We all understand that addiction has a negative impact on your body, but most aren’t aware of the negative impact it leaves on your brain.
It’s not uncommon in newfound sobriety to be left feeling stressed, irritable, depressed or anxious.
This is due to the myriad of issues going on in your brain.
For example, long-term alcohol abuse destroys the grey matter in the area of your brain called the Hippocampus.
Grey matter is essential for muscle control, seeing, hearing, memory, emotion, speech, decision making and self control.
Alcohol abuse also impacts how your brain produces and regulates your feel good chemicals like Dopamine, Serotonin and GABA.
These neurochemicals inform your outlook on life and when they become deregulated so do your emotions.
This hampers your ability to live a joyful and stress free life and will often leave you feeling flat and apathetic.
This is also known as Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or P.A.W.S, the “emotional detox” of alcohol abuse.
Does this mean you’ll be stuck feeling this way forever?
Your brain is "plastic" (where the term “neuroplasticity” comes from) meaning that its always changing and growing.
Your brain is similar to your muscles.
If you put the time and effort into building an area, it grows.
If you ignore an area, it shrinks and becomes weak.
Here are 5 things you can do to heal your brain, increase your grey matter and properly regulate your brain chemistry during recovery:
Exercise is key in sobriety, especially for our brains.
Studies have shown that some of the most effective exercises for brain health are aerobic exercises such High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and long distance running.
These exercises help to restore lost grey matter, as well help regulate your neurochemistry.
Resistance training has also been found to be incredibly helpful.
Meditation is an amazing practice.
If you've had issues with anger, fear, stress, depression and anxiety (and who hasn't?) then starting a meditation practice is the way to go.
Sitting in silence literally saved my life, it allowed me to no longer be held hostage by my emotions. Instead of constantly reacting to the world around me, I’ve become proactive and less stressed as a result.
Meditation helps to minimize your negative emotions, and also increases grey matter, all of which are great for reducing your chances of relapse.
Yoga is incredible for weak and tired bodies recovering from addiction.
Most of us don't have the physical and emotional wherewithal to jump right into the gym and start lifting heavy so easing into a mellow yoga practice for some is the way to go.
An additional bonus for yoga practitioners is a happy healthy brain.
4. Curcumin (Turmeric)
Curcumin is from derived from the Indian spice Turmeric and its health benefits are legendary. I take it daily to maintain good health.
Curcumin helps to heal the liver and other organs, clean the blood, reduce high blood pressure and alleviate stress.
Another thing that Curcumin does well is increase BDNF, or Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor. BDNF is a vital factor that increases growth and strengthening of nerve networks essential for brain health.
BDNF also helps promote neural outgrowth, brain cell survival and increases the plasticity of your synapses, which help you to learn, think and form memories.
5. Quality Protein
Quality protein is essential during recovery and sobriety.
This is because dietary protein breaks down into amino acids.
Those amino acids in turn help to create Dopamine, Serotonin and GABA, those vital brain chemicals that have been so negatively regulated by addiction.
My preferred protein of choice is animal protein, particularly red meat and seafood, as it’s one of the healthiest and most bio-available foods on the planet.
By employing all 5 of these techniques, you give your brain the healing it so greatly needs and deserves.
Best of all, these practices will decrease the emotional distress in your life, allowing you to lead a more positive and healthy lifestyle.
You don't need to be a slave to your emotions in recovery, there is relief and these tools can guide you there.
If you’ve found these tips helpful, you can find more at the following links below.