How Meditation Can Improve The Lives of Cancer Patients

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Fighting cancer is emotional, stressful and exhausting.

The good news: Some cancer centers have found that meditation may counter these feelings and improve the lives of patients. They now offer it as an alternative treatment.

Let’s take a look at what meditation is and how it can benefit people with cancer.

Meditation

Meditation uses different techniques to increase focus in order to achieve a clear mental state and calm emotions. It’s been practiced for thousands of years as part of many religious traditions and belief systems all over the globe.

Meditation takes place in quiet locations, either alone or with a group. It can be self-directed or guided by a coach. Steps are taken to clear the mind of negative thoughts about things that happened in the past and anxieties about what could occur in the future. This allows participants to focus on the present. The ultimate goal is to calm the mind and body so you can be present in the moment without distractions.

Reaching a meditative state might involve focusing on a sensation, such as breathing, or an object. Some people recite a verse or repeat a mantra over and over. Others are able to stay silent and let their mind go blank to slip into a meditative state.

Benefits of meditation for cancer patients

Meditation provides many health benefits and it is known to enhance overall well-being. It’s been found to:

  • Lower heart rates
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Eliminate tension
  • Improve mood.

For cancer patients, meditation can:

  • Reduce depression and anxiety. Many people with cancer experience depression because they’re worried about their health. Meditation’s focus on the immediate present helps reduce anxiety and related feelings of depression. Most alternative treatments and drug therapies only provide short-term benefits. By contrast, the positive effects of meditation can last a long time.
  • Lower stress. By clearing the mind of negative thoughts and worries, meditation can reduce stress. This is particularly important because stress is known to negatively impact certain cancer treatments. Reducing stress could help increase the likelihood of survival.
  • Relieve chronic pain. People with cancer often experience ongoing pain caused by the cancer or the treatments for it. Meditation shifts the focus off the pain, which could reduce the amount of medication required to control it.
  • Improve sleep. Worry and anxiety often make it impossible for cancer patients to fall asleep. By calming the mind and body, meditation makes it easier for people to get a restful night’s sleep.
  • Enhance cognitive function. Brain function, including awareness, memory and recall, is often reduced in cancer patients because the cancer itself or treatments for it. This condition is often referred to as chemobrain. Meditation is known in enhance brain function by reducing the negative thoughts and feelings that can impede brain function. It also helps build a stronger connection between the mind and body.
  • Reduce fatigue. Chronic fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of cancer and side effects of its treatment. Meditation can promote sound, restful sleep and reduce the negative thoughts and feelings that drain energy.

Be aware: Meditation is safe for most people living with cancer. In some cases, patients may feel anxious or become disoriented when they practice it. Also, the effectiveness of meditation can vary among different patients.

Getting started

Several well-known cancer centers offer meditation classes. These can be a great way to try out meditation and experience it’s benefits.

If your hospital or cancer center doesn’t offer classes, ask a medical professional or cancer specialist if he or she knows of any practitioners or classes in your area.

If you can’t locate anyone, you can learn and practice meditation at home using videos or online classes and sessions.

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