Link between cancer and meditation began taking form 20 years ago. But there was no evidence that meditation can indeed have a positive effect on cancer. It was in 2014 that a Canada-based research came forth with data which clearly pointed at how meditating can be beneficial for those suffering from cancer.

Meditation is marked by focusing attention, regulating breathing, and raising awareness of thoughts and feelings to achieve inner calm, physical relaxation, psychological balance and improved vitality and coping. Many meditative practices include a spiritual component, and some are deeply spiritual.

Meditation can take many forms and has deep roots in both eastern religious traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism) and western traditions (Christianity). 

All forms of meditation have the aim of reducing stress, mood disturbances and fatigue, as well as improving quality of life. Meditation generally strives to focus attention, regulate breathing, and raise awareness of thoughts and feelings to achieve inner calm, physical relaxation, psychological balance and improved vitality and coping. Participants practice approaching thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Some meditation practices include movement or energy, including these:

Other mindfulness-based interventions with less focus on body involvement include these:

  • Guided meditation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
  • Psycho-education
  • Transcendental Meditation

Meditation and cancer

The study, which took place over three months, found that mindful meditation had an effect on the telomeres of the cells. Telomeres form the top of our chromosomes and play a crucial role in cell aging. The study observed that cancer patients who mindfully meditated were able to maintain the length of telomeres. Longer telomeres are associated with protecting the body from illnesses. Cancer survivors usually have shorter telomeres. In conclusion, the study cleared the air around how meditation positively affected the health cancer patients.

For those suffering from cancer, it is believed that mindful meditation to reduce stress is especially beneficial. It is called Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR). This kind of meditation has an effect on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, that in turn helps in relaxation of the body.

Apart from having a physical effect on the body, meditation also helps in calming down. For a person dealing with cancer, the future looks unsure and a lot of negative thoughts crowd the mind. Cancer patients also feels let down by their body. In such scenarios, meditation can help to turn negative thoughts into positive ones by taking a pause which breaks the downward spiral. Meditation also helps gaining confidence and befriending the body with help of compassion.

References & More Information

  1. Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
  2. Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
  3. Mindfulness‐based cancer recovery and supportive‐expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors 
  4. A randomized, wait-list controlled clinical trial: the effect of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients. 
  5. Brown-Saltzman K. Replenishing the spirit by meditative prayer and guided imagery.
  6. Prevention: Could Shamanic healing be the answer you’ve been looking for?
  7. Puchalski CM, Dorff RE, Hendi IY. Spirituality, religion, and healing in palliative care. 
  8. Daniel Plan: Faith
  9. Schlosser Z. A Look at Meditation in Christian Traditions. Sonima.
  10. Simoes M. Altered states of consciousness and psychotherapy a cross-cultural perspective. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. 2002;21(1):145-152.

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