Developing Resilience in Recovery Through Mindfulness
Developing resilience in recovery from addiction has the power to change your life. It can help prevent relapse, and can teach you how to get back up when knocked down by life’s challenges.
An integral way towards developing resilience is through mindfulness. If you’re looking for a way to thrive in recovery and reduce the risk of relapse, read on to discover how to develop resilience in recovery through mindfulness.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to adapt well when hit with life's challenges and stressors. When life's obstacles and challenges arise, having resilience gives you the ability to persevere forwards. Resilience allows you to bounce back after facing difficulties.
When you have resilience, you’re able to regulate your thoughts, emotions, and energy without letting them get consumed or derailed by external stressors. In this place of calm and groundedness, you can make decisions from a thoughtful perspective, and move forward confidently.
You may know some people who seem to be incredibly resilient, and you may know some people who don't quite seem to possess this trait. Resilience in itself isn't necessarily black and white, and lies more on a scale. Some people may be more resilient in certain areas, such as relationship issues, whereas other people may be more resilient in different areas, such as career setbacks.
A lot of this may have to do with experiences people have had growing up, and the traumas or dysfunction that have impacted their beliefs about themselves and the world around them.
Although it may seem like some people are innately resilient, this is most certainly a character trait that can be developed over time. Resilience isn’t something you have to be born with in order to possess. Even those who are born more biologically vulnerable to the effects of stress can develop resilience.
Why is resilience in recovery from addiction so important?
Developing resilience in recovery innately fosters a deep sense of personal growth.
Resilience can help you cope with difficult life experiences. As you move through life, you'll experience an ebb and flow of highs and lows. Although there are many beautiful moments in life, there are also many incredibly challenging moments as well.
For those who struggle with addiction, drugs and alcohol were used to cope with difficult emotions and experiences.
Whether substances were used to help push feelings down, numb emotions, or create an escape, they prevented you from being able to actually face the experience and move through it. Because of this, drug and alcohol use could have actually inhibited the development of your resilience.
Now in recovery, you will learn to face difficult experiences, stressors, and challenges head-on. Developing resilience in recovery is incredibly important for this because you no longer have the unhealthy crutch of substance use to lean on.
Below are a few of the reasons why developing resilience in recovery is so important:
Learn to face difficult emotions
When you develop resilience in recovery, you'll learn how to face difficult emotions rather than running away from them. You'll learn how to accept life’s challenges, rather than being resentful toward them. You'll also learn how to manage and cope with stress effectively, instead of letting it consume and overwhelm you.
When you learn how to do this, you will be far less likely to desire to engage in substance use. This is because you will have found new ways to approach and face life challenges that don't involve drugs or alcohol. You'll be more equipped to deal whatever comes your way.
Understand your cravings and triggers
Additionally, developing resilience in recovery will help you gain a deeper understanding of what drives your cravings and prompts your triggers. Resilience helps you tolerate the discomfort of the emotions and physical sensations that come with cravings. This allows you to get through these moments without returning to substance use.
Stop judging yourself
Resilience also helps you refrain from judging yourself, which is paramount in all stages of recovery. As you struggle with cravings, or something triggers a desire to use, it can be easy to beat yourself up or think you “shouldn’t feel like this anymore.” Developing resilience helps you mitigate that negative self-talk and self-criticism. You’re able to understand that what you’re feeling is normal, accept the feelings, and move on.
When relapse happens, it isn’t a random event. It’s actually a process that begins with how you’re doing mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Developing resilience in recovery allows you to stay in touch with how you’re actually feeling. When you have a keen eye on what’s going on internally, resiliency also helps you understand, manage, and move through whatever is going on. Because of this, resilience is so powerful in helping to prevent a potential relapse.
The benefits of developing resilience in recovery
The World Happiness Report published in 2015 identified resilience as one of the 4 key components toward overall well-being, along with sustained positive emotion, empathy, altruism, and mindful attention.
There are so many benefits of developing resilience in recovery that will spill over into all areas of your life.
