Coping Skills: Mindfulness

Coping Skills: Mindfulness

People with solid recovery find that having a toolbox filled with effective coping skills is an important resource. These non-chemical coping skills replace the old, destructive habits of using, numbing, and avoiding. This program specifically addresses Mindfulness.


The definition of Cope:

To deal effectively with something difficult.

When starting down the path to recovery, coping with some of the realities of your life can be challenging. Many of us experienced life by numbing ourselves, so when we remove the harmful substance from our life, it can be hard to deal with certain situations.

Developing strong coping skills can help you get through the challenges. This program will give you an overview of one type of coping skill.


A definition of Mindfulness is: Mindfulness is the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts, and sensations occurring in the present moment. Mindfulness can be enhanced by learning different kinds of meditation practices.

Being mindful is an important skill to use to manage your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, but is also effective to practice while interacting with others around you.

"I used to get so angry with my husband when he criticized me. I felt hurt, and it also justified my drinking to deal with my hurts. Now I am able to use mindfulness to notice my thoughts, feelings, and reactions as I'm talking with him, and I'm able to manage those moments much better and not over-react."
- Lynn, woman in recovery

Here are some different mindfulness skills for you to try to help you build your mindfulness proficiency.

Guided Meditation

A guided meditation is just that: a video or audio file that guides you in a meditation. Some people, especially in the beginning, struggle with how to meditate. These guided meditations will give you instructions on what to think about or focus on while meditating.

If you prefer a voice-guided meditation, here's a link to a video with voice-over instructions. This will allow you to close your eyes. Using headphones may help you focus even more.

Guided Meditation: A Moment of Tranquility

Many local colleges, spiritual centers, yoga studios, Tai Chi Schools will offer classes on meditation as well, and so you can also try taking a class.

Progressive Relaxation

Instructions for Progressive Relaxation: Breathe in, tighten up any muscle group (like your face muscles or the muscles in your calves), hold it briefly, and then as you breathe out, let the muscles go. Continue to do this with each of the muscle groups in your whole body. Most people like to start with their head and face and proceed down the body, ending at the feet. This relaxation exercise may be helpful for those that have some difficulty getting to sleep - use it when you go to bed at night.

Square Breathing

How to do Square Breathing: Breathe in for a count of three, hold for three, breathe out for three, and hold for a count of three. Repeat as many times as necessary until you calm down. TIP: Play soothing music as you do this, and match your breathing to the slow tempo of the music.

Mindful Breathing

Follow these five steps:

  1. Choose a time period – anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. (Set a timer if you like.) Find a comfortable spot and close your eyes.
  2. Take a few deep breaths, allowing yourself to relax more each time. After the deep breaths, breathe normally and notice the rise and fall of your stomach with each breath. Avoid upper chest breathing. Instead, allow your stomach/abdomen area to expand. (If you feel expansion in your low back, you’re doing it right!)
  3. When you get distracted by outside noises or inside thoughts, don’t get attached to those; instead, just go back to paying attention to your breathing.
  4. Count down from ten, starting with ten as you inhale, 9 as you exhale, 8 as you breathe in again, and so forth. With each breath, let go of distracting sounds, thoughts or bodily sensations. Return your attention each time to your breathing.
  5. When your time is up, slowly open your eyes and notice how your breathing, thoughts, and perceptions have changed.


Have you ever tried any of the mindfulness techniques above? Which would you like to try? Make any notes about mindfulness. You can add a to-do item to work on a mindfulness exercise.


In order to be successful in your recovery from addiction and build a life of promise, you need to acquire and grow strong coping skills. When you expand your ability to deal with tough situations, you'll find that you can make it through almost anything without relapsing.

Building coping skills takes practice, so be patient with yourself. Remember to set attainable goals, so when choosing skills to work on, make a list of steps to achieve it, and work your way through that list a step at a time.

Your To Do List

  • Practice a mindfulness technique to improve my coping skills.

Keep learning about coping skills and read Coping Skills: Resourcing.

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