For those who are unfamiliar with mindfulness and stroke rehabilitation, we’ll begin with a simple definition:
Mindfulness is the intentional, nonjudgmental, focused awareness of this moment, centered on openness and acceptance of your inner experiences.
It sounds pretty cool, but what does this have to do with stroke rehabilitation?
You’re about to see how the brain benefits from mindfulness during stroke rehab, and 5 steps to add more mindfulness to your routine!
Mindfulness and Stroke Rehabilitation
When we practice mindfulness repeatedly, our brain changes – in very good ways.
In a general sense, the more we practice mindfulness, the better our brain becomes at being mindful. This is because neuroplasticity causes our brain to shape itself according to what we repeatedly focus on.
Therefore, the more we practice mindfulness, awareness, and presence – the better we get at being mindful, aware, and present.
To dig into the specifics, the left frontal activity of the brain is enhanced when we practice mindfulness-based stress reduction. This ‘left-shift,’ as they call it, causes the brain to move into an ‘approach state.’
And in this approach state, we move toward, instead of away from, challenging situations.
Benefits for Stroke Recovery
Can you imagine what this means for stroke recovery?
By changing your brain with mindfulness, it will help you lean in to rehab. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or anxious about the challenges of rehab, you’ll find an increasing capacity to take it head on.
You will also learn how to approach these negative emotions with openness and acceptance instead of resistance, which will help them go away faster – leaving even more energy for your recovery.
Are you sold on the benefits of mindfulness for stroke recovery?
How to Be More Mindful During Recovery
Up next, you’ll learn how to put the lifestyle of mindfulness and stroke rehabilitation into practice.
1. Meditate Daily!
Daily meditation grows the gray matter areas of the brain responsible for attention, emotion, and mental flexibility.
Sound like something you’d like more of? Then start meditating daily for 5 minutes.
2. Remain Open and Curious
Being open means approaching your thoughts and feelings with curiosity instead of judgement. Rather than shutting down negative feelings, try to simply remain aware of them.
Acknowledge that they are only thoughts in this moment, and the next moment can be different. And if the next moment is not different, that’s okay too.
3. Accept Everything Exactly as It Is
Instead of trying to force your reality to fit the image you have in your head, try to see it for what it is and let it be.
4. Be Patient with Slow
When rehab drags on for months and years, we can grow frustrated with the lack of results or progress that we’re seeing. Mindfulness acknowledges that growth happens in its own time.
This doesn’t mean you should suspend your efforts and wait around for a miracle. Rather, you should keep up the effort and trust that it will be rewarded in time.
5. Breath-Movement Connection
Perhaps the best application of mindfulness for stroke recovery is breath/movement connection.
During rehab, try to link each breath with a cycle of movement. Breathe in, move one way. Breathe out, move another way.
This breath/movement connection helps pull you into your body, allowing you to soak up all that stimulation from the exercise.
This will help your brain heal faster – and it will also help change your brain in the positive ways we previously mentioned.
And there you have it! Mindfulness can have a profound effect on stroke rehabilitation by changing your brain and increasing motivation to recover.
We hope these 5 steps help you put it into practice!