Mindfulness and Addiction
Addictions are the side effect of a grasping mind. When we try to cling to things beyond or reach or moments in our lives that have passed, it can sometimes lead to negative emotions or trigger unhealthy feelings. Generally, it is when an individual feels excessive helplessness toward situations in his or her life, addictions and other coping mechanisms can form to help deal with the emotions.
Unfortunately, in many cases it can be hard to truly see what is causing the emotions and what an individual is grasping for or reaching toward. This is where mindfulness meditation can begin to help with the discovery of the root causes for most addictions.
Meditation and practicing mindfulness can help us learn a greater capacity to see further into ourselves to explore our emotions and thoughts. Life can be full of many confusing and conflicting emotions. On occasion, an individuals core values can be violated by the actions or words of another which can also lead to addiction and the need to cope.
Depression and addiction are two very close relatives who usually take residence at the intersection of hope and desire. Through mindfulness and learning how to focus the mind and its desires, it is much easier to cut through the mental fog that can sometimes cloud the understanding of self and cause the need to drown out our emotions with things or substances. Addictions are not all drug related. Addictions to possession, power, food, sex, money, and many other compulsory behaviors can also benefit from mindfulness and meditation.
Altering the Brain Through Meditation
For a number of years many scientists believed that once the human brain entered adulthood and beyond it could not grow or change. They believed that neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to create new structures and learn) was reduced after childhood. With new research in the field of neuroscience, we now know that the brain never loses its ability to grow new structures as we age. However, some parts can become atrophied from a simple lack of use.
Research by Sara Lazar, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, shows that through the practice of mindfulness meditation the brain becomes thicker. Her research has shown the pre-frontal cortex and the mid-insular regions of the brain become larger and more active with meditative practices. Her research, in addition to the work of others in the fields of science and medicine, have all shown that when you begin to change your thoughts and habits the brain will develop new pathways. This means that it is possible to change the brain’s pathways and its impulses simply through intention and mindful attention. If the desire is there to end an addiction and meditation is chosen as a solution, success is likely to occur.