manage their emotional experience and learning better ways to cope.
An although MBRP doesn’t work from the Higher Power or complete abstinence tenets of the 12-Step program, it does hold in the same high regard the concepts of acceptance, letting go of personal control, and the use of meditation or prayer.
And at the end of the day, they all focus on every person becoming the best version of themselves.
Ah, the Power of Mindfulness
Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention is proof of yet another way that mindfulness can vastly improve one’s quality of life.
Curious to see how mindfulness practices could help you and your coworkers at your business, organization, or school?
And soon you’ll start seeing how mindfulness practices can change your life for the better.