recovery

Meditation and the Brain - The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide February 02, 2013
  • A week or two ago, I mentioned in passing that I have been viewing TED talks on my desktop. Call me crazy - listening to highly intelligent thinkers and doers expound on cool and inspirational stuff does more for me than enduring the bitchiness of the judges on American Idol.   Yesterday, a frie...

7 Comments
  • Crystal
    Feb. 02, 2013
    Hi John, I have been liking the series you have been writing. This is a very good article and it makes sense. I do believe it can work. However, I wonder how it can work on those of us who take these mental illness drugs, sometimes multiple ones? Do the drugs inhibit the brain so that it can not benefit from meditation? The study did not mention if the people...
    RHMLucky777
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    Hi John, I have been liking the series you have been writing. This is a very good article and it makes sense. I do believe it can work. However, I wonder how it can work on those of us who take these mental illness drugs, sometimes multiple ones? Do the drugs inhibit the brain so that it can not benefit from meditation? The study did not mention if the people were taking Bipolar type medications. For me, I tried meditation once. It was not a good experience at all. The reason was because it was excruciating for me to sit still for 1 hour. On these meds, I am jittery insid my body making it so I need to be moving. The drugs are to blame, not my unwillingness. I can't put myself thru that again. I sure would like it to work for me and not be on any meds. I have been seriously thinking about giving Yoga a try, as I know you are moving a bit with Yoga. We will see. I bet the monks aren't on mental illness med. they probably don't even have mental illness, probably due to their lifestyle, the way they live their life. I would like to be a monk and live a quiet, peaceful life starting from a young adult since that is when they start this type of life.
    • John McManamy
      Health Guide
      Feb. 03, 2013

      Hey, Crystal. There is a Catch-22 to bipolars meditating. We are probably the population that can benefit most by it, but because of our racing minds (plus possible interference from meds) it can be very difficult for us to even sit down.

      A few points:

       

      Even a small improvement is a big improvement. We don't have to have the results other people get....

      RHMLucky777

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      Hey, Crystal. There is a Catch-22 to bipolars meditating. We are probably the population that can benefit most by it, but because of our racing minds (plus possible interference from meds) it can be very difficult for us to even sit down.

      A few points:

       

      Even a small improvement is a big improvement. We don't have to have the results other people get. Feeling a little bit calmer, feeling a little bit more in control of our brains, feeling a little bit more attuned to our thoughts and feelings, being a little bit better able to deal with stress - those little bits are very significant.

       

      Don't feel you have to do one hour. Try practicing sitting still, in a straight posture, for just five minutes. Focus on your breath - in-out, in-out - and keep coming back to the breath when you catch your mind wandering. If you'r like me, your mind will wander every thousandth of a second. That's okay.

       

      Meditation is a form of concentration. If I interpreted the TED talk correctly, it's the act of concentration, repeated over a period of time, that results in the brain changes. The speaker talked about one study involving jugglers. The part of the brain involving perception and coordination was built up. You probably don't have to be a good juggler to get those results. Likewise, you don't have to be a good meditator. It's the effort that counts. If you go from being a hopeless meditator to merely a bad one - well guess what? - you've succeeeded in your mission. Your brain will change.

       

      Yoga is probably the best way to get into meditation. A quiet time of stretches and breathing makes it a lot easier to sit for five minutes afterwards.

       

      A long long time ago I meditated, but I was so bad at it (racing mind) that I dropped it. Having watched the TED talk, I think I need to return to it. This time, I have a difference-maker: I play the didgeridoo and practice it every day. The didgeridoo induces a quieter state of mind in me. I simply need to make a habit of sitting still for five or ten minutes after practicing my didge. Basically, just practice being quiet. Again - repeated practice changes the brain. When the brain changes (presumably in a good way), there are benefits.

       

      Other calming activities that engage the body can assist with meditation, such as tai-chi, certain forms of dance, certain drumming, working in the garden, taking a walk, on and on.

       

      In your case: Meditation may or may not be for you. But it is worth giving it a try. Yes, your meds will make it difficult, but you don't have to be as good as everyone else. It's worth trying yoga, as yoga definitely makes meditation easier. Many yoga people meditate while holding their stretches. Just about all yoga people sit (or lie) quietly for several minutes following their stretches. The meditation doesn't have to last long. A few minutes is fine. You may want to build up later, but that is up to you.

       

      Hope this helps - 

    • Crystal
      Feb. 03, 2013
      Hi John, Thank you for taking the time to give me all of these suggestions. Your explanations were very helpful. I think I will try yoga first. It's funny you mentioned drumming. I was just telling a friend the other day that drumming is something I would like to try. I love to garden in the spring/summer, this is very helpful for me. I guess it's time to try...
      RHMLucky777
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      Hi John, Thank you for taking the time to give me all of these suggestions. Your explanations were very helpful. I think I will try yoga first. It's funny you mentioned drumming. I was just telling a friend the other day that drumming is something I would like to try. I love to garden in the spring/summer, this is very helpful for me. I guess it's time to try doing something without moving again so Yoga it is. My son plays the didgeridoo also. He plays it at his home (he is 26) and also likes to take it hiking with him to play in the forest. I bought him one for his 21st birthday and found one to buy that comes apart so you can fit it in your backpack. To look at that thing all put together, big and long, you would never think it could become so small. He is a very earthy guy. He plays other instruments as well. Instruments are so therapeutic. Thanks again, Crystal
    • John McManamy
      Health Guide
      Feb. 04, 2013

      Hey, Crystal. It's always great to run into a fellow member of the didgerisoo tribe. The other day I brought my didgeridoo to a drum circle, along with a drum. I'm looking forward to writing something on the benefits of movement and drumming. All of it is related in various ways - drummng, dance, yoga, mediatation. They all help induce a state of well-being....

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Hey, Crystal. It's always great to run into a fellow member of the didgerisoo tribe. The other day I brought my didgeridoo to a drum circle, along with a drum. I'm looking forward to writing something on the benefits of movement and drumming. All of it is related in various ways - drummng, dance, yoga, mediatation. They all help induce a state of well-being. It sounds like you're ready for the yoga. Go for it. :)

    • Crystal
      Feb. 04, 2013
      John, Thanks again, you made me feel better and a little more motivated. I needed that! The benefits of movement and drumming would be a very interesting read. Crystal:)