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Practicing Mindfulness for Anxiety in Addiction Recovery

mindfulness for anxiety

Anxiety is a common challenge faced by people in recovery from substance abuse and addiction. The journey to sobriety can be fraught with emotional upheaval, making it necessary to develop effective coping mechanisms. Mindfulness, a practice rooted in ancient wisdom and backed by modern science, can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety and promoting long-term mental health. By taking a deep dive into mindfulness, once can learn its components, its benefits, and how it can reduce anxiety in addiction recovery.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the current moment.  Practicing mindfulness involves focusing on the here and now curiosity and acceptance. This means living in the moment without judgment or attaching oneself to thoughts, emotions, or even sensations.

Too often, people view the world through a filter, one corrupted by bad memories or fears of what might happen in the future. Mindfulness helps people to see and accept their surroundings, circumstances, and themselves as they really are.

A central tenet of both religious and non-religious traditions for thousands of years, mindfulness has been incorporated into Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, among other philosophies and religions. It’s a big part of yoga and other practices that promote the connection between mind and body.

The Role of Mindfulness for Anxiety in Addiction Recovery 

Mindfulness can play an important role in addiction recovery, particularly in anxiety treatment. This is because the practice of mindfulness empowers one to accept difficulties without fear or resistance.

People who practice mindfulness regularly feel less anxiety, and therefore less of a need to escape their problems or their psychic difficulties with alcohol or other substances. Instead, they acknowledge their anxiety, consider their options in responding, then take the non-impulsive, positive action.

Mindfulness also promotes feelings of hope and gratitude. By cutting off one’s tendency to view circumstances and people with preconceived notions, compassion and appreciation play a larger role in one’s outlook. Finally, as one integrates the practice of mindfulness into their daily life, the desire to numb oneself with alcohol and other substances feels pointless.

Three Components of Mindfulness for Anxiety

Three important components of mindfulness come in handy when it comes to utilizing mindfulness as an approach to reduce one’s anxiety in addiction recovery. They are: 


Many people turn to alcohol and other substances when they experience anxiety, fear, sadness, rage, or other negative emotions. By that logic, it follows that one must avoid any emotional distress to avoid relapse. Not only is this impossible, but attempting to avoid emotional distress is a surefire recipe for relapse.

The fact is everyone struggles with difficult or negative emotions like anxiety. The emotions are not the problem—it’s how one responds to these feelings that makes the difference. By practicing mindfulness, ones can coexist with their emotions, both positive and negative. They can step back from their impulses and feelings with perspective, which removes the power of negative emotions like anxiety.


When a person acts “with intention,” they are paying significant attention to their assumptions and behaviors, taking into consideration the intended purpose of their every action. This is the opposite of acting impulsively, which is the first step of developing an addiction.

Plus, focusing on one’s own assumptions and behaviors allows one to see beyond the fear and anxiety they might be feeling in response to a challenge. By replacing impulsivity with intention, one avoids reacting to difficulties in all the classic self-defeating ways.

Avoidance of Judgment

At first, the idea of remaining nonjudgmental moment to moment might feel odd. How can we improve if we don’t separate the good from the bad? 

The problem with being judgmental—of others, of ourselves—is that we often allow preconceived notions to prevent us from seeing ourselves and others honestly. For instance, if you’ve been telling yourself that you’re a failure for weeks or months on end (as so many addicts and alcoholics have), that judgment has dug in to prevent you from moving forward. 

If you view someone as simply “a bad person,” it’s practically impossible to see their actions for what they might well be: a misguided response to trauma.

Mindfulness helps one drop certain biases and opinions to see the world as it truly is. Adopting a nonjudgmental perspective can help you become more compassionate and forgiving toward yourself and others.

How to Practice Mindfulness

As described in the previous section, the role of mindfulness for anxiety in addiction recovery includes several small but powerful tasks. These include:

1. Raising Awareness of Breath

Begin by finding a comfortable seated position or lying down. Close your eyes gently and bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. You can focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation of air passing through your nostrils. Whenever your mind wanders, gently guide your attention back to the breath.

2. Body Scanning

Take a few moments to scan your body from head to toe, paying attention to any areas of tension, discomfort, or relaxation. Notice the sensations in each part of your body without trying to change anything. Simply observe with curiosity and non-judgmental awareness.

3. Mindful Movement

Engage in activities such as walking, yoga, or tai chi with mindful awareness. Notice the sensations of movement, the feeling of your feet touching the ground, and the rhythm of your breath. Allow yourself to be fully present in each moment, letting go of distractions and worries.

4. Observing Thoughts and Emotions

Practice observing your thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. Imagine your thoughts as clouds passing through the sky or leaves floating down a stream. Notice them with curiosity and detachment, allowing them to come and go without clinging to or resisting them.

Mindfulness offers a valuable tool for individuals in recovery from substance abuse and addiction to cope with anxiety and promote long-term sobriety. Practicing mindfulness may not eliminate all stress from life, nor will it protect one from pain. But it will provide a framework through which you can respond to difficulties and obstacles like anxiety in a healthy manner, which will help your recovery from addiction in countless ways.

Reach Out to Northpoint Recovery Today to Learn More About Mindfulness for Anxiety

Want to know more about mindfulness in addiction recovery?  The professionals at Northpoint Recovery can help you deepen your understanding of the significance of this ancient practice. Just call us today at 208.225.8667. You can also reach us online by completing our brief message form.