Coping with cancer isn't easy. So, how do you build the mental strength to cope with everything you're facing? Mindfulness is one thing that may help.
How mindfulness helps
Mindfulness allows us to step outside of our own minds and observe how we think about things. Over time, those who practice mindfulness learn to become less attached to their own thoughts, perceptions and beliefs. People begin to take actions based on the true nature of people and events, rather than how they wish or hope them to be.
By focusing on the details of our experiences, we are better able to understand what is happening in each moment. This new understanding will allow you to spot and avoid negative reactions. Mindfulness also better enables us to see the many ways we can positively respond to our situations. This helps us achieve inner peace and balance.
Studies show that patients who practice mindfulness begin to feel better despite their medical problems. Physical symptoms don't necessarily go away, but that's not the aim of mindfulness. Rather, the goal is to help you find a different perspective and a new way of coping with your illness.
What is mindfulness? And how do I do it?
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on your thoughts, emotions and feelings in the present moment with acceptance and without judgment.
It is one simple coping technique that's been found to reduce stress, boost energy and improve well-being.
While it may sound complicated, mindfulness practices are simple. One easy way to stay mindful is to focus on your breath.
You can practice mindfulness while sitting, walking, standing or going through daily routines like driving to appointments or washing clothes. The key is to focus on the activity at hand.
Next time you're sitting in a waiting room, focus on your stomach. Your eyes can be closed or open. Now, follow your breath as you breathe in and out. Become aware of how many times you are breathing in and out, how your stomach moves, how your lungs feel, how each breath feels different, etc. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Finding time for mindfulness may seem difficult, so start by using it during your normal daily activities. Strive to live fully in the present moment, and you may find a sense of happiness and peace.
Get help at MD Anderson
If you're a patient at MD Anderson, our social work counselors can teach you mindfulness techniques. We also offer counseling and support groups at no cost to patients and caregivers.