How Mindfulness Can Connect Us to OthersCandice Rasa
A sense of connection and connectedness to others helps to heal addiction. That’s a mantra that grounds so much of the therapeutic work we do here at Beach House Center for Recovery.
Research — and, in particular, the findings of Johann Hari — has shown that addiction thrives in isolation via dynamics of human alienation, whereas healthy and life-giving relationships can be a powerful catalyst for recovery.
Here, too, mindfulness and mindfulness meditation can play a significant role in recovery, by deepening our connections with others. But how can mindfulness strengthen these connections?
Mindfulness as a Tool for Gratitude
Mindfulness is a powerful way to draw attention to what most matters in life. In this sense, mindfulness exercises help access the reserves of gratitude that can often lay dormant within us. Mindful meditation opens up a window through which to gaze on the truly good dimensions of life for which we can be personally grateful. When we focus our attention on these aspects of our experience, letting them bubble up to the surface of our consciousness while tuning out the usual bombardment of distractions, these objects of gratitude begin to form a growing list in our conscious awareness.
And often on this list are the people who have loved us most and who have been our biggest cheerleaders: close loved ones like parents, spouses, or dear friends, for example; and maybe even a coach or mentor who believed in us. Together these folks comprise an intimate circle of those who most want to see us healthy, happy and successful in recovery. Mindfulness thus becomes an opportunity to take in and savor the love and connection that already envelop us, if we’re able to open our eyes and look.
A Mindfulness Exercise for Connecting with Others
The more we focus our attention on the sources of love and connection that edify our lives, the more we deepen these same healing connections and the better positioned we become for developing new, similarly life-giving relationships.
By way of illustration, below is an exercise in mindfulness that Beach House clients recently undertook and that anyone can benefit from trying. (In fact, if you haven’t already done so, I invite you to try it out and share your experience with the rest of us!)
Try writing three gratitude letters: one to yourself, one to a family member, and one to a staff member. Before you write any one of the letters, spend some time meditating about the times when you most felt loved and supported by the person you are writing to. What acts of love most touched or encouraged you? What qualities or strengths about that person are you most grateful for? What positive memories will you most cherish from your relationship with them, and why? Jot these things down.
Then write the letter and mail or hand deliver it to the recipient. Notice how you feel in the process of sharing your gratitude with the person in question. Chances are you’ll sense a lift in spirit just in the act of sharing. Or, you’ll notice the surprise and gratitude with which a recipient responds.
When clients at Beach House tried this mindful exercise, they experienced similar results. In one exchange, a staff member said the letter he received “made my entire week.” Meanwhile, the client who had written the letter said getting that response “makes me always want to do good for others.”
One relatively small but mindful act of gratitude thus can deepen our connectedness to others, reminding us of the goodness that’s there and that we want to be part of.