Leading a Mindful Life in Recovery

Mindfulness can be beneficial to your recovery and the healing of your family system. We often get so caught up in the humdrum of our lives, getting distracted at every moment, or stressed out in reaction to events that we forget to focus on what’s important. What is essential in our lives, and what do we value? Do our thoughts, actions, and behaviors line up with our values, or are we living our lives moment to moment with no foundation to guide our reactions? Mindfulness can help bring us out of these “reactive” states and help us take a more “proactive” approach to life. When we live in a reactive state, things can catch us off-guard, and we set ourselves up to feel uncertain about our futures. Worries and anxieties fill our heads with negative thoughts and feelings. If we practice mindfulness, as discussed by John Bruna and Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey, we can impact our lives and the lives of our families.

Proactive versus Reactive

What is the difference between the words “proactive” and “reactive?” The root of each word is the same–active–and refers to an action. The words differ due to their prefixes:

  • “Pro-” refers to that which occurs earlier or before an event or circumstance.
  • “Re-” refers to beginning anew or going backward.

When we react, we are responding to our feelings in the moment. We are responding to things as they occur. Reactions work well for survival when facing immediate threats. We cannot think and need to act quickly. However, when we react to every single event in our lives, we do not take action based upon our core values or principles. We might be inconsistent or change our behavior depending upon our mood or current emotional state, which can be influenced by seemingly insignificant factors, like being hungry or how well we slept last night. When we react to others’ behaviors, we can set up an inconsistent manner for dealing with problems or create an unpredictable home for our kids.

By contrast, proactive responses are thought-out and planned. We might have noticed a pattern in our child’s behaviors and chose a consistent response to these behaviors. Using a proactive approach requires us to check-in with ourselves and respond according to principles rather than how we feel in the moment. For example, our child might throw a dish across the room when we ask them to help clear the table. Our natural reaction to this behavior might be to yell or exert our frustration in some manner. Taking a proactive approach requires interrupting this natural reaction by calming ourselves down and responding more beneficially. 

Mindfulness and Proactive Approaches

Being mindful can be paramount to using proactive approaches in response to our lives and our environments. John Bruna describes degrees of mindfulness in the “Beyond Risk and Back” discussion mentioned earlier, which can be paraphrased as:

  • Awareness of our immediate surroundings, actions, and feelings
    • What are we doing right now?
    • How are we feeling in this moment, and what is in our environment?
    • We are acknowledging what is happening or what we are feeling, yet not reacting to it.
  • Knowing why we are acting or feeling a certain way
    • Why are we doing whatever we are currently doing–whether reading a blog or working during our day?
    • Why do we feel the way that we do right now? Is there an influence of our physical state, like hunger or tiredness, influencing our feelings?
  • Understanding the quality of our actions or feelings concerning our values
    • Are our actions healthy or beneficial?
    • Does our behavior in the present moment align with our core beliefs and values, or are we reacting?
  • Reality testing versus emotional distortions
    • Are our actions, thoughts, and feelings based on reality, or are they in response to emotions?
    • Emotions can sometimes distort reality. To be mindful, we need to check-in with the validity of the present moment. We could be overreacting or making decisions grounded in unrealistic expectations.

Taking a mindful approach to life can help us cultivate optimism and generate meaningful goals for our lives. We might get too attached to outcomes and distort our responses to the present moment without considering if our desired outcomes are rooted in reality or not. We cannot also control the outcomes or the end result. Fixating on imagined futures might distract us from giving our full attention in the moment. When we detach ourselves from outcomes or expectations, we can focus on something that we can control: our present state of mind.

Mindfulness can help in recovery or in helping our kids through their process. We might be reacting to events and circumstances in life. Instead, we can take a proactive approach to life, based upon our core beliefs and values. Reactions occur in the moment, often fueled by emotions or our current state of being. Mindfulness disrupts our immediate responses to events and allows us the space to check-in with ourselves. We can then question our actions by going through degrees of awareness, as we test whether or not our actions line up with our values and reality. The outcomes we are striving toward might not be realistic, or they may be distracting us from giving our attention in the “here and now.” If you have a child suffering from an addiction or other mental health issues, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment is here to help. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

Leave a Reply