Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery

Much research over the last 20 years has been devoted to mindfulness and the ways that we can use it to improve our lives. Not only is mindfulness helpful for those who have a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, but studies have shown that it is helpful for those in recovery from alcoholism and addiction!

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is a mindfulness based program intended to prevent those who are in recovery from addiction and alcoholism by teaching them skills to use during stressful experiences. Researchers at the University of Washington found that following an 8-week MBRP program even if the participants did relapse they spent less time “out there” before returning to sobriety.

How to Use Mindfulness in Your Recovery from Addiction

This week, we talk to Jon Rost, a recovering alcoholic and addict who has used mindfulness during his recovery journey. Jon has been clean and sober for nearly four years. Jon shares how he found the concept of mindfulness and how he applied it when he was newly in recovery. The video is a great resource for those who are new to recovery or new to the idea of mindfulness based relapse prevention and would like to learn more!

Mindfulness Actually Changes the Brain

A 2013 study found that mindfulness actually changes the neuroplasticity of the brain, repairing damage made by drug and alcohol abuse. The researchers concluded: “Addiction involves deleterious neuroplastic changes in frontal-striatal-limbic circuitry that results from chronic drug-use. We hypothesize that this drug-induced neuroplasticity may be remediated through participation in MBIs.”

Addiction is Mindless and Recovery is Mindful

The researchers described active addiction as “mindlessness” and Jon agreed with that characterization. Using drugs and alcohol in the face of stressors is a “habitual” and “conditioned” response or “mindless” in that using drugs or alcohol is done without thinking about it – mindfulness in essence resets the learned instinctual response and allows a person in recovery to make a decision about what to do rather than reacting.

Recommended Additional Reading on Mindfulness

The book The Mindful Path to Addiction Recovery: A Practical Guide to Regaining Control over Your Life is a good place to start for those who are in recovery and looking to learn more about how to use mindfulness.

In the video, Jon recommends the following authors:
Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness for Beginners
Pema Chodron Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears

Your Experience with Mindfulness and Addiction

How do you use mindfulness to help in your recovery journey? Do you have any questions for Jon? Feel free to comment and share your own experience or to ask any questions.

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All About Mindfulness

Mindfulness Made Easy

What is mindfulness? It seems like it’s such a popular word to throw around, everyone’s talking about being mindful but what IS mindfulness? Why should we care? The most important question might be, what is in it for me? Why should I spend my precious time practicing mindfulness – it’s ok to want to know the benefits of something new before we start it. Most of us live really busy lives and we don’t have time to waste on a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.

All About Mindfulness

In my first YouTube video, I introduce mindfulness to those of you who might have heard about it and be interested but don’t really know what it is or why you want to try it.

How To Practice Mindfulness

If you like what you hear, check out my new daily videos on mindfulness, Your Mindfulness Minute, where we have small challenges and suggestions for you to integrate mindfulness into you daily life in very easy ways.

PMDD and Depression

There are several physical illnesses that tend to be more common in women with a mental illness. One is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Similar to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) which most people are familiar with, PMDD has been colorfully described as “PMS on crack” or an extreme version of PMS. Many of the same symptoms that are associated with PMS are associated with PMDD but to the extreme – mood swings, food cravings, irritability, bloating, depression, trouble motivating yourself to do things, tiredness, feeling easily overwhelmed or hopeless, crying spells, and conflict in close relationships. WebMD estimates that between 2% – 10% of menstruating women have PMDD. PMS, which can include milder but similar symptoms occurs in a staggering 30% – 80% of menstruating women according to Massachusetts General Hospital.

There is no definitive research on the cause of PMDD; serotonin deficiency, and hormonal changes are two widely accepted causes. According to a 2000 study, serotonin levels are affected by ovarian steroid levels. [3] Risk factors include having a mood disorder, a family history of mood disorders, as well as environmental and relationship factors like a history of sexual abuse and/or a history of abusive relationships. [2]

How do you know if you have PMDD? PMDD can only be diagnosed by a medical professional, however, if you only experience these symptoms in the 7-10 prior to your period and they become significantly better 1-2 days after your period begins, it is likely PMS or PMDD. How do you know if it’s PMS or PMDD? One really easy way is to ask your friends or loved ones about both their experience with PMS and those close to you how they would describe your mood swings and mood changes during that time. If they seem to think that your symptoms are severe, consulting with your doctor couldn’t hurt. If you have already been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder or another mood disorder, try to “tune-in” to your body and your emotions during this time. Do you feel out of control or like your reactions may be extreme? I believe that we are the best person to know what is going on with our own bodies. If you want, you can use an app like menstrual calendar that allows you to track your period as well as symptoms like your mood. It is a free app with more customization if you buy the upgrade which is just a few dollars. You can also track your mood manually on a calendar.

Treatment of PMDD includes anti-depressant medicine as well as holistic lifestyle changes. Acupuncture, yoga, relaxation techniques, light therapy, aerobic exercise, healthy eating, [1], [2] There is some research, but very little, showing that calcium, magnesium, and B6 may help with PMDD symptoms, it never hurts to take a daily multi-vitamin. Mass General also reports that herbal supplements chasteberry, ginko biloba, black cohash, St. John’s wort and kava kava have shown some success in reducing symptoms. If you decide to try herbal remedies, go with a brand that you are familiar with, as these supplements are not regulated by the FDA and in 2015 major retailers including GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens were selling herbal supplements that were not what was on the label. Walmart was the worst, with only 4% of the supplements tested containing what the label said that it was! I am not anti-supplement by any means, I take many myself, but I think it is important to make sure that these items are coming from a manufacturer that you trust.

It is heartening to see so many sources including holistic treatments as best for something, instead of only encouraging the use of pharmaceuticals. What has your experience with PMDD been? Have you found something that works well for you? Comment and share!