Health & Fitness » Lifestyle » Vol. 56

How Mindfulness Can Overcome Addiction

What if all you needed to do to kick your addiction was pay attention? Mindfulness, which incorporates many aspects of Buddhism, is being use to fight addictions – and it’s getting results.

Dr. Judson Brewer has studied the concept of mindfulness and its applications to overcoming addiction for a decade. Brewer described mindfulness as “paying attention on the present moment.” Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that allows an individual to focus on what is happening in the moment.

Brewer is considered an international expert on the topic and has appeared on numerous TV shows, TED Talk videos and has even written books about mindfulness, including his latest, The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits. He is the director of the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical Center, an associate professor for the Department of Medicine and Psychiatry at UMass, an adjunct assistant professor for the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, and a research affiliate at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.

When Brewer was completing his residency, he decided to focus his career and research on mindfulness. At the time, mindfulness was not really popular, nor accepted, in the medical community, he said.

“Ten years ago, this was not on the radar.” Brewer added that researching mindfulness “fell into the category of crystals, rainbows and other New Age things.”

Today, mindfulness is growing as a way to help those struggling with addiction, and Brewer’s research has the science to back it up. One of his studies demonstrated that mindfulness was highly effective with smoking cessation and showed results that were twice good as other gold-standard treatments.

Another innovation at the Center of Mindfulness at UMass is the development of the Go Eat Right Now app. This application is a 28-day training on mindfulness that allows patients to see how their diets impact their bodies, which helps to eliminate cravings. The process begins by having the patients pay attention to the moment and practice mindfulness every time they eat. At some points, the patients are shown body scans of what happens to their bodies in the moment if they eat something unhealthy, such as donuts. Journaling and being a member of the online community also helps patients focus on the present and why they are stress-eating. This process allows the patients to see and recognize the triggers that cause their unhealthy behaviors.

Brewer described the effectiveness of mindfulness: “Like cleaning out the wound rather than putting a Band-Aid on it in the first place.”

Brewer’s research has even concluded that mindfulness helps patients overcome alcoholism and drug addiction and tested the same as other gold-standard treatments.

For Brewer, the best part of his field is being able to help those who are suffering from addiction. “It is great to be there as a witness and cheerleader,” he said.

While the research shows mindfulness’ effectiveness on overcoming addiction, this technique can also be used to handle any stressful situation. According to Brewer, by focusing on the present, an individual will not allow themselves to be stressed out or become overly involved. Instead, they take life as it comes and recognize what is happening in the moment.

As someone who has been researching mindfulness since the very beginning, Brewer recognizes the effectiveness of this technique saying, “It gets to the heart of the problem.”

Whether overcoming addiction or trying to cope with everyday stress, the key is to let go, recognize triggers, but most importantly, be mindful in the moment.

For more information, visit

By Sloane M. Perron

Comments are closed.