A cancer diagnosis is possibly the most devastating news that a person can ever receive. Effective medicines are available and scientists are tirelessly working to find a cure for cancer to the give the world hope, but still the initial reaction of cancer patients is misery and despair.
These negative emotions don’t help in the treatment or recovery. However, trying to maintain a positive attitude is easier said than done. Fortunately, there’s a way that cancer patients can be helped during these challenging times – meditation.
Is Meditation Effective in Cancer Care?
There is no evidence to indicate that cancer or other diseases can be prevented, treated or cured through meditation. However, a growing body of research shows a link between the practice of meditation and stress relief in both mind and body.
For cancer patients, meditation can help relieve particular symptoms and improve quality of life. Research supports these meditation benefits to cancer patients:
- Boosts your mood
- Strengthens your powers of concentration
- Relieves depression and anxiety
- Improves the immune system.
Regular meditation sessions can help cancer patients feel that they can relieve symptoms such as feeling sick, tiredness, difficult breathing, pain and high blood pressure.
Mindfulness for Cancer Patients
Thousands of patients are practicing meditation as an adjunct or complement to traditional medical treatments for cancer such as radiation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy. Many clinics are offering mindfulness meditation, specifically mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to their patients.
Developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, MBSR it comprises many forms of meditation, including:
- Sitting meditation
- Mindful movement
- Insight meditation
- Walking Meditation
- Body Scanning
- Examining the impact of our thoughts and emotions on us so that we can learn how to properly respond to certain situations.
Mindfulness meditation teaches you to be aware of your present-moment experience and to approach it with openness, curiosity and without judgement.
It is a mental training that promotes balance in our thoughts and emotions. By teaching us how to control our emotions and our responses to stress and anxiety, mindfulness can affect several neuroendocrine and immune processes in the body. Bottom line: mindfulness meditation decreases cardiovascular reactivity, reduces stress hormone levels and inflammatory markers, and boosts the immune system.
A typical MBSR program is conducted weekly in a group set up over eight weeks. It includes about 20 hours of classroom training covering didactic and experiential learning and a six-hour retreat. Patients are also taught home meditation, which should be practiced 45 minutes daily, 6 days a week.
It is natural for patients to experience emotional ups and downs after following a cancer diagnosis as well as during treatment or while in recovery. It is easy to get caught up in negative emotions.
However, mindfulness helps us take a step back and examine our thoughts and emotions from a different perspective. By being mindful, you learn to embrace all that you are experiencing without getting lost in them. From being a devastating experience, cancer may turn into a life-changing one for you.