Cancer & Caregiving

Staying in the Present Moment: A New Year’s Resolution for Cancer Patients

Written By:
Jan 14, 2013
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Written By: Faith Franz,
January 14, 2013

As we settle into 2013, most of us start thinking about hopes and goals for the new year.

Some of us make plans to better our bodies, or our relationships, or our careers. But perhaps most importantly, we should focus on bettering the relationship between our hearts and our minds.

Mesothelioma patients have a lot to deal with on the emotional front. There are fears about the future, concerns about treatment, and uncertainties about how their diagnosis will change their lives. Over time, this can cause a great deal of anxiety, and many cancer patients end up dealing with some form of advanced emotional distress.

This fresh start may be just the time to implement a new mindfulness program to help counteract these stressors.

Mindfulness Benefits for Cancer Patients

Researchers at the University of Calgary published an article on mindfulness in the January 2013 issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies. The article chronicled their study of mindfulness interventions, stress and overall mood in cancer patients.

For the project, 268 participants completed an eight-week, mindfulness-based stress reduction program. They self-assessed their psychological health before and after the program, and unsurprisingly, their overall mindfulness increased over the course of the eight weeks.

As the patients’ mindfulness increased, their symptoms of stress and prevalence of mood disturbances decreased. Overall, patients reported a 55 percent reduction in mood disturbance and a 29 percent reduction in general symptoms of stress.

The patients cited two primary influences on their mood improvements:

  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Refusal to judge inner experience

This led researchers to conclude that specifically designed mindfulness interventions canhave a significant impact on cancer patients’ psychological health.

Putting it into Practice

Staying in the present moment is a simple concept, but it requires a surprising amount of discipline.

Awareness of the present moment requires patients to let go of the distractions that make them anxious about the future or reluctant to give up the past. The reality is this: A mesothelioma diagnosis will change your life. What it brings in your future, though, can’t be changed right now.

Eckhart Tolle, named the most spiritually influential person in the world in 2011, recommends the following tips in his article, “How to Stay in the Present Moment:”

  • Sense the aliveness of your body. This becomes an anchor for staying present.
  • Welcome each moment.
  • Accept that people, events, situations and objects come and go.
  • Consider mind-body practices, such as Tai Chi.

Do you practice mindfulness in any form? If you are working on staying in the present moment, what tips help you achieve this awareness? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.

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