I believe at some point in our lives, we all have suffered from addiction. Addiction certainly impedes our growth, since it prevents us from having true free will. This is because it often traps us in a time-loop of repetitive unhealthy behaviours, which then takes our attention away from our life goals and life purpose. I feel it is important to address why we feel overpowered by certain desires in order to break this chain of sensation seeking.
Excessively indulging in drugs, alcohol, sex, or sugar are the most common and well-known addictions. However, I am not merely speaking of the examples I mentioned above but also any activity you feel that rules over your ability to stay present and aware of yourself. Therefore examples could also include, tv-watching, video-gaming and even social media. Since these activities, can hook our minds and leave us in a trance-like state where we become vulnerable and dependent. What I mean is, we become reliant on seeking instant-satisifaction similar to a man at a casino hurling coins in a slot machine. He may lose track of time as he hopelessly chucks the money in; however he is so glued to the machine he is not aware he is wasting his valuable time.
In order to break this cycle, it takes a certain level of willpower. You must focus on practicing restraint when you start to feel the subtle urges of impulsiveness. As soon as the cravings kick in, I would encourage you to practice being mindful and strongly present during that moment. Pay attention to what you are feeling. Be bored. Sit with boredom and notice how much you resist it. You may reach the conclusion that the craving arised as a distraction from looking within and seeing your own suffering. So it is important for you to find out what you are running away from? Could it be boredom? loneliness? emptyness? Whatever you feel, meditate on it. Notice how powerful the temptation is to return to your compulsive behaviour. Do not act upon this urge, tell yourself it is natural to feel this way. Remain strong and understand that the suffering you feel is part of the process for you becoming stronger. If you allow yourself to be a little disatisfied for a moment, then this will spark your creativity to think of practical solutions to solve your personal problem.
Ofcourse, depending on how dependent you are on your addiction, this may prove a very difficult task. However, trust me when I say that meditation increases focus and willpower. Studies have even proven it increases the density of parts of the brain associated with emotion regulation and self-control. Other studies have even suggested that meditation can be useful to combat addiction, since people were able to eventually distinguish between the waves of craving and the addictive act itself; thus allowing the process of craving to pass on.
If you think about it, the ecstasy you seek is coming from hormones that naturally exist within you. Research has shown that drugs stimulate the reward circuits in your brain that produce dopamine. Therefore all a high really is, is just an excessive amount of dopamine being released in your brain. This high is short-lived when you “crash” and lose all the dopamine, you then experience symptoms close to mild depression as a result. Someone who becomes an addict then feels they have no choice other than to repeat the behaviour or drug to get the same reward (dopamine). However, with a little discipline we can find a more sustainable way of finding joy.
It all rests on discovering what I would call “natural highs”. Natural highs is the positive side effect of practising healthy habits in your life and disregarding the unhealthy habits. Your body attains a state of balance when your actions, thoughts and feelings are kept in good health. This state of balance is what brings lasting peace and joy. When you start to experience these benefits for yourself, you will never want to return back to the chaotic cycle of addiction again.
In my experience, when I started to practise meditation daily and minimise my sugar intake I felt more mentally stable overall. Furthermore, I started to feel naturally in a positive mood for absolutely no reason. Meaning my natural levels of dopamine had risen. Eventually because I practised restraint from my cravings I was able to summon the willpower to pursue more hobbies that gave me lasting joy. For example, I recently took up tai chi and I honestly recall after every lesson feeling very happy and ecstatic. This positive feeling stayed with me for days. Furthermore, the fact that I had tai chi and violin lessons on the same day amplified this lasting effect of joy and fulfillment. All of this energy and willpower came from simply meditating daily. My life reached balance as I did less passive actions such as binge-watching tv shows for hours, and was more inclined to act based on my creative interests. Ofcourse I would allow myself time to switch off only once I felt satisfied that I have stimulated my mind and body adequately.
Don’t just take my word for it. Please experiment and try some lifestyle changes. Practice restraint through meditation. Retrain your mind to become more emotionally stable and then you can slowly eradicate addictive behaviours.
P.S. I understand I have brushed through this topic quickly; I do have the intention of coming back to this topic to explore it in more depth, so stay tuned…