Mindfulness: it helps cancer patients

When diagnosed with cancer, a wide variety of feelings such as sadness, fear, anger, helplessness or injustice arise. When the suffering of this disease is known, most people are accompanied by their relatives, friends and those closest to them sooner or later.

But do they really show what they feel when they talk to them? Are they overwhelmed with emotion when it knocks on your door? In most cases, the answer is “no”.

While it is true that in some people they let their emotions flow, be it sadness, anger or injustice, in most cases people make wasted efforts to show themselves well in front of others. In reality, on many occasions, they may experience what is called experiential avoidance disorder, Manifested by the avoidance of anything related to the disease. This avoidance reflects a lack of acceptance of the disease.

All these efforts to put aside the discomfort are in vain, the person ends up seeing themselves in a spiral of thoughts that dodge with daily activities and that, in addition to promoting a good mood, the intensity of the discomfort increases. In this way, the well-being and the quality of life of the person are harmed.

What is mindfulness and how does it help cancer patients?

From psychology these aspects are worked through different techniques and therapies. In recent years, mindfulness has been shown to be effective in working on some relevant issues during cancer:

  • Facilitates pain modulation
  • Improves the quality of sleep
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves personal satisfaction
  • Improves the quality of life

Mindfulness is a practice derived from Tibetan Buddhist meditation and is currently part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Its goal is to be aware of every physical and psychological sensation that our body sends to us. However, the goal of mindfulness is not to eliminate pain or the thoughts or emotions that create discomfort, but to feel what they have to say without judging them, giving them attention. that they need.

This is so because our body is constantly talking to us, every pain, thought, emotion or pain we feel is a message from our body. When, day after day, we insist not to hear him, he looks at us at least waiting for him and with more intensity, because we are not listening to what he has to say to us. Mindfulness facilitates the acceptance, understanding and regulation of these physical emotions, thoughts or sensations.

Basic pillars of this therapeutic philosophy

There are different types of Mindfulness and a multitude of activities to implement Mindfulness. keep in mind that the most important thing is the attitude adopted when performing these exercises.

Shapiro and Carlson outlined seven factors to consider for practice:

  • do not judge: Be aware of all experiences, internal and external, without limiting them.
  • be patient: Being open to discovering what our body has to show us without needing to rush it.
  • have confidence: Rely on the information that our senses give us without intending to harm us.
  • don’t fight: Do not try to avoid emotions, thoughts or physical sensations.
  • let go: All thoughts and emotions come and go. Sometimes we have the need to stay in a state of well-being. However, mindfulness aims to be attentive at all times, being fully aware of what is happening as well as the changes that are occurring.
  • Beginner mindset: If we want to perform mindfulness exercises properly, we need to put ourselves in an inexperienced baby-like position. Babies slowly discover their world, watch and listen to it intently, smell it, suck it and even smell it. Mindfulness aims to put you in a similar position, where your inexperience allows you to perceive every experience with all your senses before categorizing it.

Bibliographical references:

  • Collete, N. (2011). Art therapy and cancer. Psychooncology, 8 (1), 81-99.
  • Hart, SL, Hoyt, MA, Diefenbach, M., Anderson, DR, Kilbourn, KM, Craft, LL, … and Stanton, AL (2012). Meta-analysis of the effectiveness of interventions in severe depression 36
  • symptoms in adults diagnosed with cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 104 (13), 990-1004.
  • Hopko, DR, Clark, CG, Cannity, K., and Bell, JL (2015). Pre-treatment severity of depression in breast cancer patients and its relationship to treatment response to behavioral therapy. Health Psychology, 35 (1), 10-18.
  • Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: past, present and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144-156.
  • Shapiro, SL, Bootzin, RR, Figuerdo, AJ, Lopez, AM and Schwartz, GE (2003). The effectiveness of attention-based stress reduction in the treatment of sleep disorders in women with breast cancer: an exploratory study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 54 (1), 85-91.
  • Shapiro, SL and Carlson, LE (2009). The art of mindfulness science. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

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