A big part of the daily struggle every person who stutters (PWS) is facing their anxiety, fear and anticipation of stuttering. A person who stutters needs to fight the negativity that shrouds their thinking every waking moment. It requires more than the daily pep talk and inspirational post from Instagram.
Research shows that mindfulness and meditation can manage the negative attitudes and emotions in people, and it can help the person relax physically.
What Is Mindfulness?
According to Paul Brocklehurst, PhD, Founder and Director of The Stammering Self-Empowerment Programme, mindfulness is distinct from meditation. Brocklehurst, who practices Zen, advocates a form of mindfulness that may be unique to many readers.
Mindfulness is not relaxation. It is about becoming mindful of any state that we are in.
You can be mindful of being happy and relaxed, the same way you can be mindful of being anxious, afraid or angry. The target of mindfulness is to make one completely aware of the present and be open to the potential experiences that may come in that moment.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Meditation can be one way to achieve mindfulness. However, it does not involve trying to empty one’s mind completely. It is only natural for anyone to have a nonstop train of thoughts. Stopping that forcibly is not the target since thoughts are not the obstacle but the tools to achieve mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation for stuttering enables you to become more aware of thoughts that cross your mind. Over time, you will develop the skill to assess how much attention you pay to each thought, how different thoughts arise in your mind and control the importance you give to each thought process.
Meditation can help you slow your thoughts, eliminate the negative thoughts and calm your mind. If you are trying mindfulness for the first time, meditation can be of help.
You can try guided meditation techniques for stutterers that include breathing practice. You can begin with the assistance of apps. Stamurai - a speech therapy app for people who stutter, offers guided meditation options. This smartphone app also helps you learn and practice various stuttering exercises and is available for both Android and iOS users.
How Can Mindfulness Meditation Influence Stuttering?
Mindfulness Can Tell You What You Do When You Stutter
Researchers have explored the relationship between meditation, mindfulness and stuttering time and again. Mindfulness meditation aims to make you more aware of your mental and physical state.
Achieving mindfulness is not easy. You may need to dedicate between twenty minutes to an hour every day to practice meditation for stuttering to achieve the mindfulness necessary to assess what you do when you stutter.
Mindfulness can help you delve beyond the verbal description of stuttering. You can directly realize the sensory experiences that accompany each stutter. What you do when you stutter can become the starting point of your cognitive and speech therapy.
Being Mindful Can Improve Your Communication Skills
PWS are often scared of public speaking because of past experiences. How people have reacted to their speech in the past shroud the reality of how their listeners are reacting to them in the present.
It is particularly true in case of the bad days when your stutter seems to be worse than it typically is. In cases of stubborn blocks, prolongations or repetitions, we often don’t perceive how the listeners are reacting. We are too engrossed in bad memories of unpleasant encounters.
Mindfulness meditation can help you remain in the present to see and assess the reactions of the listeners. It can also empower you to determine the most appropriate way to relate to your listeners and react accordingly. It can improve your communication skills and break the vicious cycle of anticipation and stuttering.
Mindfulness Can Reduce Secondary Stuttering Behavior
As adults, almost all PWS have well-established secondary behaviors. These may include rapid blinking, shrugging of shoulders, clenching of fists or twisting of lips. People who stutter develop them over the years because they tend to believe that these behaviors somehow help them “unstick” the words.
Being mindful will make you more aware of such secondary symptoms. The consciousness extends to the subtler secondary symptoms including delays, unnatural changes in pitch, and emphasis.
Mindfulness is a wonderful practice since the more conscious you become of these actions, the more likely you are to overcome them on your own.
Mindfulness Helps Build a Realistic Self-Esteem
A majority of PWS suffer from low self-confidence and self-esteem. Mindfulness gives you the chance to slow down and look at your life from a different perspective. You gain an understanding of your core and secondary stuttering behaviors. You get to understand how your listeners are reacting.
Practicing mindfulness meditation daily gives you the opportunity to be more forgiving towards yourself. Stuttering is not something that you can control. It’s something beyond your control, but not beyond your understanding.
Interestingly, with increasing mindfulness we become more accepting of the lack of control we have over our lives. It is impossible to have complete control over what we do, although we would like to believe otherwise.
This understanding and acceptance brings a feeling of empathy towards oneself and the others (including the listeners). With the new understanding you will slowly gain the self-esteem you thought was only entitled to the fluent speakers.
Can Meditation Cure Stuttering?
Medical professionals, speech therapists, researchers and PWS have been looking for the cure of stuttering for almost a century.
Is meditation a cure? Yes, and no.
Meditation can reduce your anxiety and stress. Both of these factors contribute to pre-existing stuttering. Mindfulness can make you more aware of the emotions you feel and the movements you carry out while you stutter.
In a way, mindfulness and meditation can help you realize everything you are doing wrong and the things you are doing right while stuttering.
Self-realization and growing confidence levels can contribute to an increasing fluency.
However, calling it a complete cure for stuttering would be grossly wrong. It is a treatment for adults who have been stuttering for years. And it has been shown to yield positive results in hundreds of case studies.