Meditation is a mind-body process that is used as a type of complementary medicine to help treat a number of medical conditions, including various cancers, to help relax the body, calm the mind and help promote healing. It is promoted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a therapy to help deal with pain or other chronic conditions through intentional self-regulation of attention on one’s inner and outer experiences. Although there is no definitive evidence indicating that meditation is effective in treating cancer, many medical professionals believes it helps improve the quality of life for those afflicted with the disease.
During the meditative process, practitioners focus their attention to eliminate streams of jumbled thoughts that contribute to stress. The meditative process focuses on deep breaths entering and exiting the body, which is a natural relaxant. When combined with directed mental focus, the process helps to relieve stress.
FREE Mesothelioma Information
History of Meditation
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years as part of Eastern religious cultures in India, China and Japan, originally to help deepen and understand life’s mysteries. The practice gained adherence in the United States in the 1960s when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi promoted Transcendental Meditation. The connection between meditation and medicine was furthered by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson whose research indicated that the mind and body are one system, noting that meditation can play a significant role in reducing stress responses. Also playing a significant role in the use of meditation as an alternative therapy in the west is Jon Kabat-Zinn whose research and work has focused on mind/body interactions for healing. Kabat-Zinn, founder and former executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has promoted Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as a way to help patients cope with stress, pain and illness.
Benefits of Meditation
A sense of calm, peace and balance that affects emotional well-being is one of meditation’s primary effects. Clinical studies have found that a number of positive effects. One study show that those who meditated had more brain activity in an area linked to positive emotional states and had better immune responses to influenza vaccine than those who did not. In one controlled study of cancer patients who meditated, 31 percent had fewer stress symptoms and 65 percent had fewer mood disturbances. Some studies suggest that meditation improves the chance of a positive medical outcome. Emotional benefits of meditation include gaining a new perspective and building skills to manage stress, increasing self-awareness and focusing on the present.
Few, if any, complications or negative effects are experienced with meditation, although some individuals with certain mental illness may become disoriented or anxious. While the benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks, meditation should never be used as a substitute for medical care. In addition, patients who want to start physical forms of meditation such as qigong or tai chi should consult their doctors before attempting the activity.