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Posted by on in Alcoholism

It's been suggested that you can improve the quality of your life by cultivating compassion.  Compassion has been described as 1) a feeling of deep sympathy for another person, 2) to suffer together, or 3) concern for the misfortune of others.

Not only is compassion praised as a desired human quality, studies suggest that engaging compassion can increase the hormone DHEA and reduce cortisol, the hormone responsible for managing stress. It's also been suggested that people who live with a high degree of compassion tend to be happier and be actively engaged in service and volunteer work.

When people live a compassionate life they tend to be admired by friends and family.  This sense of compassion tends to spill over into their relationships.  

I'd like to suggest five ways to engage compassion:

  • Follow-through with service work.  Volunteering is helpful as you are engaged in an activity that's not about you.  Oftentimes when we have a desire to use or drink we're focused on us, our situation, or a problem that has to do with us.  Volunteering creates emotional space to give you a chance to make better decisions.
  • Random acts of kindness.  Doing something for someone without any expectation of something in return. 
  • One of the most powerful tools for developing compassion is loving kindness meditation.  This involves the practice of deliberately engaging kindness by focusing on internal images of different people and directing compassion towards those individuals. This also involves sending loving thoughts to people you care about. 
  • Develop a ritual which includes meditation time in the morning or before you retire for the night.  Focus on statements that allow you to engage ways that allow you to engage loving kindness towards others.
  •  Practice Commonalities.  One favorite exercise comes from a great article from Ode Magazine — it’s a five-step exercise to try when you meet friends and strangers. Do it discreetly and try to do all the steps with the same person. With your attention geared to the other person, tell yourself:
    Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”
    Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
    Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”
    Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs.”
    Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”

 

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Increase*

“But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget.”

― Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

While addiction is viewed in most corners of the treatment and recovery communities (including the American Society of Addiction Medicine)  as a chronic and relapsing brain disease,  as I have pointed out in previous posts, this is usually a  difficult idea for families and friend of addicts to accept.  It is particularly hard when relapse occurs after a long period of sobriety.  Loved ones wonder how   a loss of control can  occur when life has been normal and predictable   for an extended period of time.  It seems as though the addict made a terrible choice, with no thought at all about the impact such an eventful decision would have on everyone else.  Is that the case?   Yet another complicated question, but it is important to understand that, even after extended periods of sobriety and stability,  brain structure and brain chemistry still matter. (Please continue reading)

Animal studies and imaging studies of the human brain have taught us that all natural reinforcerssuch as food and sex, and all psychoactive drugs  increase the production of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, which is a structure in the basal forebrain sometimes referred to as the brain’s“pleasure center”.  When this part of the brain receives  a massive  hit of dopamine from the ingestion of a drug, the user feels high, and the experience of this huge reward constitutes  a powerful learning experience. Repeated experiences of intense reward eventually make other parts of life far less interesting and important to the brain than the pursuit and use of addictive substances and activities. Moreover  and very importantly, the flow of dopamine to the nucleus accumbens  increases not only when the addict is using a drug, but when the addict’s brain anticipates receiving it because it is coming into contact with cues that are associated with use.  This is why 12-step programs remind people in recovery to avoid “slippery people places and things”. Those slippery entities are paving the way to relapse by priming the brain with a dopamine rush.

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