by Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, CSOWM, CDN
The Science Behind Meditation
Meditation involves being present in the moment, letting thoughts and feelings come and go naturally, and regulating breathing in order to improve calmness and well-being [i]. Studies show positive benefits of meditation on psychological distress and physical symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatments [i]. Meditation has also been found to be beneficial for significant others of those with cancer [i]. These benefits may be due to changes in the brain related to regulating emotion, attention, and self-awareness, as well as changes in the immune system involving pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory lymphocytes and increasing cellular longevity [Tang et al., 2015 and Carlson et al., 2003 as cited in reference i]. For more information on the research behind meditation and cancer care, check out this post from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Meditation in Practice
You can start practicing meditation for even 1 minute each day. Set your alarm and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as your stomach, rather than your chest, rises and falls. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. Consider noting the sensations you feel throughout your body, starting from your toes and working your way up to your head. Allow thoughts to come and go, without judgement.
It may also be helpful to start with guided meditation by using an app such as Calm or Headspace. For more tips on practicing meditation, take a look at this guide from the New York Times.
[i] Latte-Naor S & Gubili J (2017). The Role of Meditation in Cancer Care. The ASCO Post. Retrieved from https://ascopost.com/issues/may-25-2017/the-role-of-meditation-in-cancer-care/