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 successful in my recovery from a serious brain injury. Recently, I’ve started to blend it back into the mix because I have been legally required to do so.
After seeing a neurologist, a rehabilitation specialist and a speech therapist, I’m developing a new-found respect for these professionals. Who knew? While I’m finding they don’t have all the answers, they do have valuable information that can lead me to my own discoveries.
My rehabilitation has resembled a jigsaw puzzle with pieces showing up in all different places. It’s up to me to be open to the information from whatever source , research and assimilate it, determine the value of and potential benefit to me and act accordingly.
While the speech therapist didn’t advise regular therapy because he didn’t think that would help me, he did share practices that I can perform on my own and gave me valuable pieces of the puzzle for me to fit into place for myself.
Your brain’s health, overall health, and life are a similar do it yourself project and puzzle. In a webcast, Daniel J. Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA school of Medicine, 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 describing the physical brain, the mind, and our relationship or interaction with our world as forming a triangle that comprises the unique individual that we are. According to Siegal, the mind uses the brain to create itself. Hmmm. Think about that one for a minute.
Your interactions in the world and relationships with people and things actually determine the firing of neurons in your brain hence shaping your synaptic connections. In keeping with Hebb’s Law, neurons that fire together wire together. Herein is your amazing power to change your brain and life. In a process known as neuroplasticity, your actions, behavior, and thoughts, even imagination, sculpt your brain and, in turn, reality because your brain controls all that you think and do. Unlike x-ray vision, this super power, neuroplasticity, is unquestionably proven by science and possessed by all from birth until death. The challenge is to learn to put the magic to good use, finish the do it yourself project and not set it up on the shelf for some later date.
Siegel calls the most basic process of changing your brain mindfulness training which has been around for thousands of years in the form of yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation and the many other similar activities. Being mindful is a way of focusing and integrating energy flow to actually strengthen the prefrontal area of the brain. This, in turn, creates what he calls an approach state where a person is adaptable, open, and motivated. Mindfulness also has 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 10 minutes a day can make physical changes in your brain. This practice creates awareness, and with repetition, over time, this state becomes a trait. Research has shown such practices to reduce playground bullying in children and raise grades. Because you can’t tell an 8-year-old to meditate, they teach children 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 speech therapy? We are our own ultimate do-it-yourself projects. All too often, we look to the doctors or other experts to give us the answers or a super pill or quick fix when we possess the ability to change ourselves, our health, and our world. Each person just has to start using their super power, their ability to transform their brain and life, for the better.
I decided to read out loud everyday as my own speech therapy. Starting last night, I made myself laugh out loud at some of my horribly mangled pronunciations, but I know that, over time, I’ll see improvement. The important thing to me is that I am actually doing something which I find so empowering. You, too, have the same power to change it, whatever your “it” may be.