Mindfulness & Recovery Following Brain Injury
by Dr Ascione
The powerful and influential practice of mindfulness is used to alleviate a variety of physical and emotional conditions, from various illnesses and mental health problems to everyday stress, worry, and tension. For individuals recovering from brain injury, mindfulness has contributed to decreases in stress and anxiety and an overall increase in emotional and physical wellbeing. Following brain injury, individuals receive various medical interventions, while common emotional effects, such as depression and anxiety, are sometimes left untreated (Bedard et al., 2012). Mindfulness training can be taught to this population through individual or group therapy sessions conducted by qualified mental health professionals in order to improve cognitive abilities, alleviate emotional effects, and improve quality of life. Mindfulness techniques include deep breathing, insight meditation, and guided visualization (Bedard, Felteau, Mazmanian, & Minthron-Biggs, 2003).
The aim of mindfulness is to assist individuals recovering from brain injury in formulating alternative ways of how they perceive their disability and increasing their understanding of mindfulness concepts, such as acceptance and seeing beyond the supposed limitations inflicted by the brain injury. Individuals are guided by trained professionals to gradually increase their ability to remain in the present moment and observe, rather than judge, their thoughts and feelings. A sense of mastery over negative emotions and a positive outlook on the self and the future is achieved through repeated practice of mindfulness techniques.
In other approaches based on mindfulness, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) interventions, individuals recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) experience decreased mental fatigue, which is a common symptom among TBI individuals that interferes with ability to perform basic daily functions (Johansson, Bjuhr, & Ronnback, 2012). MBSR techniques also help individuals in their performance on cognitive tasks and neuropsychological tests. Also following MBSR intervention programs, TBI individuals report improved quality of life and a greater belief in themselves and their abilities (Azulay, Smart, Mott, & Cicerone, 2013). These improvements are thought to be due to the MBSR focus on reducing TBI individuals’ negative views related to symptoms and limitations imposed by the injury. Among TBI individuals who suffer from depression, participation in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy sessions reduces depressive symptoms (Bedard et al., 2012; Bedard et al., 2014).
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(2014). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy reduces symptoms of depression in people
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