Mindfulness is teaching yourself to be present. During treatment, we patients are so focused on the next steps that we may forget how to live in the moment. By learning to be aware of and accepting what you are thinking and feeling, you can renew your appreciation of the little things. Being a mindful cancer survivor allows you to recognize and cope with stress. As a patient, mindfulness may help you manage symptoms and treatment side effects. According to the Harvard Health Blog, there are other benefits — which may include relieving pain and stress, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep quality, reducing anxiety, improving memory and regaining a sense of control.
Is mindfulness right for you?
You didn’t give up on your treatment, so don’t give up on something that may improve your quality of life. Anyone can learn how to be mindful, and there are many ways to practice it. If one method doesn’t work for you, try another.
Ways to practice mindfulness:
- Breathing: Take three deep breaths, and with each breath, become aware of your body, thoughts and emotions. As you exhale, let go of the negative thoughts and emotions.
- Awareness: During treatment, you may not have been able to do something as simple as enjoying a meal. The next time you eat, stop for a moment and be aware of what you are experiencing and how your senses respond.
- Appreciation: On a daily basis, list five things you are grateful for that usually go unacknowledged. Your list can include simple things like having warm clothes.
- Observation: Look at a cloud or a flower for two minutes. Focus on it like you are seeing it for the first time. Pay attention to the details you wouldn’t normally notice.
- Listening: Pick a song that you’ve never heard and listen to it without judging it or thinking about it. Allowing yourself to experience the music will teach you how to hear without having preconceived notions.
- Immersion: Instead of rushing through washing the dishes, notice every aspect of the activity — the temperature of the water on your hands, how the sponge feels when it is soapy, and the sensations you experience when scrubbing a dish. By doing this, you may discover something you enjoy about this chore.
- Find a quiet place to practice. Let others know that you need this alone time.
- Set a daily time and task so that this becomes part of your daily life.
- Be comfortable and find a relaxing space.
- Breathe deeply, and focus solely on your breathing.
Being mindful can positively impact your life, and may change the way you respond to stress. Instead of being upset by the driver who cut you off, you will find yourself grateful that an accident didn’t occur and that both of you are okay.