by CATHERINE NGUYEN
Meditation uses concentration or reflection to relax the body and calm the mind. It is considered a mind-body complementary therapy, and may be a powerful complement to standard medical treatment for some health conditions such as cancer.
In addition to helping you balance your emotions and feel better overall, studies have shown that there are many health benefits associated with meditation:
- When used along with standard medical treatment, meditation may help lower blood pressure.
- It may help to reduce sleep and mood disturbances, stress, and muscle and joint pain.
- Meditation may help lessen anxiety, depression, and pain.
- For some cancer patients, meditation has been shown to help relieve anxiety, stress, tiredness, and improve sleep and mood, when used to complement standard medical treatment.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Calgary and Alberta Health services in 2014 concluded that meditation may have a positive physical impact on cancer survivors. For Allison McPherson, a study participant, the experience has been life-changing. She says, “I was sceptical at first and thought it was a bunch of hocus-pocus, but I now practise mindfulness throughout the day and it’s reminded me to become less reactive and kinder towards myself and others.”
Nancy who was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2008 and with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2016, used meditation to quiet herself and her thoughts. She says “When you are living with cancer, meditation can change how you view it and how you dwell with it.”
While she was still working, she introduced meditation practices to her patients who also had cancer and were having difficulty with pain. They began to look at their cancer experiences differently, and although the pain didn’t necessarily change, the patient was able to live with it a little more easily.
Meditation is easy, convenient, inexpensive, safe, and can be done in a variety of ways based on individual preferences.
If you are not sure of where to start, Cancer Council has a number of meditation and relaxation podcasts available online to help you cope during and after treatment. Free copies of relaxation and meditation CDs are also available by calling 13 11 20.
Solaris Cancer Care also offers a number of resources to help you with your meditation. Examples include
- Gentle Meditation with Chandrika Gibson – a quick 4 minute guide to meditation
- Healing Meditation (Peace of Mind) – a video by our Solaris Cancer Care South West meditation expert Ed Cawdell
- Video of Relaxation Meditation with Cathy Brown – a 20 minute relaxation meditation
- Free mindfulness and meditation app by Allevi8 – download the app for free via Apple Store or Google Play to join the complementary Allevi8@8 guided meditation sessions.
According to Cancer Research UK, it can take time to feel the benefits of meditation. You may even feel more stressed in the beginning when your mind is busy, but it will get easier as you practise over time. The key is regular meditation, even if it is for a short period of time each day.
Catherine has been volunteering with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre since 2017, and joined Solaris Cancer Care as a blog writer in early August 2020. She cared for her father and her husband with cancer, and the experiences changed her life. Catherine developed a passion for researching all matters relating to cancer during her husband’s fight, and is keen to continue building on her knowledge and using it to help others.