When your brain breaks, for whatever reason, your life changes. It can be from a spontaneous subdural hemorrhage, such as I had, it can be from a stroke, or from a traumatic brain injury, such as a car accident or other unexpected event. Following any such injury, it can be hard living your daily life. You may lose the ability to do many things for yourself, such as driving, or cooking, or for that matter, working. You may have physical issues with walking or talking, or as was my case, cognitive issues. I was physically okay but my thinking ability was compromised in many ways. I couldn’t work in my chosen profession and I was, honestly, very depressed… for quite a while. And, the depression wasn’t something I even knew I had for a long time. I wasn’t able to label what I was feeling.
So how do you get happy again following a brain injury? There is no right answer to that. Everyone is different. I cannot presume to know what will make you happy. What I do know is what made me happy again. I would like to share some of the things that I think helped me. And, folks, this isn’t rocket science. It really is just common sense; things everyone should do whether recovering from a brain injury or not.
I really worked on mindfulness and meditation. When I felt anxious and scared about my future, I would try to recognize this and then divert my attention to something positive, like the progress I was making in my recovery. It felt good to acknowledge to myself that I was finding the words I needed better than a month ago. Or, maybe I would think about the fact that I didn’t get lost coming home last week, meaning that I was improving. I celebrated that. Those were very happy thoughts. When I was feeling scared or depressed, sometimes I would just take my thoughts to somewhere nice, like an empty beach, one of my favorite places, which is sort of ironic because I actually live in the desert but I love the ocean. I learned how to curate my mood. It took me about eight years but I learned that happiness is a choice. I can feel how I choose to feel. I love having that power over my brain. It is amazing! They say that meditation also releases endorphins, which are what we call happy brain chemicals. I think it is true.
Our bodies need good nutrition to operate at their best. Our brains need this more than any other organ. The brain cannot heal or be healthy without good nutrition. I completely changed my diet and removed all sugars, most white carbs, and added in tons of vegetables and fruits. I also added many berries for their anti-oxidant properties. My brain is always much sharper when I feed my body good food.
Our bodies require sleep to heal. That includes our brains. The brain needs adequate sleep to generate new synaptic connections. In other words, new brain cells, so to speak. I made a point of getting plenty of sleep. I take my sleep very seriously. I paid attention to having very comfortable pillows, very comfortable sheets, blackout curtains to keep the light out in the morning until I was ready to get up. I get eight hours every night!
At first, after the injury, I had lost the music in my world. I just wasn’t motivated to listen to music. When I found it again, I think it really contributed to my overall well-being. I now put music on as soon as I awaken in the morning and dance around my house while I’m making the bed or brushing my teeth. The upbeat happy music just makes me feel good. I’m no scientist but I believe there are many studies that say music is very beneficial to the brain. It can reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
Some sort of exercise is essential. I’m not a big fan of actual exercise, like on gym equipment or running or walking, per se. My favorite form of exercise is dancing. I put on my happy music and I dance, dance, dance. I get my 10,000 steps in without even leaving my house. All exercise, including dancing, creates those endorphins, the happy brain chemicals. We need lots of those!
So, these are the main things that I made a point of ensuring that I did, regularly. Basically, I just committed to living as healthy a lifestyle as I could. All of these things contribute to our brain chemicals being balanced and happy. I choose every day to be happy! I hope you can too.