Mindfulness has been a prominent term in recovery literature in recent years. Major elements of mindfulness have been adopted from Eastern philosophies, deriving largely from Taoism, Buddhism, and yoga practices. Why has mindfulness become such a key aspect of many recovery programs pertaining to mental health, addiction, and trauma?
Mindfulness teaches us to focus in the moment. Being in the moment requires us to suspend all judgment and qualifiers of “good” versus “bad.” In the moment, things simply “exist” and “are what they are.” When you can exist in the moment, you learn to accept everything as it is. Acceptance is the first step on the pathway to recovery.
When practicing mindfulness, you are encouraged to accept your thoughts for what they are. Our thoughts can be deceiving. Sometimes, we judge ourselves too harshly for our thoughts. We have a bad thought and think, “I’m a bad person for thinking this!” We say to ourselves, “I’m not a good person — good people do not have bad thoughts like this!”
The more we try to pressure ourselves to only think “good” thoughts, the less success we have in doing so. In mindfulness practices, all thoughts simply “exist.” Your thoughts are all neutral and are neither good nor bad. Distressing or disturbing thoughts come to your awareness and float on by. You accept your thought for what it is: a thought.
A majority of our thoughts occur outside of our awareness. Thousands of thoughts do not surface to the conscious level. Sometimes, however, negative thoughts enter our awareness. Thoughts like this can be distressing, and we may have a difficult time separating ourselves from these thoughts. Accepting your thoughts as a passive observer will give your negative thoughts less power.
These thoughts will have less of an impact if you do not judge them as good or bad. The acceptance of our thoughts as solely existing as neither good nor bad gives us the freedom necessary to begin learning self-acceptance.
Much like how mindfulness teaches us to face our thoughts with a sense of neutrality, we begin to practice non-judgmental introspection. “Introspection” refers to the practice of self-evaluation and self-reflection. While in recovery, introspection is an important process to begin and continue the healing process.
We have to learn self-acceptance and practice looking at ourselves for what we are. We have to see our actions and our thoughts in a completely neutral light. Practicing mindfulness will sharpen our skills at evaluating ourselves without judgment.
Once we learn how to accept ourselves for what we are right now, we can truly begin to change to where we want to be. Self-judgment keeps us from changing into our best selves. When we judge ourselves, we continue to feel guilty about our past actions.
We see ourselves as bad people, who have no possibility of change. We continue to adopt the same labels for ourselves and remain stuck in the same place. When you begin to look at your past actions or behaviors without a qualifying label, you can begin to understand them much better.
Viewing the past in a neutral light allows you to explore your actions and behaviors much more effectively. When we judge our past behaviors, we are unable to really examine the cause and effect. We simply write it off and say, “Well, that was bad, and I should not behave like this anymore.”
While you are in recovery, you seek to change your behavior; however, unless you can examine your behavior from a neutral perspective, you will not notice the patterns of your past behaviors.
We all have regrets. We all have made mistakes in the past. We have all hurt others or hurt ourselves. Engaging in practices of mindfulness can teach you to be more accepting of reality as it is. To change, to become your best self, you must learn to accept yourself right now.
You must accept yourself for who you are at this moment. Mindfulness is the practice of accepting the “here and now,” accepting the current moment for whatever it is, without qualifying it as good or bad. When you begin practicing mindfulness, you will begin to see the world around you on more neutral terms.
You will notice patterns of cause and effect. Once you begin to hone this skill, you will begin to look at yourself with neutrality, as well. Self-acceptance and non-judgmental introspection are the first steps towards cultivating a true change in yourself. The path to your best self begins with accepting your current self without judgment or qualification.
Do you harshly criticize yourself for past actions or behaviors? Do you believe that you will only change by feeling guilty about the past, yet find that these guilty feelings only serve to keep you stuck in destructive patterns of behavior? While many of us feel that our guilt is justified, these thoughts only keep us from truly changing. Mindfulness practices, like yoga and meditation, teach us to accept ourselves and the world around us for what it is in the moment. Acceptance is what leads to true growth and change. Recovery programs, like what we provide at The Kimberly Center, are designed to teach mindfulness as a part of a comprehensive program toward whole-self wellness and recovery. Our highly skilled team is here for you and can help you determine the type of recovery program that is best for you. Call us today at (855) 452-3683 for information on how you can begin your recovery journey!