October 12, 2009
Meditation can help teach us how to calm our minds and can lead to powerful reductions in stress, anxiety and depression, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. It also can help a cancer patient reconnect with inner strengths.
Practitioners also claim meditation increases mental efficiency and alertness and raises self-awareness, all of which contribute to relaxation.
It is practiced in many forms, says the American Cancer Society, including:
Transcendental meditation: Repeating a word or phrase, called a mantra, either silently or aloud.
Mindfulness meditation: A person observes sensations, perceptions, and thoughts without judgment as they arise.
Meditation in motion: Tai chi, qigong, and the Japanese martial art aikido use poses, stretches and controlled breathing.
The goal of meditation is to isolate oneself mentally from the outside world by suspending the usual stream of consciousness. It can be guided by health professionals, yoga masters or masters of different schools of meditation, the ACS says.
It can also be self-guided by choosing a quiet place, sitting or resting with eyes closed, noticing one's breathing and physical sensations, and letting go of all intruding thoughts.
Though it has proven benefits of promoting relaxation and reducing chronic pain and sleeplessness, ACS says, it is not a treatment for cancer and using it instead of traditional medical treatments could have serious consequences.
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