When you develop resilience, you’re able to:
- Develop healthy coping skills
- Reduce the risk of relapse
- Not become overwhelmed and consumed by your emotions
- Learn from life’s challenges
- Develop a more optimistic disposition
- Foster healthy relationships
- Develop empathy and compassion
- Feel more comfortable stepping outside your comfort zone
- Feel bold enough to set and achieve your goals
Now that you know a little more about resilience and why it’s so important in recovery, discover how to develop resilience through mindfulness.
How to develop resilience in recovery with mindfulness
Studies conducted by researchers Badri Bajaj and Neerja Pande show that mental resilience appears to be more significant in individuals who are mindful. Mindfulness is a great way to develop resilience while in recovery from addiction.
Mindfulness and meditation are free and invaluable tools that complement a comprehensive recovery programme. They can give an added edge as you foster greater self-awareness and emotionally step away from danger zones.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness happens when you’re able to be present in the moment and observe your inner and outer experiences without judgment. It is a quiet, still place from which you can separate yourself from your thoughts and emotions, and simply look at them.
Mindfulness has many scientifically-backed benefits, including reducing stress, increasing empathy, improving cognition, and even reducing chronic pain. Mindfulness also has the ability to help reduce emotional reactivity, which is linked to increased resilience.
Cultivating mindfulness through meditation
Practising meditation is a great way to foster mindfulness. Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate all obstacles and challenges in your life, but a consistent meditation practise will change your relationship with those stressors. After all, it isn’t what happens to you that dictates your future, but how you respond to what happens.
A big part of resilience in recovery is the ability to not get bogged down by the negative emotions that often accompany difficult situations. Sometimes, people can get lost in their negative emotions, stewing in them and allowing them to grow. People can get stuck in this negative place emotionally and find it difficult to move beyond it. Resiliency allows you to experience those emotions, and then let them go.
When you practise meditation consistently over time, you learn how to observe your emotions rather than being consumed by them. You can understand and accept them, rather than resisting them, which can make them last even longer and feel even stronger. In this way, meditation grants you the ability to experience your inner and outer reality without letting it hold you back.
Meditation helps you tolerate discomfort
Meditation also helps you build a tolerance for discomfort. Part of resilience in recovery is being able to face challenges, without pushing down or numbing the difficult emotions that come with them. Meditation helps you develop this ability.
Early on in your meditation practise, you may find it incredibly uncomfortable to sit in silence for even 5 full minutes. You may feel uncomfortable being alone with your thoughts, and you may be physically uncomfortable sitting still for an allotted amount of time.
As you practise meditation more and more, your ability to tolerate that discomfort increases, and this translates into emotional discomfort you may experience throughout your life. When hit with setbacks, you’ll be more equipped to sit with the difficult emotions that come up. You’ll be able to feel them, process them, and then move on when they’re no longer serving you.
A gentle reminder about strength and resilience
Being resilient doesn’t mean you don't get affected by things. You’re human, and experiencing sadness, pain, or guilt are all completely normal emotions to feel. Resilience doesn’t mean you won’t feel these emotions – in fact, it’s quite the opposite!
Resilience means you will allow yourself to feel difficult emotions. It means you are brave enough to sit with your pain, sadness, guilt, or anger. Resilience means feeling the emotions, accepting them, not judging yourself for them, and allowing them to just be.
This is how we move through challenges in life.
Strength doesn’t mean you don’t feel pain. It means that you can feel it and continue to thrive onward! That is true strength. It’s easy to push down pain or not face difficult emotions, using distractions or other methods to disconnect from yourself. What’s harder is being vulnerable with yourself and sitting in those difficult emotions.
Developing resilience in recovery through mindfulness takes time, and isn’t a linear process. However, being able to face life’s challenges and bounce back will only help you grow even more, and will truly benefit all areas of your life.
Recoverlution’s wellness hub contains many mindful practices, including meditation, yoga and breath work. Learn with us as you develop your own resilience in your recovery journey.
Author - Thurga
- How people learn to increase their resilience https://www.mindful.org/how-people-learn-to-increase-their-resilience/
- Mental toughness and resilence: https://www.headspace.com/articles/mental-toughness