Archive | March, 2015

Being Brain Healthy: Be Mentally Engaged

31 Mar

I’ve talked, a lot, about how engaging your brain is as easy as thinking about a sensory experience – dive in more deeply and tap into more of your senses. Those thoughts can activate your brain in very distinct and nourishing ways.

spices

 

Another really cool way to be mentally engaged is to actively direct your thoughts – guide your thoughts both to and away from just about anything. This can take many forms but the most common methods are through some kind of focusing or centering activity like practicing yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or other directed/guided techniques.

How meditation and mindfulness changing your brain is a pretty hot topic in research right now. There is growing evidence to support that directing your thoughts through a variety of methods can help you:
• Reduce stress
• Increase both focus and creativity
• Reverse memory loss
• Maximize feelings of well-being
• Decrease depression symptoms
• Boost energy
• Improve mood
• Improve quality of sleep
• Control inflammation
• Elevate outlook on life
• Create feelings of personal control

That is a pretty attractive bundle of benefits. Since meditation and mindfulness have no known adverse side effects, honestly, there is no downside.

Pause on the rocks

I believe that the key factor behind all the evidence is this: practicing a method that allows you to direct how you are thinking makes it possible for you to control chemical releases in your brain. Think about that. You can change your brain chemistry by directing your thoughts…. That is a pretty big concept.

The more actively you participate (the more engaged your efforts), the more likely you are to feel both the short term quality of life benefits and long term brain protective and building benefits.
Sometimes I have a hard time staying focused on one thing and find it difficult to keep my mind from drifting off. If you feel yourself drifting, bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Feel the rush of the cool air in through your nostrils and the warm feeling of an exhale. Your future brain thanks you!

Brain Injury Awareness Month, My Book, & My Story

25 Mar

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and since I just got the first copies of my book Being Brain Healthy: What my recovery from brain injury taught me and how it can change your life last week, I guess it is time to be very public about the fact that I had a brain injury that changed my life.BeingBrainHealthyFrontCover

If you don’t know me really well or you don’t read my stuff all the time that fact might have slipped by. I am not very public about all of this because I thought that saying that I had a TBI in public would make me vulnerable, destroy my credibility, and leave me looking oh so flawed.

I know that sounds dramatic but let me put this in perspective for you.

Imagine you are a strong, accomplished, professional who, one Tuesday after driving out of the parking lot of the grocery store on your lunch hour, was t-boned by a van and pushed into the middle of traffic at a very busy intersection… and your whole world changes.  You are suddenly confused and overwhelmed and feeling oh so vulnerable.  That lasts for about 18 months and although you come out OK, you are, without question a different person.

That vulnerable spot, the one where I felt so out of control is not a spot I wanted to re-visit. In the name of self-protection, I kept my brain injury an undercurrent in my writing and in my work but rarely front and center.

comfort zone

I have amazingly supportive friends and family who helped me see that if I wanted my message — that we all can be Brain Healthy by making positive choices and looking for those things that make us live and feel the best — to be relevant, I had to tell my story. So, I did and guess what?  I am still OK.

eyes on the horizon

I think the message I want to put out there is this: There is hope and by remaining positive it is possible to come out OK and even embrace the new person who emerges at the other end of the journey.

As I think about Brain Injury Awareness Month and those in midst of the fog, I am reminded of a few key things.

First, most of the time people with brain injuries look sooooo normal. It is those conditions that you can not see that are difficult for both those who are living them and those who are living with and caring for those who are living with them. Please, as my friend Kim Tackett says, Be Kind.

Second, living with, caring for, and cleaning up after someone with a TBI is hard, thankless job. Patience, understanding, and then more patience works…most of the time.

Third, honor those who carry the load. My husband, my son, and a few trusted friends are freaking amazing human beings and I did not always remember to thank them but, I am now. Every chance I get.

Finally, embrace the imperfections in any way possible. My dear friend Kathie (one of those trusted friends mentioned above) still has a scarf I made for her as part of my recovery work. It is a symbol of my imperfections — it is uneven and has holes but every stitch was knitted with every bit of gratitude I could muster.

Check out our resources page for organizations and links to support.

What experience do you have with brain injury?

 

 

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