20 Ways Meditation Can Help Reduce CTE Symptoms
- Improved sleeping habits for more hours, deeper sleep
- reduces blood pressure
- improves immune system
- decrease in tension-related problems like ulcers and headaches
- improved breathing and heart rate
- elevated energy levels
- improves metabolism
- helps reduce substance abuse and reliance on alcohol
- helps lose weight
- produces more serotnin, a NUEROTRANSMITTER, which helps with feelings of well being and happiness
- lower cortisol level in brain- which is linked to stress
- reduce anxiety
- lessens inflammatory disorders and asthma
- lessens muscle and joint pain
- reduces aging
- improved memory
- more creativity and new ideas
- reduce genes linked to inflammation (found in gluten, causes auto immune diseases)
- helps us process emotions, even if they’re not surfacing but affecting us subconciously
- changes in brain chemical makeup to protect against mental health conditions
- improves concentration
CTE and ME:
If you think every professional athlete doesn’t worry about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and how it will affect them, their families or their future, you’re wrong. How can something that has given them so much: a well paying job, respect, trust, vitality, strength, courage, a family on the field, something to believe in, betray them in such a manner that they do not know where to turn for help?
In 2017, Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University School of Medicine, conducted a study examining the brains of 202 deceased football players (1). What McKee found should be startling for any ex football player; she found that 110 out of 111 ex NFL players had some form of CTE, and of the 202 football players, 87% exhibited some form of CTE in their brains.
Now, you don’t have to panic if you have ever played football. This was a very specific group of football players. Nonetheless, this study shows that the signs and symptoms of CTE are consistent with exposure to playing a high contact sport. And while the signs and symptoms may be exhibited by any person who never played a high contact sport, it is still important to be mindful of how these symptoms may be filtering into your own life.
How Does CTE affect me?
When I remember waking up the morning after a game, and my dad asking me if I remember anything from the game the night before. I could not even remember the score of the game.
Certainly, like any other athlete, I thought it was natural to let details like that slip because of “the bright lights”, the fast paced gameplay, and the natural progression of the game with the hits involved. This moment my dad and I still share, it was a pivotal moment in my life, not necessarily in the moment, but as I grew older and with further contemplation I realized this was the beginning of the signs and symptoms of the result of repetitive hits to the head. My Short term memory had grown terrible. I would forget many small details throughout my days, and it would frustrate those around me. It’s scary to think that the life you have created may be taken away from you because you cannot remember the defining moments of your day to make up the big picture. Something had to change.
I remember when I was in my last year of college studying for finals. Football had been in my past for 2-3 years at this point. I remember I had a big final coming up to essentially determine my letter grade in the class. To this point, my college career had been defined by the amount of adderall I would take the week prior to finals to cram for the entire quarter into one week. I was oblivious to the lifestyle I had sustained by relying on adderall to study for tests, to procrastinate the way I did, and to mask the kind of student I thought I had become.
I had a reliance on adderall. What I thought it did for me, that I could not do myself kept me reliant on a false sense of security. At the time you could not tell me that I had a substance abuse problem, but looking back at it now, I could not see it any differently as just that.
I remember opening my pill drawer to my computer desk and the vial being empty. I thought to myself, “How am I ever going to pass this final without adderall?”
In a panic, I googled “ways to increase concentration”. Thankfully, one of the results that came up was meditation. I didn’t have many other options, so I gave it a shot.
So I laid down in my bed and found a 20 minute guided mindfulness meditation on youtube. That night, I studied calmly and efficiently for hours into the wee hours of the morning. I aced my test, and from then on, I have made meditation a part of my daily routine.
I think the most fascinating ailment of CTE is the loss of executive motor functioning. Simply put, this relates to getting things done and being productive; paying attention, organizing, planning, prioritizing, starting tasks and staying focused on them to completion, understanding different points of view, regulating emotions, and self-monitoring.
All things considered, I have become the best version of myself by allowing meditation to help me with this concept. I used to have a problem playing too much video games. When, instead, I should have been more productive to further my career. With a daily meditation practice, it was clear to see the destructive nature of this habit, and come to grips with the power I have to embrace change for the better.
Further, I am able to pay attention for longer periods of time. I can physically feel in my body when the impulse arrives to get distracted from work by facebook or some other mindless distraction. I am now able to redirect my focus back to the task at hand, away from the distraction. This concept of self monitoring can also apply when thinking about the work vs play aspect. I would know that I needed to get work done, when instead I would opt to play video games with friends with my rationale being “I haven’t talked to these friends in a while, I will catch up with them while we play online together”, or “I’ve already had a long day at work, I think it’s okay to have a few drinks to relax” when that is exactly the mentality that would lead to a spiral of bad habits.
These thinking patterns and feelings could be the result of repetitive head trauma and are in line with the symptoms of CTE. Meditation has helped me to recognize when they happen, and to have the willpower and courage to take my life in a better direction. I stopped wasting time and energy on the things that did not serve me.
My memory and focus are the best right now than they have ever been. People around me today are amazed by my memory, and how I can remember details and the names of people that I meet like I do. I credit my higher brain functionality to meditation.
Meditation has kicked substance abuse out of my life, teaching me abstinence. In addition, it has reduced my stress and anxiety levels tenfold. Furthermore, it has helped me to be able to define how I am feeling, process my emotions, and put myself in a better mindset to deal with those emotions. It has helped me take control of my decision making, balancing work and play. It has helped me not to try to control my thoughts, rather shape them by controlling my environment.
This is how meditation can fight the symptoms of CTE.
Disclaimer: These conclusions are solely based on my own analyzation and findings. My conclusions are not based on scientific fact nor do I claim to be a medical physician of any kind.