Updated: Jun 17, 2018
How Effective is Meditation as a Cancer Treatment?
The benefits of #meditation are well-established. And even if you only do it for a few minutes a day, it still has a profound effect on your stress and energy levels, sleep quality, and concentration.
We’re peering into our medicine cabinets and rooting around online in search of something, anything, that’ll help ease what ails us. And here, the answer may be sitting right in front of us, too simple to see. More and more, however, meditation is being embraced by western medicine as a form of cancer treatment.
To this point, the evidence is limited that meditation has any direct influence over cancer. A 2014 study found that meditation and yoga seemed to have some effect on cellular activity. “The telomeres—the protein caps at the end of our chromosomes that determine how quickly a cell ages—stayed the same length in cancer survivors who meditated or took part in support groups over a three-month period,” reads an analysis of the study by Science Alert. “On the other hand, the telomeres of cancer survivors who didn’t participate in these groups shortened during the three-month study.
“Scientists still don’t know for sure whether telomeres are involved in regulating disease, but there is early evidence that suggests shortened telomeres are associated with the likelihood of surviving several diseases, including breast cancer, as well as cellular aging. And longer telomeres are generally thought to help protect us from disease.”
Still, meditation’s ability to improve the quality of life during conventional treatment, and promote recovery after it, is well-supported. Both emotionally—meditation can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and provide a sense of calm and balance—and physically—blood flow increases and the heart rate slows after meditation, and pain can subside to an extent—the mindfulness achieved through meditation, however brief, can fill the crater-size voids left by the likes of chemotherapy and radiation.
How do I meditate?
If all that’s been keeping you from meditating is your self-consciousness, fear not. First off, you’re going to be doing it alone. And your eyes will be closed. So you won’t even have a chance to laugh at yourself—not that you’re going to look silly.
Try to set aside at least five minutes, say, right before you go to bed or as soon as you wake. Find a comfortable place to sit. Your posture should be relaxed but attentive—shoulders back, head tall.
Close your eyes, take a few long breaths, and imagine your body gradually loosening from your neck to your feet.
Take notice of the sensations throughout your body. Then focus on your breathing. It doesn’t need to be exaggerated, and you don’t need to chant. Just inhale deeply, hold it for a second or two and exhale slowly. Repeat.
Your mind’s going to wander. It’s OK to acknowledge those thoughts. Just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.
When you’re ready, open your eyes.