Developing a Strong Mind and Overcoming Obstacles

Contributed by: Paul Pound LPC LCADC ACS

mountains-849852_640The ability to reach a level of success that is satisfying to you can be found in the growth and development of habits in your everyday actions. This article explores the behavioral aspects of what contributes to feelings of achievement in daily life.

Academic and sporting performances are often recognized by others, yet an individual with a strong mind feels success from within and requires no outside recognition. A strong mind is one that is able to freely; feel, think, search, locate, identify, evaluate, decide and act.

This may involve internal and/or external stimuli while maintaining the elements found in the StrongMind Behavioral Activity chart below.

StrongMind Behavioral Activity


Many individuals who have experienced the difficulties of addictive behavior can attest to the lack of freedom of the mind. The power of a craving limits the thoughts and feelings to the achievement of only one result: the acquisition and use of the addictive substance.

The major obstacle for the individual struggling with addiction is to overcome their restricted awareness, mindful attention and development of an analytical process that is a healthy alternative to the addictive substance.

Directing Feelings to a Specific Interest

smart-725843_640The step of mindful attention of an individual is seen when they direct their feelings and thoughts to an area of specific interest within their awareness. The limited awareness already established (due to cravings) encourages the individual to have little influence over their mindful attention. The addictive substance becomes all-encompassing. This obstacle to a substance – free life is a powerful force within the addictive behavior process.

The step of analysis is virtually absent from the individual experiencing an addiction. The process of evaluation has been replaced with decision. The individual that lacks a strong mind lacks the ability of freedom to choose.

The development of an analytical step is dependent upon strengthening the mind so that it can increase its awareness and redirect mindful attention. Once the individual develops a mind that is free to choose, awareness is expanded and mindful attention is guided to areas that include healthy options.

Evaluating the Consequences of an Action

The strong mind individual has the ability to evaluate the consequences of their potential action. The substance abuser who strengthens their mind can become aware of alternative activities such as exercise while analyzing the damage they may experience from substance using.

Mental rehearsal of consequences as well as positive healthy outcomes helps to encourage a substance – free life. A strong mind like a strong muscle requires development through repetitive activity. Mindful meditation that has been practiced for 20 minutes per day for 8 weeks has been found to increase awareness and strengthen the ability of the individual to guide their mindful attention.

Developing Repetition of Actions

peace-of-mind-349815_640The repetitive action found in practice helps the mind to “chunk” information which leads to the formation of new healthy habits. Conscious attention and analysis are removed from the process and a complete movement is completed with minimal brain activity.

Habits are a subconscious set of actions stored in the basal ganglia ready to be activated at any moment by the conscious prefrontal cortex. The hippocampus stores the majority of our memories yet requires a higher level of brain activity for retrieval. When recalling answers to a test, hippocampal memory is utilized while the subconscious actions of driving a car are habits (requiring minimal energy) found in the basal ganglia.

When cravings are experienced the move to a meditative practice (due to repetition) becomes the habit that replaces the substance. The obstacle presented by the craving triggers the habit of meditation and exercise. Substance abusing is often a habit that is stored by the individual yet remains inactive when replaced by a new healthy habit.

Finding a Professional to Help

Often when beginning a training program to strengthen the body, individuals will sometimes hire a personal trainer, join a gym and begin a workout routine. Strong mind development usually requires support often found in licensed substance abuse/mental health professionals as well as the many apps that can be obtained on mobile apple (iPhone) and android platforms.

The ability to have immediate support at all times can be a significant advantage to those beginning the journey of a substance – free life. Apps like Stop, Breathe and Think can help the individual develop a stronger awareness while Breathe2Relax can increase an individual’s ability to influence their mindful attention.

The StrongMind App

iphone-388387_640The StrongMind app is designed to help you increase your analytical ability by providing insight into your preferred actions when faced with challenging situations (including cravings). StrongMind strengthening exercises are recommended based upon an individual’s profile. This writer is the creator of the StrongMind app and believes all apps are best utilized with licensed professional support.

The individual developing a strong mind will face obstacles and effort will be required to expand one’s awareness, guide attention and successfully analyze a situation before taking action.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with addiction recovery and mindfulness? What steps have you taken to take control of your thoughts and develop mindfulness daily?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 8th, 2015
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.