Are you struggling with an addiction right now? Anything could be an addiction. Simply watching TV or eating could be an addiction. An addiction is not just drugs and alcohol, it could be even shopping online. Anything could be turned into an addiction if done in a compulsive manner.
Before we discuss how meditation can cure addictions alone, we need to define and talk about what is an addiction.
According to psychologist an addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite the consequences.
What Causes An Addiction?
Addiction happens not because of a mental illness, but a form of self medication. The self medication could be because of a childhood trauma, a recent trauma, your parents getting a divorce, your own marriage divorce, job loss, bullying, etc. The addiction is a form of self medication to ease the pain or escape your reality. Your addiction could be alcohol, drugs, food, video games, watching TV, Internet/social media, shopping, gambling, etc. Anything you do compulsively, could be an addiction.
Why Is Addictions Considered A Disease?
An addiction is considered a chronic disease because an addiction actually changes the brain circuitry. This is because of Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change in neural pathways and synapses due to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. In more simpler terms, the brain is like plastic, where it can be changed and molded from environment, experience, and thinking alone. So you can actually get smarter as you age. Due to neuroplasticity, you can grow smarter even at 80 years old. On the same breath, you can grow dull and unintelligent as you age also.
There is 4 changes in the brain during an addiction.
What Are The 4 Changes In The Brain During Addiction?
- Sensitization – Is your brain saying: “I’ve got what you need” Ex: first time drinking, first time playing a new video game, first time posting a pic on social media.
- Desensitization – Is your brain saying: “I can’t get no satisfaction” Ex: Drinking for the 100th time, playing that video game for the 100th time, posting a pic on social media for the 100th time. Now you need a something new or something stronger to satisfy you.
- Hypofrontality – Is your brain saying: “Bad idea, but I can’t stop you” This is where addiction goes haywire because now you can’t control what you are doing.
- Alter Stress Response – Is your brain saying: “I need something to take the edge off.” This is a alter stress response because you don’t have what you are addicted to.
Can You Explain The 4 Changes In The Brain During An Addiction?
In the beginning of doing anything that gives you a dopamine release, you are sensitive to the stimuli. After awhile of being exposed to the stimuli(alcohol, drugs, TV, music, internet, gambling, food etc.) you become desensitized to it. This happens because you brain stops giving you the same amount of dopamine. Now you need more or something different to get the same release of dopamine. That’s why addicts will choose harder and even different drugs. Once you start doing more of the thing you are addicted to, you start losing control. This is called hypofronality, where the activity in prefrontal cortex declines. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for your will power and the ability to control your actions. Someone with low activity in their prefrontal cortex will have little will power and little control. Someone with high activity in the prefrontal cortex will have a lot of will power and control. The last change in the brain happens when you become stressed out because you aren’t getting your addictive thing. Smokers will need to smoke because they are stressed out they haven’t smoked.
I used to be highly addicted to video games, caffeine, and the internet, like mostly every Millennial. I noticed that my addiction was turning into a problem when it started to effect my mental health and ultimately affecting my life. So when I started to meditate daily, my craving for the video games and caffeine have taken less of a hold on me. I immediately noticed a decline in cravings.
Why Does Your Cravings Decrease From Meditation?
When you meditate, you activate the happiness center in the brain known as the prefrontal cortex which controls the nucleus accumbens. Nucleus accumbens is responsible for your happiness and joy. Ultimately when you meditate you become happier. All reason for addiction is because of unhappiness. The addiction helps you escape the unhappiness, by temporarily providing you with happiness. That’s why when you start to meditate your need for the addiction declines because you are feeling happier.
What This Means For Overcoming An Addiction?
Meditation stimulates and trains your brain to be more joyful, and free of dis-ease. Free from the root cause of the addiction in the first place, the DIS-ease, free of the uneasiness. Also meditation gives you a natural high without the need of anything external. The high is just feeling at peace due to the slower heart rate and detachment from mental attachments.
Why Is Quitting An Addiction So Hard?
What makes quitting an addiction hard is the withdrawals you get from quitting anything addictive. Even when I quit caffeine I felt withdrawals. One major withdrawal that everyone will experience from quitting any sort of addiction is STRESS. This goes back the 4th change in the brain during an addiction, the altered stress response. There is a catch 22 because what causes the addiction is stress and unhappiness but instead of your stress and unhappiness coming from something in your life like lost of a job, now your stress and unhappiness is from the addiction itself. So when you try to quit the addiction, you feel stressed out. This is why addicts will often relapse because they return to the addiction to take the edge off.
The reason why meditation is so effective is because it helps you reduce your stress and take the edge off without needing anything external. What tends to happen with addicts is that they find something else to help them quit their previous addiction but now they are addicted to something else. An example of this is someone who quits their addiction of watching TV but now they are spending countless hours on their phone. Or someone who quits junk food, now they are binge watching TV shows.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is simply sitting with yourself, focusing on your breath or maybe the sensations in your body and just going inwards and quieting the mind. It’s the simplest thing one can do, all you have to do is just try it.
Meditation helps the frontal cortex stay in control. This region is the CEO of the brain, it controls everything. As I stated above that this part of the brain controls your will power and how this region declines during a serious addiction.
Meditation will help you have more control of your will power because it will increase the activity in this cortex.
Meditation & Dopamine
Meditation also has been shown to increase dopamine by 65%. This is important to helping you overcome an addiction because dopamine is what makes something addictive in the first place. If eating a donut or potato chips didn’t give you a dopamine release then it wouldn’t be addicting, and no one would be eating potato chips. That’s why drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, greasy food, video games, and social media are addicting because it hijacks your dopamine. Take the dopamine away from these things and you wouldn’t become addicted to it.
How Meditation Helps You Master The Itch Or The Urge:
What is the urge or the itch? It is an overwhelming, powerful, tunnel vision impulse to satisfy your craving. Often times addicts will be so obsessed with satisfying this craving that this is all they are see or think about.
How meditation masters the urge/itch is by allowing the mind to step aside from the flooding of addictive thoughts. People who are addicted to things, could trigger the urge just by a thought alone. Meditation helps you become aware of these addictive thoughts and triggers.
Meditation Or Tradition Drug Treatment For Addiction?
According to studies, meditation has been shown to be 6X more effective than traditional drug treatment for overcoming an addiction. A study in 2006 by University of Washington examined 78 substance addicted prison inmates for 3 months.
These inmates were taught meditation for 10 days and was give a self assessment at day 0 and at day 90. At the end of the 3 months, the study found that inmates who practiced meditation for 3 months daily, drank 87% less alcohol and used 89% less Marijuana. AMAZING. Meditation nearly cured their substance abuse in 3 months.
The reason why meditation is so effective for overcoming an addiction is because it treats the cause of addiction and that is UNHAPPINESS.
What Causes Unhappiness?
The cause of unhappiness is not living consciously, and feeling like you lost control. An example is a marriage divorce, a job loss, failing school, and once these things happen, you feel like you lost control of your life. So you turn to something to help you escape your reality, so you don’t have to face it. Meditation helps you live consciously and mindful. Helping you become more happy and joyful because you feel like you have became the captain of your ship again.
Practice meditation and you will gain your control back of your life and cure your addiction for good.
I HOPE THIS HELPED!
If you are struggling with an addiction, you can reach out to me or seek some professional help.
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