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There are many different types of meditation. Most involve being still and quiet. Some involve movements such as tai chi, chi gong or walking meditation.
Meditation is a way of connecting with a natural state of mind that is spacious and clear. It is not eliminating thoughts but noticing when our mind is busy or racing. Meditation can help you connect with the breath and bring calmness to the mind.
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What is Meditation?
Why Meditate during Cancer?
One of the main reasons people with cancer use meditation is to help them to feel better.
Meditation can reduce anxiety and stress. It might also help control problems such as:
- difficulty sleeping
- feeling sick
- high blood pressure
It can take time to feel the benefits of meditation. At first you might feel more stressed as you see how busy your mind is. But if you keep trying to meditate for even a short time each day, you will find that it gets easier. Gradually you’ll feel calmer and less stressed. Regular practice is key.
How you practice meditation
What you do depends on the type of meditation you practice.
Meditation can be guided by:
- people who have training in practicing and teaching meditation
- doctors and nurses
- psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals
- yoga teachers
You can do it yourself at home, but it is best to get a trained meditation teacher to teach you how to do it first. This may only take a few 20 to 30 minute sessions. Or it can take longer depending on the type of meditation.
You can learn some types of meditation in groups, or by listening to or watching meditation tutorials.
Meditation is a process that is refined and developed over months or years. It can sometimes be difficult to keep it up, so it helps to have ongoing support from the person who teaches your meditation.
Most types of meditation involve finding a quiet place away from the distractions of everyday life. You can sit or lie quietly. It’s important to make sure that you feel comfortable but in a position that allows you to pay attention and be aware.
Your teacher will usually encourage you to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go without trying to push them away or stop them. This may seem very difficult to do at first. Most people say it gets easier with practice.
In some types of meditation, you say a phrase or word out loud. Or you may have an object you can bring your mind back to, such as a candle or your breath. This helps you to focus your mind on the present moment.
Most teachers recommend that you practice the meditation for at least 15 to 20 minutes twice a day to get the best results. But even 5 minutes once a day is better than nothing, especially if you are feeling ill or finding it hard to concentrate. A shorter period every day is better than a longer time every so often.
Types of meditation
There are many different types of meditation.
Research into meditation in cancer care
Studies have looked at meditation as a way of reducing stress in both the mind and body. Most of the research has focused on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
Some studies have shown that MBSR can help to relieve particular symptoms and improve quality of life for people with cancer. It might:
- improve mood
- improve concentration
- reduce depression and anxiety
- reduce symptoms and side effects, such as feeling sick (nausea)
- boost the immune system
The studies have generally been small so far, and often have very different study designs which can make it difficult to compare results. So larger studies are needed.
There is no evidence that meditation can help to prevent, treat or cure cancer, or any other disease.
Possible side effects
Generally, meditation is very safe, and side effects are rare. So it is usually safe to use meditation alongside your cancer treatment.
But make sure you talk to your doctor about any complementary therapy or alternative therapy that you want to try so that they can have the full picture about your care and treatment.
People who have any type of mental illness should ask their doctor and a qualified meditation instructor first before they begin any meditation. This is because bringing attention to the present moment may worsen symptoms such as:
- speedy mind (mania) and delusions (psychosis)
When you practice meditation you may see more clearly any anxiety, depressed feelings, or negative thoughts that you have. This can make you feel frightened, sad, or disorientated.
It is important to tell your meditation instructor or contact your doctor if you feel anxious after meditating.