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Brain Injury Awareness Month – Highlighting Hope

Brain Injury Awareness Month is observed in March each year to raise awareness about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), their impact on individuals and communities, and the importance of prevention, recognition, and support for those affected. This awareness month aims to foster understanding, empathy, and proactive efforts to improve outcomes for individuals affected by brain injuries.

It has been 10 years since I suffered a traumatic brain injury. The startling reality of having a TBI held me in a place of fear that kept me isolated from the possibility of getting better. At the suggestion of my neurologist, who recognized my defeat with the cognitive impairments and the limitations of Western medicine in addressing them, I started to explore activities that are known to stimulate cognitive skills, such as meditation and art. Since then, I have developed a strong and consistent meditation practice and regularly paint and do other visual arts. Through personal experience, I have witnessed the immeasurable benefits of both activities firsthand.

Evidence from meditation research indicates that meditation has the potential to reshape brain circuits, resulting in positive impacts not only on mental and brain health but also on the overall well-being of the body. The idea of starting meditation seemed daunting at first. How could I sit still and quiet for any length of time? I started with three minutes, and 10 years later, it has become a daily practice I share with others. Thanks to meditation, I can operate at a higher level than previously deemed possible despite the impact on certain parts of my brain.

Additionally, I restored my senses of taste and smell, which were both impacted by the injury. My neurologist was certain that since I had not recovered my senses in a year, it would be unlikely I would. However, while not as keen as they once were, both senses have returned.

I never considered myself an artist, so I was intimidated when art was suggested. Just like meditation, I started slow. I did a collage and found that the simple act of creating sparked a desire to go further into other art forms. Art has brought me a tremendous amount of joy and fulfillment. Neuroscience has done a significant amount of research on positive emotions and brain circuitry. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s malleability and ability to change through experience. As a result of the positive emotions art elicits, my brain has become more flexible and adaptable. By doing art, I have moved functions from my brain’s damaged areas to undamaged areas. This is called functional plasticity. By acquiring art skills, I’ve effectively altered my brain’s physical structure through learning, a phenomenon known as structural plasticity.

The most significant result of having to move beyond the confines of Western medicine to heal my brain is the open-mindedness and tenacity I have acquired. Before the TBI, I was very tied to Western medicine. I truly wanted a quick fix. I begged Western medicine to give me something to make me better, but I was forced to employ other techniques that took time. I was a skeptic when it came to the power of meditation. I knew it could be calming, but how could it fix my brain? When art was suggested, my immediate response was that I’m not an artist. Both of my preconceived notions have been proven wrong. Through tenacity and open-mindedness, I have learned that many modalities can improve my brain health and overall well-being.

As I grow older, I am increasingly confident about my future and the health of my brain. I’ve demonstrated to myself that through the techniques and habits I’ve cultivated, I have some influence over how my brain is wired; I am not resigned to the effects of aging. I hope my healing path is encouraging, and that is why I am deeply committed to sharing my passions for meditation and art with everyone.

Neuroscience Reveals the Secrets of Meditation’s Benefits | Scientific American

Neuroplasticity: How Experience Changes the Brain (