Meditation is especially helpful for people suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome. Meditation’s benefits increase over time with continued practice. Survivors report an increase in the “mind-body connection, calmness, centeredness, experience of Oneness; improved optimism, compassion and overall relaxation.” – Dr. Andy Swanson, Concussion Repair Manual, p 202.

Meditation trains the brain to focus and find/embrace stillness.

Scattered and obsessive thoughts can plague people who’ve suffered a concussion. Dr. Clark Elliott, in his book “The Ghost in My Brain” refers to these thoughts as “demons” because they often won’t leave. While treatment options like Cognitive FX and Plasticity Brain Centers can help the brain recover, meditation is something you can do on your own to gain greater control of your mind. With meditation, the mind becomes a tool to use and direct instead of something that directs you. 

Over the last 40 years authors and scientists like Herbert Benson, MD, author of “The Relaxation Response,” have scientifically explained what ancient cultures have known for thousands of years – that the brain’s ability to regulate emotion, focus attention, and find stillness is enhanced by meditation.

Meditation’s Impact on Emotional Regulation & PTSD

Regulating emotions is extremely important after experiencing a concussion because a high percentage of brain injury survivors also show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For instance, 44% of soldiers returning from Iraq who had suffered a TBI also struggled with symptoms of PTSD. 

Many studies suggest that meditation can assist in restoring emotional stability in those with PTSD. Strong scientific support shows that meditating daily reverses sympathetic nervous system dominance. This means that consistent meditation can free the mind from a constant state of fight or flight into a state of stillness. 

Research shows that meditation both activates the pre-frontal cortex and physically grows new neurons in the brain. This is important because emotional regulation depends on an optimally functioning pre-frontal cortex (PFC). Many brian injury survivors experience difficulty with emotional regulation because the PFC is often damaged from TBI. Pre-frontal cortex impairment results in memory deficits, comprehension, reasoning, and decisionmaking. This is one of the reasons that survivors have difficulty with emotional turbulence and impulsive behavior. 

These are just a few reasons that every TBI survivor should consistently meditate – to restore emotional balance and optimize PFC function.

How to Meditate for PCS relief

The most ideal setting for meditation is outside in a calm, quiet place. If an outdoor setting like this is not available, find a quiet room with dim or no light. 

These meditation instructions are from Herbert Benson, MD, author of “The Relaxation Response.”

“Repeat a word, sound, praise, prayer, or muscular activity. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system.

Passively disregard everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind, returning to your repetition. Sit quietly in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head and neck.

Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself “Oh well,” and gently return to your repetition. 

Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. When finished, do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Before breakfast and before dinner are good times.”

As a side note, I had the impression one day that while meditating, Brittny should visualize neurons growing and reconnecting in her brain by the power of gratitude. Her repeated word in this case could be “gratitude,” “grateful to heal,” or “heal.”

Meditation Visualization Example:

“Using your imagination, see a beautiful golden light building behind the center of your brow. Allow this light to wash over your brain, and down through your spine. Then guide this light through your body. Bring the light back to the head, and now go deeper. See your neurons and glial cells absorbing this light, and watch as they extend branches outward, growing, learning, expanding their network, transferring golden light throughout. See this network unify at the brain stem, into a golden river of light that flows down the spinal cord and washes out through the body. Guide this river wherever it needs to go, for cleansing and healing. With each breath, watch as the light expands further, deeper into the body, into each muscle, joint, organ, bone and to the deepest regions of the bone marrow. When you are finished with this visual exercise, return to the breath.” – Dr. Andy Swanson, Concussion Repair Manual, p 207.

If You Have Trouble Meditating, Try This

Meditation is difficult – sometimes more difficult for people with brain injuries. I’ve known the science and benefits of meditation for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that I finally got into the habit of meditating every day. 

And the reason may sound silly to you, but it worked for me.

I bought a toy…

I know that’s childish, but I bought a Muse Meditation Feedback headband and made meditation into a ritual after exercising. 

If not, here’s a simple overview of the Muse S Headband:

Muse’s audible feedback trains your brain to be still and calm. 

Muse has seven EEG sensors that track changes in alpha, beta, theta, gamma, and delta waves in your brain. In other words, it can sense your brain activity. While meditating with Muse, close your eyes and try to calm your thoughts. When relaxed and focused you’ll hear soft ocean waves, when you get distracted the waves get louder (your que to refocus). When your mind is calmest, you’ll hear birds chirping. 

If you have a difficult time making meditation a habit, I suggest you give Muse a try. Brittny and I love it – without Muse we were pretty crappy meditators and it wasn’t rewarding enough in the beginning to get into the habit. With Muse, we are more still while meditating and can see our “scores” afterwards – this gamification made it something I looked forward to instead of just another thing on my list..

You can find their website and products here: https://choosemuse.com/