Calm Your Mind Through Meditation
Meditation is a mind and body practice with a long history of helping people cope and thrive. Meditation teaches us to quiet our minds and be more present in every moment of our lives.
The Science Behind Meditation
The practice of meditation has been shown to facilitate peacefulness, physical relaxation and psychological balance. Evidence-based guidelines from the Society for Integrative Oncology recommend meditation and other mind-body therapies for people with cancer. In studies, regular relaxation training has yielded impressive results, including:
Fewer side effects from chemotherapy
Lower anxiety and stress
Increased immune system functioning
Types of Meditation
There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: a quiet location, a comfortable posture, focused attention and an open attitude. CancerCare discusses repetitive prayers as a form of meditation and describes two other forms, one-pointed and two-pointed meditation, as follows.
One-pointed meditation focuses on a word or sound called a mantra. Many people create their own mantra from an affirming word, such as “peace,” “love” or “hope.” Once you choose a mantra, find a safe, quiet place and repeat it to yourself during 15- to 20-minute sittings. The goal is to relax the mind, which has a natural tendency to jump from one idea to the next—and from one worry to the next. Do not try to force your mind back to your mantra when you notice it has wandered. Simply guide it back gently, accepting that it may stray again.
Two-pointed meditation is also called mindful or insight meditation. With this technique, you relax your mind by focusing on your breath. As your mind jumps around, practice non-judgmental awareness—simply observe the pattern of your thoughts and gently guide them back to focus on your breath. Non-judgmental awareness allows you to separate yourself from emotions and sensations rather than getting pulled into them. One benefit of this type of meditation is that you can practice it while seated quietly or when doing daily activities.
Guided imagery is a stress-reducing technique that combines meditation and deep breathing. As part of this technique, you imagine and transport yourself to a peaceful setting. You can try it following these steps:
Find a comfortable place to sit where you won’t be interrupted.
Close your eyes. Let your body gently relax, starting with your neck and shoulders and moving down to your toes.
Breathe in slowly through your nose, counting to four. Breathe out slowly, again counting to four. Repeat this rhythm.
Imagine a place of peace and relaxation - a place you remember or a place you'd like to be.
Picture the place using all of your senses. What do you see, hear, smell or feel? Do you see anyone who brings you joy?
Envision yourself in this place, experiencing all its healing sensations. Can you feel yourself growing stronger? Letting go of pain?
Keep breathing – in and out to a count of four – and relax into the experience.
Music for a Meditative Mood
Ambient sounds, such as music or sounds from nature, can help pull you into your imaginary setting. Are you on a beach? Listen to the ocean waves as they reach the shore. Are you resting in a cozy room while it rains? Listen to the rhythm of raindrops on the roof.
You can download relaxing music from a variety of websites, such as iTunes or Amazon Prime Music, or listen for free at sites like Calmsound, where you’ll find nature sounds ranging from ocean and rainforest to gardens and glens.