Alcohol addicts often talk about having 'monkey brain.' It feels like we have particularly active minds. Constantly whirring, analysing, criticising, worrying.
Or perhaps everyone has minds just as busy, but are just better at dealing with them.
Whatever the reasons behind 'monkey brain' it does seem to be one of the reasons we drink. We use alcohol to shut our heads up. Alcohol is, it seems, the only way to stop us agonising about the past or stressing about the future.
You know the feeling: you've been running around all day, your internal dialogue is driving you crazy, you sink into an armchair, pour a large glass of wine and - after a few good glugs - relative peace.
(Until about 3am when you're woken up by the monkey brain chanting a litany of self loathing).
When we stop drinking, one of the things we miss the most is that 'dimmer switch' or volume button.
Which is where mindfulness comes in.
Mindfulness is another (less toxic!) way of stopping the monkey brain for long enough to give ourselves a break.
I was a bit sceptical about mindfulness, as I thought it necessarily involved meditation and, being British, I feel a bit of a pillock meditating. Besides, who has the time?
But not so. According to Daniel Ingram, "mindfulness does not stop after you get off the cushion." In fact, mindfulness does not even have to involve a cushion.
Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice, very similar to the psychological concept of 'flow'.
You know that feeling when you are totally lost in an activity, and the time seems to fly by - you're almost in a trance? You're not worrying about anything because you are totally focussed on the present moment? That's 'flow'. It's also 'mindfulness'.
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally in order increase awareness, clarity and acceptance.
So, to achieve a state of mindfulness, you don't need to learn to meditate - you can just choose an activity you love and give it your full focus. Pay proper attention to what you're doing. How it looks, feels, sounds, smells. Don't let your mind wander.
The activities that ex addicts tend to choose range from yoga and gardening, to cooking, knitting, art, dog walking or fishing. There's even a best selling colouring book called 'colouring for mindfulness.'
If any pesky worries creep into your mind notice them, then get rid of them.
(This process is known in mindfulness circles as 'wack-a-mole' after the arcade game).
After half an hour you'll have achieved something (baked a cake, weeded the garden, caught a fish - whatever), but you'll also feel great - relaxed, calm and peaceful. Without the drink.
So be mindful. Go with the flow. Get in the zone.
Love to you all,