Being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma is a life altering event. How does one handle and function when facing the voice in your head that cannot be turned off? A growing number of patients are finding relief in a way of thinking known as mindfulness.
One definition of mindfulness in Psychology Today is: “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.”
Mindfulness is a way to “rewire the brain for the better.” This is not a new technique it has roots that go back thousands of years to Buddhism and Hinduism. The modern-day movement is thought to have started in the 1970’s. In 1975 the Insight Meditation Society was started by 3 people. Another leader is Jon Kabat-Zinn is credited with starting the conversation regarding the clinical effects of mindfulness. In the late 1970’s he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester Ma. He currently is a Professor of Medicine Emeritus at UMASS. He developed a stress reduction and relaxation program called “Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR), putting mindfulness in scientific context. His program is 8 weeks long, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and continues to be taught and practiced.
Mindfulness must be practiced. It is not something that clears your mind of all thoughts and concerns, it is not a way to relax. It takes time and practice to incorporate it into your life and get results. It helps both the mind and spirit. Meditation is a part of mindfulness.
There are classes available to learn about mindfulness. Cancer Centers, or Centers for Integrative Health Care, might have one available or be able to tell you were the nearest one is. There are classes available on line, books, apps, all different ways to learn about mindfulness.
One book, Mindfulness- Based Cancer Recovery, by Linda Carlson, includes research that shows mindfulness can lead to a 65% reduction in stress symptoms, has a measurable biological affect, slows the cells aging and maintained the shortening of telomeres. According to Carlson, “the goal is to focus on the events in your life as they are instead of ruminating about what could have been or what might still be.”
In a 2017 pilot study a researcher from the Mayo Clinic, Robert Benzo MD, found that people with lung cancer who practiced mindfulness before and after lung surgery, had fewer complications and better lung function.
A study published by Britta Holzel, a research fellow at Harvard and Giessen University in Germany, demonstrated that through meditation, the brain was able to create new gray matter. Practicing meditation can play an active part in increasing our quality of life, while helping reduce a number of symptoms.
People diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and their loved ones are under enormous stress. Practicing mindfulness may be a way of letting go what you cannot change and become comfortable in the present moment.