PTSD Recovery: Why You Need to Develop a Meditation Practice
Wednesday, February 26 2014 Michele Rosenthal
There are a lot of things to do in the mix of healing the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some treatments for PTSD require lots of time, money, support and attention. Those are the "big" moments of recovery that we research, save or borrow for, and place a whole lot of hope in the results we expect.
Balancing out all of the necessary big gestures in healing, however, are the small, free, solo actions we take when we're all alone. One of those options is a little thing called a meditation practice which you hear talked about all the time, but probably just as often don't commit to doing faithfully every day.
The Benefits of a Meditation Practice
With PTSD, it's easy to numb or dissociate. Healing, however, requires that you stop both of those threat reactions and develop a new response.
Research has proven that meditation increases immune function, positive emotion, social connection, emotional intelligence, compassion, ability to self-regulate emotion, ability to be introspective, cortical thickness in areas related to attention, grey matter of your brain, brain volume in areas related to self-control, emotional regulation, positive emotions, ability to be productive, ability to focus, ability to think creatively, problem-solve, memory, ability to multi-task and happiness.
Whew! As if all that wasn't enough, meditation also decreases pain, inflammation at the cellular level, depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness.
Personal Reasons for a Meditation Practice
In addition to all of these enormous benefits, there's a less scientific, more personal reason to develop a dependable meditation practice. Expert, Megan Ross, Trauma Therapy Coordinator of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, takes meditation out of the realm of science and brings it into the personal by explaining,
The benefits of meditation include a purity of effort and sensation, and wisdom of experience. But most of all, meditation builds your capacity to develop equanimity, which is the foundation for being able to practice being in the middle of the road; not an extreme of emotion. With equanimity you expand your capacity to tolerate the present moment. In doing so, you build both your ability to experience what is not pleasurable as well as what is.
For Ross, the real goal of meditation is to provide yourself space and the opportunity to focus. She suggests finding a small, comfortable way to implement a meditation practice. For example, deciding which you prefer: to move or to sit. Then, setting aside time (even if just for a few minutes) to devote to training your attention to notice with heightened awareness your experience of a particular moment. Perhaps this means while you're walking with eyes open or while you're listening to a sound with your eyes closed.
Ross further explains,
In practicing meditation you discover a new way to approach the present moment, and find ways to stay connected to the moment without fear. Plus, you develop your muscle of discernment, which allows you to make choices and take actions appropriate for the moment you're in so that you response instead of react.
Why You Need to Develop a Meditation Practice
It can be tough to decide how to begin meditating and what process is right for you. The truth is, there is no "right" way to meditate -- there's only your way. With a wide variety of opportunities (try researching types of meditation to really understand your choices) you can find a way to incorporate this free, personal and scientifically proven way to move yourself forward in your quest for PTSD freedom.
To listen to Megan Ross and I discuss how to meditate, click here.