There is a growing body of research looking at the effects of meditation and mindfulness for people living with brain injury, particularly traumatic brain injury. So far, the findings are encouraging.
This post will introduce you to mindfulness and how it can contribute to healing after brain injury. Like many treatments and tools, mindfulness may work more for some people than for others. Read on to learn more, and think about whether exploring mindfulness might be worth a try.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of awareness that comes from consciously paying attention. Paying attention to what? Your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, to name a few. You’ve probably heard people talk about “being present” or “being in the moment”. These terms capture the idea of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is usually accompanied by the term meditation. Meditation is a way to get to mindfulness.
What does mindfulness achieve?
Mindfulness can actually impact your body. For example, it works to strengthen your attention “muscle”, giving you more control over your thoughts. The slow, controlled breathing of meditation reduces the fight-or-flight response in your body (your sympathetic nervous system) that can bring on anxiety and panic.
Mindfulness will not cure your physical symptoms. But, it can change your relationship with them and your responses to them. In this way, some of the positive effects of mindfulness can include:
- Stress reduction
- Ability to process your experiences, thoughts, and feelings
- Better ability to maintain attention
- Improvements in memory
- Being less reactive
- Recognition that symptoms are not constant, but ebb and flow
- Improved relationships with others
- Increased compassion for yourself
You can read about how meditation helped one TBI survivor here: https://www.brainline.org/story/head-cases-stories-brain-injury-and-its-aftermath
How do you practice mindfulness?
There are a number of techniques used to get to mindfulness, on your own or with a group. Here are some common examples:
- Sitting or standing meditation
- Walking meditation
- Body scan meditation (Scanning through your body and focusing your attention on the physical sensations you feel)
In 2018, BIAYR offered mindfulness workshops, “Mindfulness for Healing After a Brain Injury”. These free 2-hour workshops offer guided practices, group activities, and take-home work to promote maintaining mindfulness in daily life. Watch for more workshops in 2019 and consider giving mindfulness a try!