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July 22 Is World Brain Day

brain health

Every year on July 22, an ambitious campaign advocates for global brain health by spreading awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy cognition for life. If you drink or use drugs, you could significantly compromise your brain health.

Substance use is a contributing factor in brain cell death, brain shrinkage, cognitive disease and many other issues. Addiction affects numerous parts of the brain, including its reward centers and the prefrontal cortex, which is the area responsible for decision-making.

Exploring the Mind-Body Connection in Addiction Recovery

Though you may think of your mental and physical health separately, they are intertwined, and it is essential to address both in addiction treatment. 

Mind-body medicine is the use of behavioral and lifestyle interventions – such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness – to holistically address medical problems. Several scientifically based mind-body medicine options exist for people in recovery, including cognitive behavioral therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

What Is Neuroplasticity?

For many years, scientists believed the brain was unchangeable, and that it could never repair itself if it experienced damage to its cells. However, now that we can take accurate, detailed brain scans, we have learned that damaged brains actively work to heal themselves by forming new pathways. This concept is called neuroplasticity, and it has profound implications for addiction recovery.

In studying brain imaging, scientists have found the brain is highly adaptable and moldable, able to reorganize itself. Research shows addiction is essentially a disease of neuroplasticity. When you develop a habit, your brain forms a related pathway. For example, if you drink daily, you are teaching your brain to expect that regular reward. Every time you use alcohol or drugs, the pathway becomes a little bit stronger until that habit is the overriding priority in your life.

While habit-forming behavior has a negative side, one of the positives you can expect to encounter in addiction recovery is that you can retrain your brain by teaching it new, affirming behaviors that support your sobriety.

Developing Better Brain Health

Addiction recovery is a lifelong journey requiring patience and self-compassion, but knowing you can improve the damage drugs and alcohol have done to your brain is a first step.

Here are some things you can do to strengthen your brain health as you recover:

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh produce, fiber, complex carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid processed foods, which tend to have added sugar, sodium and fat.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting caffeine consumption.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily. Find an exercise routine you enjoy, so you will be more likely to stick with it.
  • Aim for seven to nine hours of restful sleep per night. Set a consistent sleep schedule, so you go to bed and wake up at the same times every day.

Healing Your Brain in Recovery

Though alcohol and drugs have lasting impacts on the brain, healing is possible with professional help. The same neuroplasticity that paved the way for your substance use disorder can also help you restructure your thinking for the better. 

Your brain can aid your recovery by constructing new connections that enable you to move past chemical dependency or a dual diagnosis. It is a long, but ultimately worthwhile process. You’ll be amazed at what your brain can do for you if you let it. Begin your journey toward lasting sobriety today by contacting us at Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services.

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