Buddhism is based on four spiritual principles or tenets which are called The Four Noble Truths. After reaching enlightenment and discovering Nirvana, the Buddha taught his followers about these four truths which explained all of suffering in life. Life is suffering, the Buddha stated simply in the first truth, and that suffering is caused by craving, he explained in the second. Thankfully, the Buddha emphasized, there is an end to suffering, by detaching from cravings and following what is called the Eightfold Path. Included in the Eightfold Path is mindfulness.
Mindfulness has proven to be successful for many practitioners, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. Clinical Psychology Review recently published a report which reviewed studies on the effects of mindfulness on cravings, specifically cravings for drugs in those recovering from drug addiction. Researchers found that mindfulness was immediately effective in reducing cravings.
Why cravings management matters
When someone who has lived with active drug addiction experiences cravings, it is unlike someone who suddenly has an urge for a piece of candy, or a favorite treat. Cravings are a full mind and body experience which is extremely uncomfortable for someone in recovery, especially after periods of dormancy from cravings. Urgent and undeniable, cravings demand all the attention someone in recovery has to give them. Until men in recovery can learn to detach from the urgency of cravings, they have to suffer from them. Suffering from cravings can be a predictor for relapse.
What the research found
City, University London researchers looked at 30 studies and reviewed the data from each. Researchers discovered two mechanisms taking place. First, researchers found that mindfulness worked in reducing cravings by overcoming their place in working memory. Working memory is the short term memory storage where information can be easily and immediately accessed. Cravings find their way into working memory because the brain considers these chemical reactions to be urgent, as if they were a matter of survival.
Second, researchers discovered that mindfulness contributed to ‘extinction processes’. Mindfulness is one of many relapse prevention tools which helps men in recovery change their behaviors. Men adopt an array of tools which helps them to reprogram their brains in response to cravings. This inhibitive action changes the way they respond to cravings, which reduces cravings overtime. Mindfulness aids in this extinction process- no differently than it extinguished suffering for the Buddha.
Mindfulness is one of the many evidence based practices we build our curriculum around for our men’s treatment programs at Tree House Recovery. Men learn how to create sustainable changes in their lives, building a sustainable recovery which helps them find freedom from addiction. Call us today for information: (855) 202-2138