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How Does Meditation Change the Brain?

Meditation is a wonderfully effective tool in recovery. In fact, it is even suggested as one of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. 12-step recovery is highly suggested as a means of achieving and maintaining sobriety, but meditation can help us no matter what recovery program we are following. The fact is that meditation has been scientifically proven to alter the brain in positive ways that promote mental, physical, and spiritual health.

It is undeniable that meditation makes us feel better, but why is that? When we take on a meditation practice, the activity makes significant physical alterations to the brain. Alice G. Walton, in a 2015 Forbes article entitled 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain, explains, “The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.” Grey matter is responsible for processing information and signals from sensory organs. Alcohol and drugs have have been proven to reduce the amount of grey matter in the brain. In this manner, meditation may be extremely effective as a way of healing from the damages caused to the brain by addiction.

Meditation has also been shown to improve cortical thickness. According to Sara W. Lazar in a 2006 Neuroreport article entitled Meditation Experience is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness, explains, “Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula.” Gaining a greater ability to focus and pay attention can be particularly useful in early sobriety when our brains are still healing from addiction.

While it is suggested to take on a daily meditation practice, even a small amount of meditation can provide major benefits. According to Yoni Blumberg in a 2018 CNBC article entitled Study: Meditating Can Help You Focus and Keep Your Brain Young, “A more recent finding highlighted by the New York Times showed that just three days of mindful meditation — paying close attention to the tactile sensations of your own body — strengthens the connection between areas in your brain related to focus and those that process reactions to stress.” The more we meditate, the more pronounced the effects will be.

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