There were times where my mind would run at a thousand miles an hour following my brain injury, and it was exhausting. I think after my trauma I was trying to look out for danger everywhere and attempting to control everything. I remember walking down an aisle in Sainsbury’s supermarket and feeling the to need to read every sign and product name. Of course that’s ridiculous and impossible unless you’re there all day. But that was the first sign I needed Mindfulness in my life. I just didn’t know it yet.
The information was too much and it was such an overload, and I don’t know even what I was trying to achieve. But that was my approach to everything whether I liked it or not.
I was attending a group for brain injury survivors run by Headway. Jo, an OT there, started to teach us about mindfulness meditation. A couple of times in the past I’d tried sitting cross legged like a Buddha. But I never felt I was doing it right so I thought I probably wouldn’t do much better with this. But I was wrong.
Jo was ready for the preconceived ideas we had about meditation and explained how mindfulness is different. You don’t need to be spiritual to feel the benefits.
Anyone can do mindfulness meditation and you don’t have to spend a long time doing it either.
Firstly you just need to sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat to the floor and sit upright with your back supported. So much easier than doing it on the floor! And with my weak left leg I probably wouldn’t have managed to get up once I was down there. So this was a good start.
I’d always thought you have to try to clear your mind thus why I thought I always failed. But Jo explained your mind is supposed to think so let it, just don’t be judgemental. Notice the thoughts that come, don’t categorise them as good or bad, right or wrong. Just notice them and let them move on. I know what your thinking, “this sounds impossible, how do I not judge things?” But it’s easier than you think.
Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, part of Oxford University’s department of psychiatry, calls a “direct knowing of what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment”.
I found this really helped me feel less anxious and more calm. Also it’s good for improving your cognitive abilities and concentration levels. Great for everyone, but especially for those with a brain injury. So give it a go, here it is in 5 easy steps:
- Sit comfortably upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor
- Tune in to your breathing. Follow the breath as the air comes in through the nose and down your chest, and its journey back out. Is it warmer coming out?
- Notice thoughts, acknowledge them and return your focus to your breathing.
- Don’t judge yourself for being distracted, but go back to noticing your breathing.
- You can start with just 10 minutes a day. We all have busy lives but give yourself that, you deserve it.
What this does is make you feel more present in the moment. So for those of us who worry our selves half to death, it’s just what we need. Worrying is trying to predict what hasn’t happened yet. But seeing as the future hasn’t been written yet, it’s a fruitless exercise. The best thing for you to do is to make sure your mind and body are as ready as possible for whatever is around the corner. So just like taking a bath helps relax you body, mindfulness meditation does the same for your mind.
If you’re finding a racing mind is stopping you from drifting off to sleep, read Sleep after TBI: unlock 11 endorsed steps.
Have a go and let me know how you get on. Does it work for you?