Meditation programs are popping up across Canada – and for good reason. This centuries old practice, also known as mindfulness, is one of the best tools for our health, well-being, and happiness. Research shows a daily meditation practice reduces stress, depression, and inflammation while improving sleep, fatigue, and menopausal symptoms in woman who had a breast cancer diagnosis[i]. Additionally, studies connect meditation and an enhanced immune function[ii]. These are all important considerations when you’ve had a breast cancer diagnosis.
So what exactly is mindfulness? Jean Kristeller, PhD defines it as “the moment to moment non-judgmental awareness of the stream of thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and experience them in the moment, acknowledging and accepting them as they are.” It’s easier than you think to get started. There are fantastic books and meditation apps to help you. Some of my favourite books are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the MBSR program, apps such as Buddhify, and our website, www.inspirehealth.ca, has a weekly live online meditation class and pre-recorded videos.
Here are some simple instructions on how to meditate. This has been adapted from “The Joy of Half a Cookie” by Jean Kristeller, PhD.
- Choose a time when you can take about 10 – 15 minutes to listen to a meditation app or recording. Morning, late afternoon or early evening is recommended as we may fall asleep if it’s too close to bed time. Headphones can be helpful when there is background noise.
- Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. If there are other family members in the house, let them know that you would like to not be disturbed. Some people set a timer elsewhere in the house to let family members know when your quiet time is over.
- In the beginning, experiment with different times to get a sense of when meditation works best for you. Perhaps it is as soon as roll out of bed or before dinner. Then set up a regular time and place to create a habit of a daily practice.
- The best way to sit is the one that is comfortable for you. It may be a sitting in a chair where you can maintain a relaxed but erect posture, cross-legged on a raised pillow, or perhaps finding a more relaxed posture. However, too relaxed a posture may lead to drowsiness or falling asleep.
- Keep in mind that learning to meditate is a skill. If you notice you are judging yourself – “I’m too distracted…I can’t get rid of my thoughts….I can’t concentrate…I’m too restless…”, just observe these as thoughts – and return your attention gently to your breath. Gradually, you will notice subtle changes, and that is part of the process.[iii]
Ashley Phillips, MEd, C.C.C., CYT, is a clinical counsellor and yoga/mediation teacher at InspireHealth, a not-for-profit supportive cancer care centre. InspireHealth founded in 1997, has three centres in British Columbia in Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna. In addition to an online centre available to all Canadians. All services, programs and classes are completely free of charge. No referral required. www.inspirehealth.ca
[i] Lengacher, C. A., et al. (2015), The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on objective and subjective sleep parameters in women with breast cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Psycho-Oncology, 24: 424–432. doi: 10.1002/pon.3603.
[ii] Kabat-Zinn, Jon. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York :Bantam Books
[iii] Kristeller, J. (2015). The Joy of Half a Cookie: Using mindfulness to lose weight and end the struggle with food. New York: Perigree/Penguin-Random House.