There is a reasonable chance that when you hear someone mention mindfulness, you imagine a person sitting quietly with their eyes closed while they breathe in and out and don’t seem to do much else.
And it is certainly the case that mindfulness practice often can be fairly described in those terms. The heart of the practice is learning to be fully present in each moment, and the breathing exercises and visualizations (which, of course, an outside observer can’t…well…observe) and the like frequently involve stillness.
But sitting still and quietly is not the only way to practice mindfulness in your day to day life. In fact, mindfulness pairs well with a variety of exercises, which means you can work on your mental and physical well-being simultaneously. Doing so is a great way to support your sobriety and make it less likely you will experience a relapse.
Let’s take a look at three kinds of exercise that can be blended with mindfulness to great effect.
It’s no stretch (see what we did there?) to say that yoga is itself a mindfulness practice. Like mindful meditation, yoga encourages you to connect with your breath and your body just as they are in the present moment.
Each pose and stretch is an opportunity to bring your focus to the specific feelings you experience in your body as well as to your breathing. When you do so, you ground yourself and are less likely to ruminate about the past or worry about the future. Instead, you are present in the moment as you move.
Meanwhile, you are gaining flexibility and strength—and these improvements to your physical health also provide mental health benefits as well.
Swimming is a great way to exercise and can lead to significant fitness gains over time. But it is worth considering what your mind might be up to during, for example, a session of lap swimming.
When you are in the water, it can be easy to let thoughts flow to unwelcome shores as you swim from end to end of a pool over and over. You might find yourself worrying about a situation at work or replaying an argument with a friend or letting yourself do a bit of internal wallowing over a recent disappointment or setback. Alternately, you might find yourself only thinking of the number of laps you are trying to complete to the exclusion of all else. That singular focus can actually cause you to miss many of the things that make swimming so wonderful.
Swimming, like yoga, provides an opportunity for mindfulness practice as you bring your attention to the sensations in your body as you move through the water. Bringing your mind and body together to share the experience of swimming can make your exercise session even more valuable.
Walking or Hiking
Sometimes when we walk, we allow distractions to fill our minds. Those distractions might be coming through our earphones or they might be in the environment where we are walking—and they might come from our minds as we allow worries and regrets to intrude on our thoughts. Any and all of those sorts of distractions can take the mind far afield as you make your way along.
Walking can be a great activity for someone who is trying to get started with an exercise program. After all, there is a good chance you are already doing a fair amount of walking each day. Adding to that step count can have real benefits for your physical health.
And you can use your walks or hikes as an opportunity to engage with your senses and calm the mind as you put one foot in front of the other.
Make Up Your Mind to Move Toward Sobriety
When you are using drugs or alcohol, it can be mighty difficult to think clearly and to make good choices. But it is absolutely essential that you make up your mind to reclaim your sobriety—and your life.
At Bel Aire Recovery Center in Kansas, we are able to address substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders with personalized, evidence-based approaches to treatment. We are committed to providing a continuum of care that ensures you have support and resources in the early days of your recovery journey. And we know how to help if a relapse occurs.
But the first move is yours. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, the time to make up your mind to get help is right now.