Thousands of people struggle with addiction every day. Despite the great desire to beat this life-threatening habit, many people fail to get over their addiction. Some even spend a fortune on medications and expensive treatments. What they don’t realise is that a simple, mind-body technique can actually increase their chance of beating addiction and avoiding a relapse.
Meditation and Addiction
Alternative therapists, psychiatrists and even medical doctors are beginning to appreciate the amazing benefits of mindfulness meditation not just in promoting general health and wellbeing, but also in helping people get their way out of addiction. This two-thousand year-old practice has been a subject of numerous studies for the past years and findings show that it does more than simply relax the mind. Through it, scientists discovered that the brain has still the capacity to grow and develop throughout their lifetime. This is entirely opposite to the popular belief that the brain stops evolving after childhood.
The fact that it can literally change the mind opens the possibility of meditation being able to change a person’s way of thinking, eliminate pessimism and promote optimism.
But how exactly does meditation help a person beat addiction? First, meditation helps an individual determine and understand the causes of his or her addiction. People have different reasons for engaging in unhealthy habits. Often, they include fear, anxiety, depression and other forms of emotional distress. The problem is some people find it hard to discover the real cause behind their addiction. The reason why many people fall into negative habits is because they are try so hard to fill the ‘void’ within a spot in their inner selves that they think is missing. Normally, people look for external sources to fill the emptiness, so they turn to taking drugs and alcohol, smoking and engaging in other addictive behaviours. Meditation offers a different approach to filling the void. It lets a person fill the missing spot internally, without having to depend on any external source. It provides an inner path to peace and satisfaction which can replace addiction.
Research shows that meditation can positively affect the neural activity in the amygdala the small region in the brain that is responsible for regulating emotions. In a 2000 study, researchers found that when the amygdala is relaxed (which is achieved during meditation), the parasympathetic nervous system works to counter anxiety. Furthermore, long-term use of meditation was found to increase the size of the bilateral, prefrontal right-insular region of the brain the area responsible for optimism, sense of wellbeing, creativity, curiosity and other positive emotions.
All these physical improvements in the brain brought by meditation can effectively help a person cope with addiction. Reducing stress levels alone can already lead to a reduction in substance abuse. How much more does the structural growth in the emotional area of the brain? Basically, meditation gives the sufferer all the tools needed to beat addiction.
Other studies suggest that meditation triggers the brain to produce new neural connections which are important in regulating the flow of emotion and information. People with addiction have superior right-prefrontal cortex the region in the brain associated with fear, depression, anxiety and negativity. By practising mindfulness meditation, an individual can strengthen his or her left-prefrontal cortex the part where positive emotions spring, such as compassion, optimism and self-awareness.
What makes meditation an effective treatment?
Learning how to take control of your emotions is the biggest step towards defeating addiction. Through meditation, you train your brain to focus more on the positive side and manage the negative. While there are a lot of therapies for addiction, many do not provide long-term success. They only provide relief from withdrawal symptoms and help sufferers manage their addiction. On the other hand, meditation helps a person find the root cause of their negative behaviour and replace it with positive emotions.
Meditation involves simple steps and it is free! For beginners though, it is highly recommended that they seek guidance from professional therapists. Once they’ve learned the concept of meditation and how to do it, they can practise it anytime and anywhere without the help from their therapists.
Addiction is very destructive to families, relationships and to individuals’ general sense of wellbeing. While meditation does not eliminate the use of the medical science to beating addiction, it can greatly help the sufferers defy their enemy within.