Meditation and the Brain: The Key to Holistic Addiction Recovery
What will it take for you to be willing to make a change if your life? What will it take – a diagnosis, an illness, an accident, or an overdose? What will it take for you to make your recovery and overall well being a priority? You don’t need to wait for something extreme to happen in order to start making positive life changes. Even just changing one aspect of your life for the better can lead to increased energy and a more positive outlook. Even just spending 10 minutes a day can help to open your soul to the possibilities that life has to offer. You must start somewhere.
At The Sanctuary, we specialize in holistic addiction recovery. The word holistic seems simple and a lot of addiction treatment centers are using the term. The word holistic means looking at the whole person. Our holistic addiction recovery practitioners utilize a combination of cutting-edge science and ancient wisdom to help our clients align their body, mind, spirit, and soul. We specialize in assisting those who suffer from addictions, trauma, co-dependence, and other disempowering behaviors to help them recover their authentic self. Throughout our entire program, we focus on meditation and the brain. An important holistic addiction recovery technique that is infused throughout our entire practice is meditation. It is so important that it is specifically mentioned in step 11. However, in the 15 or so treatment programs I attended in trying to get sober, meditation was not even mentioned, let alone stressed.
Meditation and the Brain: Impacts and Benefits
When we introduce the benefits of meditation to people, we often hear … meditation is not for me. I don’t have time. Meditation is too hard. I can’t meditate. Many people are skeptics. The primary reason is that they have never been taught how to meditate or not taught correctly. Proper instruction by a qualified teacher can help you to overcome the initial difficulties that everyone has in meditation.
Here is the bottom line. Meditation helps to change your brain. For those suffering from addiction, trauma, anxiety and depression, changing your brain is the foundation for changing your life. Meditation is a key component of holistic addiction recovery for a reason.
Whether you are an active drug addict or alcoholic who is investigating the benefits holistic addiction recovery or are someone who is feeling disempowered and need to make a life-change, improved brain function is just one of the scientifically proven benefits you will receive with a steady practice of meditation.
The Science of Meditation and the Brain
It has been scientifically proven that substance abuse, trauma, addictions, and even stress cause neurotransmitters within the brain to become distorted and can alter behavior.1 These neurological changes ultimately impact your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Historically, scientists thought that once you became an adult, your brain no longer possessed the ability to change. Not true. Neuroplasticity has proven that your brain has the ability to change, to form new neural networks, and new neural connections. Why is this important to an addict or someone who is feeling stressed, depressed, anxious or worrisome? Just as your brain has been altered through addiction, abuse, trauma, and stress, you now have the ability to influence your brain in a positive way and create new neural networks. You have the ability to transform your brain and transform your life at a fundamental cellular level. Emphasis on creating new neural networks and changing the brain is a key component of holistic addiction recovery. Therefore, meditation continues to be a vital component of holistic addiction recovery.
Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, published a study regarding the positive impact meditation had on those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks. Participants had measurable changes in gray-matter density in the parts of their brain associated with “memory, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”2 Comparative before/after participant brain scans showed an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus, and important area of the brain associated with learning and memory as well as a decreased in gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain connected to anxiety and stress. The control group did not experience these changes within their brains.
Research on the processes and benefits of meditation have been on-going, but only until recently have modern scientific techniques and equipment such as the fMRI been used to actually “see” what happens when people meditate and how that impacts their bodies and well-being. In November, 2013 it was announced that “John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is leading a five-year study on how the ancient practices affect genes and brain activity”.3 Scientific research is now validating what indigenous cultures and medicine people have known for millennia. Changing your brain aligns and connects your heart, body, mind, spirit, with the desires of your soul.
The art of meditation takes training and practice. The most important thing is to get proper instruction from a qualified teacher. This will help you overcome the initial obstacles of restlessness and racing mind that everyone has when starting.
When selecting a teacher, make sure they have been properly trained and that meditation is a central focus of their life. Someone that is not highly skilled in meditation cannot possibly teach someone else how to meditate. There is a big difference between someone who has taken a weekend meditation workshop and someone who includes mediation as a way of life. The meditation teacher at The Sanctuary was trained in India, directed the meditation program at the Chopra Center and has a meditation center in Sedona. Meditation is a central part of her life and teaching meditation is her passion. This not only gives her the experience necessary to guide beginners through the difficulties of meditation, it also makes her authentic.
You won’t transcend into a deep state of relaxation overnight. Your brain won’t change overnight. Give yourself time. Be patient with yourself. Remove all judgment on what you should or shouldn’t be doing. The most important step you can take is to start meditating.
There are many different methods of meditation. Some people ask me is there a right way, is there a wrong way. Meditation is about finding a deep connection within your soul and feeling connected to the gifts of nature around you. You will need to find a practice that resonates with you. At The Sanctuary, our holistic addiction recovery is deeply rooted in the ancient wisdom of Shamanism. We utilize the Shamanic meditation technique of journeying to provide physical, emotion, and spiritual restoration and provide personal empowerment. Journeying will help you to recover parts of your soul that have been lost through addiction and trauma in addition to connecting you with your true life’s purpose.
By changing one aspect of your life, you open the doorway of hope and possibility to enter your life. The emotional, psychological, and overall health benefits of Meditation continue to be scientifically validated. If you are suffering from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety or other health issues that keep you from leading a life infused with peace, I encourage to discover the art of meditation.
Are you ready to claim your power and live a life without fear or powerlessness?
Learn more about meditation and the brain. We are here to educate, we are here to help.
We are The Sanctuary at Sedona. (877) 710-3385
Michael Kuhar, P. (2012).The Addicted Brain: Why we abuse drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. Upper Sadle River, New Jersey: FT Press. (pp 65, 69).
Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W. Lazar (2010, August 11). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. Retrieved January 31, 2014, from http://www.psyn-journal.com/article/S0925-4927%2810%2900288-X/abstract
Kitamura, M. (2013, November 21).Bloomberg News. Retrieved January 31, 2014, from Business Week: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-11-21/harvard-yoga-scientists-find-proof-of-meditation-benefit-health
Schatz, C. (2011, April 08).Mindfulness meditation improves connections in the brain. Retrieved January 31, 2014, from Harvard Health Publications: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-improves-connections-in-the-brain-201104082253