I had an appointment for an assessment with a speech therapist last week. While I participated in speech therapy initially after my brain injury for three months and it did help, I’ve not been a big fan of traditional, western medicine because I’ve not found it to be all that helpful in my recovery from a serious brain injury. Recently, I’ve started to blend it back into my mix of alternative therapies because I’ve been ordered by a judge to do so.
After seeing a neurologist, rehabilitation specialist, and speech therapist, I’m developing a newfound respect for these professionals. While I’m finding that they don’t have all the answers, they do have valuable information that, like pieces in a puzzle, can lead me to my own discoveries.
My recovery from a global brain injury, encephalopathy, stemming from a pill-popping attempt to end my life, has resembled putting together a puzzle with the scattered pieces showing up in random places. It’s up to me to be open to a missing piece showing up in an unexpected place, research and assimilate it, determine its value and potential benefit, and act accordingly.
Although the speech therapist I saw didn’t advise regular therapy because he didn’t think that it would help at this point, he did share practices that I can do on my own — giving me a piece of the puzzle to fit into place.
Your Brain’s Health Is a DIY Project
Your brain’s health, your overall health, and your life are similar to do-it-yourself projects and puzzles. In a webcast, Daniel J. Siegel, co-director of the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, executive director of the Mindsight Institute, and author of several books defines the mind as the process that regulates our body’s flow of energy and information. The physical brain, the mind, and our relationship and interaction with the world form a triangle that produces the unique individual that we are.
According to Siegal, the mind uses the brain to create itself. Hmmm. I have to think about that one for a minute.
Your interactions in the world and your relationships with people and things actually determine the firing of neurons in your brain which in turn, physically shape your synaptic connections. Neurons that fire together wire together. There is the superpower we all have to change our brains and lives. Through the process of neuroplasticity, your actions, behavior, thoughts, and even imagination sculpt your brain and reality — because your brain controls all that you think and do. (See blog: My Reality Is Not Your Reality.)
Unlike x-ray vision, this superpower, neuroplasticity, is unquestionably proven by science and possessed by every person from birth until the day they die. Your challenge is to learn to put this magic to good use for your benefit (See blog: Your Plastic Brain: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly) and actually finish your do-it-yourself project without setting it up on the shelf to complete at some later date.
Mindfulness Is a DIY Tool
Siegel calls the most basic process of changing your brain mindfulness training which has been around in some form or another for thousands of years in the as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation, and similar activities. Being mindful isn’t just a new-age concept. It’s focusing and integrating the incoming flow of energy to actually strengthen and direct your prefrontal area of the brain. Being mindful creates what Siegel calls an approach state where a person is adaptable, open, and motivated. Mindfulness has also been proven to strengthen the immune system, improve blood pressure, and increase empathy.
Even doing simple mindfulness techniques such as focusing on the breath for ten minutes a day makes physical changes in your brain. Mindfulness practice creates awareness, and with repetition and time, the state becomes a neural trait. Research has shown mindfulness practices taught to children to reduce playground bullying and raise grades. Because you can’t tell an eight-year-old to meditate, they teach them the technique by putting a stuffed animal on their belly and telling them to rock the animal by breathing deeply.
What does this have to do with my going to speech therapy?
We All Are Our Own DIY Projects
We all are our own do-it-yourself projects. Too often, we look to doctors or other experts to give us the answers, a super pill, or a quick fix when each of us has the power to change our health and life for the better. Each of us just has to start using our superpower, neuroplasticity, to improve our brains and lives.
I decided to read out loud every day as my own speech therapy. I made myself laugh out loud at some of the horribly mangled pronunciations, but I know that, with time, I’ll see improvement. The important thing is that I’m actually doing something about the situation myself which I find so — empowering.
You too have the same power to change it – whatever your “it” may be.
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