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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Understanding the Mind-Body Connection in Addiction Recovery

Addiction is a unique disease in that it affects us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This means that the most effective treatment for long-term recovery is one that
holistically addresses each of these avenues as an opportunity for healing. 

Historically, substance use disorders have primarily been addressed using therapy and medication, limiting healing to only the mental component. But by expanding our understanding of the insidious nature of substance use disorders not only on the mind, but also the body and spirit, we can experience truly comprehensive healing and sustained recovery.

What does the Mind-Body Connection look like in addiction?

A mind-body connection is understood as the principle that your thoughts affect your body’s functioning and vice versa. A universal example of this is stress: when we are stressed about something we may experience thoughts and emotions related to anxiety and worry, which causes a biological reaction in our bodies like muscle tension, nausea, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, etc. 

With addiction, not only is it a disorder of the brain that affects thoughts and emotions, but continuous substance use can cause numerous harmful effects to the body, eventually leading to the body becoming dependent on the substance in order to function. This exacerbates the mental health symptoms, causing an endless cycle. Often the mind-body connection becomes lost in the addiction, requiring both the mind and the body to experience healing and the connection to be restored. 

What does the Mind-Body Connection look like in treatment?

More residential and even outpatient treatment centers are incorporating practices that aid in the mind-body connection, as well as spiritual practices. Treatment programs can incorporate mind-body activities within their treatment program including deep breathing, guided meditation, or nature walks. Having certified staff trained in various mind-body practices can greatly expand the healing potential. 

This may include professionals trained in:


Yoga is an ancient practice that incorporates simple meditation, body posture, stretching, and focusing on the breath to bring peace and balance to the system


Acupuncture utilizes pressure points and can be used to calm the brain and nervous system to achieve balance.

Nutritional Counseling

Paying attention to how you fuel your body is an important step in the recovery process, and guidance in this area is an important part of any customized rehab program. 

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can reduce stress, help with chronic pain and circulatory issues, and even restore hormone imbalances. Massage therapy can also include meditation which improves focus, and increases relaxation.

Fitness Coaching

Exercise is widely recognized as a tool linked to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Caring for your body is an incredibly important way to harness the mind-body connection. 

Small Ways to Increase Your Mind-Body Connection Into Everyday Life


Build a meditation practice by taking 5 minutes when you first wake up, during your lunch break, or before bed. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and set a timer. Begin by taking three, slow deep breaths and when your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Research has shown that daily meditation improves symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

Intuitive Eating

One way of building the mind-body connection is paying attention to our nutrition and what we are eating. This does not mean eliminating “bad” foods, but instead being intentional about what foods you eat and how it will affect your mood and body. This also includes listening to your body to determine when and how much to eat.


Daily movement does not need to mean hitting the gym or doing an extensive workout routine. Even just 5-10 minutes a day of light cardio can have significant positive effects on your mental health. This could include walking, gardening, dancing, or stretching.

How does a strong mind-body connection help recovery?

Mind-body practices all have a foundational core of mindfulness, which is built on the idea of being fully present in the moment. 

In addiction, alcohol and substance use becomes a way to escape from reality and numb the present moment. In order to sustain recovery, one must learn to tolerate the discomfort and emotions of the present moment without seeking the familiarity of substances to disconnect.

Mind-body practices foster this awareness, as well as bring healing and peace to the mind to allow difficult emotions to exist and not overwhelm. Thus, healing is in learning to cope through the distress.

In the treatment of addiction, it is found to be most effective when combining mind-body and spiritual practices with treatment specific to addiction and relapse prevention. By utilizing a holistic approach, individuals suffering from substance use disorders are more likely to break the cycle of addiction and truly heal: mind and body, soul and spirit.

Mind-Body Healing at The Haven at Pismo

Throughout our phase program here at The Haven, we implement techniques that are proven to harness the mind-body connection and help you find your way back to wellness and recovery! Reach out to us today to learn more about the programs we offer and how we can help you to renew to your best today!