Managing Treatments

Meditation and Cancer: Why (and How) You Should Practice During Treatment

The practice of meditation has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, depression and also human cell regeneration. With these basic steps you, too, can meditate during your cancer journey to alleviate some stress.

The practice of meditation can enhance your well-being as a cancer patient. Doing meditation and cancer treatment together is valuable, free and easy. Let’s explore the particular interplay of meditation and cancer, as well as the basics to get you started to enhance your treatment.

Why Meditation Helps During Cancer Treatment

Meditation isn’t just a hobby to pick up — it’s full of health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing meditation helps you gain perspective on a stressful situation, reduce depressing thoughts and give you skills and strength to deal with your high stress levels. This is all ideal when you’re going through cancer treatment. In fact, studies show that meditation and mindful relaxation is an effective way to deal with anxiety during breast cancer treatment. Meditation may also help stabilize your blood pressure and, according to a study published in the journal “Cancer,” may regenerate cellular structure.

Mindfulness, the state of being present without distractions of any kind, is perhaps the most common brand of meditation. To put it simply, it’s when you immerse yourself in quiet space and just be in the moment. If you start meditating regularly, the calmness will lift your mood. Here’s how you can get going on this practice.

How You Can Get Started

According to Dr. Cynthia Higgins, a Florida-based practitioner of meditation for 20 years, the best time to meditate is generally right after you wake up. She says this practice is commonly known as “brush, flush, meditate.” It gets your mental gears ready to tackle the day. So, make meditation part of your morning routine in order to safeguard your mind before it becomes cluttered with needless worry. Find a sliver of time when you’re getting ready for the day to dedicate to practicing mindfulness.

Speaking of getting ready, stay in those pajamas. You want to wear loose-fitting clothing and no footwear. Once you have meditation on the schedule, choose an environment that caters to serenity. Whether it’s under a favorite tree, a remote section of beach, your lush garden or an ambient reading room, the key ingredient is to be in a setting without distractions.

What to Do During It

To get your body ready to let go, try some light stretches. Body stretches help release tensions, keep your muscles loose and increase your blood flow. The American Institute for Cancer Research outlines a few stretches you can do while sitting down. Don’t stress out about these moves. It’s more important that you focus on being mindless and comfortable for a few minutes.

Now that you are in a conducive and calm environment, position yourself whereby physical tension is non-existent. Essentially, you want to feel as if you’re free-floating, not contorted. This could mean the cross-legged position that first comes to your mind, like the Insight Meditation Center describes, or another relaxing pose. Grab a yoga mat or an extra pillow to sit on if that makes you more comfortable.

Try calm breathing (inhaling and exhaling effortlessly) to rest your heart rate. Then close your eyes, and focus on one thing. It could be a splendid childhood memory, scuba diving in Caribbean waters or the birth of your child. This exercise helps clear your mind of mental clutter and deliver you to a happy place. Relax and revel in the thoughts of the joyous memories conjured by your vision.

Meditation enables you to be fully in-tune, mind, body and soul. With just these few basic steps, you’ll master the art of meditation and achieve levels of well-being throughout your cancer journey.

Meditation is a great supplement to your cancer treatment. In order to make sure you’re getting the help you need, look into additional support services, beyond your hospital bed, at your cancer center.

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Stephen Owsinski
Stephen Owsinski