How Meditation Can Help You Recover from a Brain Injury
Recovery from a brain injury is so much more than just physical. It involves dealing with flashes of your old life that seem to haunt you long after you’ve accepted the new. This is one reason why recovery must originate in the mind.
Meditation isn’t a cure-all, but it can help strengthen your mind and help focus your attention on the present moment. This way, those flashbacks become fewer and further in-between. However, much like most things that are good for us, meditation after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is much easier said than done.
In this post, we’re going to touch on the benefits of meditating after a TBI and cover some helpful tips for making meditation a part of your daily routine.
Benefits of Meditation After a TBI
There aren’t any large-scale studies on the effects of meditation on a TBI specifically, but there are many well-known benefits of meditation that can help the symptoms of TBI recovery.
- Meditation can help improve memory and cognition
- Mindfulness can reduce symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue
- Regular meditation can help relieve symptoms of depression, and improve overall mood over time
TBI is a very complex diagnosis that impacts many areas of a person’s life, and no two injuries are the same. Not only can an injury impact a different area of the brain and functionality, but also the emotional and psychological impacts on each person will be different.
No matter how the TBI impacts a person’s emotional well-being, the chances are good that meditation will improve the symptoms mentioned above.
How to Integrate Meditation into Your Treatment
Not so long ago, meditation was considered an alternative therapy, and so it was rare that it would have a place in Western medicine. But thankfully, things are quite different today. Many treatments that were previously considered alternative are finding their way into treatment protocols for severe injuries like traumatic brain injuries.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a variant of a program that began at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. This type of therapy combines cognitive therapy techniques that allow participants to process their thoughts and feelings with mindfulness meditation.
Such programs typically span eight weeks, but for the participants, meditation can become a lifelong journey (if they so choose).
In addition to mindfulness meditation, a TBI survivor’s treatment plan may include things like:
- Energy balancing
- Craniosacral therapy
Modern medicine is beginning to take a more holistic view of brain injuries that integrates neurology and psychology. And there are many studies to support the neurological and psychological benefits of meditation.
Each treatment plan will vary greatly depending on the doctors involved, and the extent of the injury. So if you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury, regardless of whether your treatment plan involves meditation, you can practice on your own.
What Is Meditation for TBI?
There are many types of meditation, but the most common meditation therapy for TBI is a simple mindfulness meditation. This involves training the mind to focus on the present moment without getting swept up in thoughts of the past, or worries about the future.
Naturally, this is helpful for all people, but for TBI survivors, it can be life- and belief-altering.
This type of meditation is simple in theory, but it takes practice to master. Fortunately, regardless of skill level, it doesn’t take long to realize the benefits of meditation. With regular practice, someone with a brain injury should begin to see benefits within a few short weeks.
When you meditate regularly, you should see the following benefits unfold.
- Reduced brain fog
- Less agitation
- Decreased moodiness
- Increased energy
- Better overall mood and outlook
Remember, meditation isn’t a magic pill, so these benefits won’t manifest overnight. Still, you can expect to see change with repeated practice. Think of meditation as an exercise for your brain. You’re not going to get six-pack abs from one sit-up, and you’re not going to solve all your problems with one or two meditations. But there’s enough research to support the effort as part of your daily practice.
Simple Meditation Exercise
If you want to try meditation, there’s some good news. It’s great if you can find a program within your current medical team, but you don’t need an insurance card to get started. Really, all you need is five minutes and a quiet space.
It’s best if you can meditate first thing in the morning (before everyone else wakes up), but you can meditate any time and anywhere. There are a few ways you can meditate, and you can play around with a few techniques to see what works best for you.
You’ll want to choose a point of focus before you begin meditating, so you know exactly how to anchor your attention.
- Focus on a candle flame
- Count your breaths (up to 10 and start over)
- Choose a focal point in the room
- Use a constant white noise (like a fan or motor sound)
You can see that these techniques all have a focal point that’s either audio or visual. You can even try a combination of audio and visual focal points, but most people find it best to focus on one simple thing.
When you think meditation, you probably think of someone sitting cross-legged on a pillow. This is a common seated position for meditation, but it’s not the only one. Not everyone can sit in this position, and if that’s the case for you, there are alternatives. Try sitting in a dining (or office) chair with your feet resting on the ground.
Regardless of whether you’re on the floor or a chair, it’s important to keep your spine straight.
Set a timer for five minutes. Next, relax your eyes and set your focus on your focal point of choice.
Before you meditate, set your focus on your mind and body. Take stock on your feelings – both emotionally and physically. This isn’t a time for judgment or dwelling on negativity. Acknowledge where you are in the moment. Are your thoughts running wild? Do you feel tension, pain, or stiffness anywhere in your body?
Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are, it’s time to release those thoughts and feelings as much as possible. This isn’t about forcing anything. Instead, you’re going to shift your focus to the focal point. The idea is that this focus will take importance away from the other things that are bogging you down.
It probably won’t feel successful at the moment, but keep at it. Whenever you notice your mind drifting towards thoughts or physical feelings, gently redirect your thoughts towards your focal point.
Breathe in and out. Nothing matters except for this moment in time – because this moment is all that’s real for any of us.
As your attention rests on its anchor, focus on relaxing your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
In the moments after your first few meditations, think about how the process went. Did you feel stressed or relaxed? Are you looking forward to doing it again, or are you dreading it?
If you’re feeling stressed out or like you’ve done it wrong, know that these are common feelings. In fact, everyone feels this way when they first start meditating. And if you feel this way, you’re doing it right. Actually, there isn’t a wrong way to meditate.
Meditation is a very personal thing, and you’re going to have a very individual experience. In fact, you will likely have different experiences each time you meditate. Overall, you can expect it to feel easier with practice, but you’ll still have moments where you’ll have trouble quieting your mind. It happens to everyone. Fortunately, you’ll still reap all the rewards of meditation, and should even see the benefits before too long.
A traumatic brain injury can be devastating to your physical and emotional well-being, but there are ways to regain your health and happiness. Meditation is an important tool in any recovery arsenal, and it can help TBI survivors alleviate some of the more frustrating symptoms, like brain fog, impaired memory, and depression.
If you haven’t tried meditation within your TBI recovery plan, maybe today is the day. All you need is a quiet space and the desire to meditate.
About the Author
Robert Hamparyan is one of California’s most accomplished personal injury lawyers. He first attended the University of Southern California, where he received his B.A. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he proceeded to the Western State University School of Law where he received his Juris Doctor Degree. Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers San Diego, APC was founded so that Robert could bring more of his skill and knowledge to personal injury victims in all types of cases.
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