Meditation is a relaxation method used to calm the mind and be more aware of the present. Initially an important component of ancient religious practices such as Buddhism in Asia, it became increasing popular in the Western world in 1960’s.
The practice of meditation has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, leading to improved health and wellbeing. Practitioners also claim there is a multitude of benefits including reductions in chronic pain, high blood pressure, and insomnia. With these potential health benefits, it’s no surprise that the use of meditation for cancer patients has been growing in popularity.
How does mindful meditation work?
Mindful meditation is typically done in a quiet place, sitting with eyes closed, in a serene environment without distractions. The goal is to relax the body while maintaining awareness by concentrating on breathing and dismissing all intruding thoughts. It may help to focus on a word or chanting a phrase. Essentially, it is quieting the conscious mind. The belief behind mediation is that the mind can influence the body. Mental control can ultimately lead to physiological and emotional change [i].
Evidence for benefits from meditation
Meditation is becoming more accepted by the medical community. Physiologically, regular practice can lower oxygen consumption and blood pressure in addition to decreasing respiration and heart rate. This is particularly pertinent for maintaining heart health. There is also evidenced-based research studying the effects of meditation on the side effects of cancer treatment. A recent study conducted on women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy reported improvements in anxiety, fatigue, and quality of life after receiving meditation therapy [ii].
The practice of meditation for cancer patients has become more widespread as a complementary therapy used alongside conventional cancer treatment. For cancer patients, it’s a relaxation technique that can be used as a way of managing stress and anxiety, and enhancing emotional well-being. Sessions as short as 15-20 minutes a day can be beneficial.
Meditation can be self-learned or taught by trained practitioners and mental health professionals. Some cancer centers may even offer meditation as a complement to traditional cancer treatment.
It is important that all patients consult their oncologist or healthcare provider before starting or undergoing any complementary therapy.