How to Fight Addiction with Mindfulness, an Important Component of Self-Compassion
In the last article, we suggested that quitting weed first requires building a foundation. Knowledge of the mechanisms of addiction and the effect weed has on your brain and body is your foundation. After your foundation’s in place, check on your self-compassion. Knowing how weed stresses your brain and body will prompt self-compassion but probably not enough to spur you into quitting. It’s only after you’ve got your foundation in place and your self-compassion pumping that you can start dabbling in quitting strategies.
Self-Compassion’s Relationship to Mindfulness
Self-compassion needs to be in effect at all times. In addiction therapy, mindfulness, which is one of the three elements of self-compassion, is emphasized. In the last article, we gave Dr. Neff’s recipe for self-compassion: one part self-kindness, one part common humanity, and one part mindfulness. Mindfulness is also quite popular outside the sphere of recovery programs. These days, it’s the kale of the self-improvement world. According to experts, mindfulness increases self-esteem, helps us relax and manage stress, and it enables us to better cope with chronic pain. It decreases hostility, anxiety, and depression. And while it’s true that you can’t throw a virtual stick without hitting a web article or site on mindfulness, we’re going to unpack it for you a bit here. We want you to understand how mindfulness can be used specifically to fight addiction, and even more specifically to fight weed addiction.
Here’s an example of mindfulness in action and how it can help you with weed cravings:
Dr. Hedy Kober of Yale University Medical School
Perhaps the catchiest definition of mindfulness is a common saying encountered in casinos and on lottery tickets. It’s catchy enough to be co-opted by Mindful Living Programs’ website: “You must be present to win.” It’s so simple, isn’t it? “You must be present,” the Mindful Living Programs’ site elaborates, “to love, or experience peace, or joy, or contentment….[Mindfulness is] a relaxed state of awareness that observes both your inner world of thoughts, feelings and sensations, and the outer world of constantly changing phenomena without trying to control anything.” We are not mindful when we are lost in thought about the past or the future. Distraction, in essence, is the opposite of mindfulness.
Fight Addiction with Mildness
Like everything else, there is a limit to how mindful we should or, for that matter, can be. Obviously, we can’t live in the present moment 100% of the time. We have to think of the future in order to make plans. We have to think of the past in order to refine or duplicate what has already worked for us. But it is possible to be fully in the moment as we’re planning for the future or remembering the past.
Choices and Decisions
Staying in the present becomes most useful when it alerts us to negative thoughts and feelings. Because if we notice the thought, then we have the option to encourage it or let it fade. We also make the soundest decisions in the present moment. It’s impossible to completely utilize our brain’s resources if some of those resources are busy re-creating the past or imagining the future. Simply put, if we aren’t bringing to bear all we’ve got when making a decision, then we cannot make the best decision possible. Bad decision-making skills are a serious problem. As the existentialists say, “The world and human life have no meaning unless we give them meanings.” But how do we give them meaning? Through the choices we make, according to existentialism. There’s no more and no less to it than that. Quite a lot, then, is riding on our decision-making skills, no?
That said, distractions aren’t only negative. Daydreams and fantasies are often pleasant, and following a train of thought often leads to realizations. If we are to practice mindfulness, should we try to let these thoughts go as well? Not if we don’t want to, which is precisely what’s great about mindfulness. It enhances our ability to observe what we are thinking, and our observations bring up a choice: disengage or engage? We develop mindfulness through what’s called mindfulness meditation practice. What would the ability to engage and disengage at will with your thoughts feel like? Quite freeing, right? And that is how to fight addiction by using mindfulness.
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