I am hearing impaired, legally blind, and suffered a mild/moderate TBI 3 years ago 3/21/18. I do use art and poetry as therapeutic hobbies.
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Answer transcribed from Brightway's interview with recreational therapist Allison Huck:
For those not familiar with meditation, it's really just a process of learning how to pay attention. This is paying attention to the present moment with a certain amount of curiosity and not necessarily just quieting the mind, which a lot of people think meditation is about. You should be allowing yourself to be more mindful: notice what's happening, what's going on, and practice being less reactive to what's going on. There's a lot of research out there that shows that meditation can help improve brain functioning. It can change some of the structures of the brain. For example, it could change the amygdala, which is our fight and flight response. It can also help change the prefrontal cortex, which is a lot of our executive functioning, so decision making, planning, and problem-solving. Additionally, it can help change the parts of the brain that play a role in learning, memory, and emotional regulation. Focus meditation can do so much for people. It can definitely help decrease stress and anxiety. The greatest thing about meditation is that it's free and you can do it anywhere with very little things, you can do it at any time.
There are a lot of apps available such as Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer. They all have guided meditations at lots of different lengths for people of any skill level. I also love that there's a lot of resources on Love Your Brain, and they're specifically tailored to individuals with brain injury. This comes at different lengths, where you’d be starting out short and working towards longer ones targeting specific areas like stress, anxiety, pain, and sleep. You can filter them in a lot of different ways. Those are some great resources for anyone with traumatic brain injury to engage in meditation. Specifically for someone with visual or hearing impairments, there are a lot of things like amplification devices. That might be helpful for some, but for others, this might not be the solution depending on the level of hearing impairment. For instance, some people engage in meditation by just using white noise, so finding that one noise that you might be able to hear or focusing on just your own breath. Something as simple as counting your breath, so inhaling to a count of one and exhaling to a count of one, or inhaling to a count of two and exhaling to a count of two and so on. There's a lot of really simple ways that you can engage in meditation. There are more complicated ways that you can engage depending on your level of readiness and your skill level, but I think it's important for everyone to remember that meditation is called a practice for a reason. There's no expert in meditation and there's really no way to do it wrong, it's just the act of trying that matters.
Answer transcribed from the Brightway Answers interview with clinical specialist Marlene Rivera:
I like this question because it really brings home what mindfulness is intended to do. When you learn to use meditation, it's the same way you learn to do anything: you get exposed to it, and you figure out which ones works best for you, because there's a lot of meditation practices out there.
Regardless of what your barriers are, even though your hearing is impaired and you're legally blind, what mindfulness activities like meditation allow you to do is to help you pause and focus on the present using all of your senses. So even if some of your senses aren't functioning at their optimal level, you still can focus on all the other senses to help calm you and bring you back down to earth and ground you - this is the intention of these activities.
This is especially helpful when you may be feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated. Brain fog is a factor of cognitive fatigue for some individuals, so engaging in meditation might help to calm them. However, keep in mind that for some individuals, it might actually cause increased anxiety. So it's very important to understand which ones work for you.
But by participating in in a mindfulness meditation that best suits you, if you are forcing yourself to pause, that's a very powerful step when when you're trying to help your brain function better and to recover.
It's the same concept of rest. When you're resting, you're pausing in your day to take the time to reset before you continue. So if you pause and you focus on what's going on around you with your other senses - what do you hear? what do you see? what do you taste? what do you feel? - that's meditation.
You can find guided meditations online that help you go through some of these exercises that will help you focus on those different senses, but again, even if you can't access one, you can engage in meditation independently by pausing and focusing on the senses you have available and taking deep breaths when you're going through those exercises.
There are so many resources out there for meditation that you can use. We have a couple that we share on our resource page for the RediscoveryU group that I help to run: https://www.councilonbraininjury.com/resource-page