Keeping our spirits up is important for all of us, no matter the task at hand, and that’s easy to forget sometimes as we trudge along. When someone receives a life-changing medical diagnosis, it’s difficult enough to maintain the strength to endure treatment, let alone foster an outlook that lets them live their lives to the fullest.
For Mary Keefe, her years-long practice of meditation was invaluable when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She used it along with time in nature and the Buddhist principle of impermanence — how negative thoughts, periods of life, and feelings inevitably pass — to maintain a healthy mindset and actually enjoy the present with her family.
“I can get into a meditative state, my heart rate and breathing slow down, and I can allow in whatever thoughts or feelings I’ve wanted to ward off—grief, fear, anger, angst, bitterness—and allow myself to feel it,” Keefe said to Boston University’s The Brink. Returning to her breath helped her endure overwhelming feelings. “This has allowed me to enjoy my life more fully, despite my diagnosis.”
One of Keefe’s guides in meditation and maintaining a positive outlook was Brenda Philips, research psychologist, Buddhist chaplain, and senior lecturer at Boston University’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences.
Philips and her associates in the BU Lab for Contemplative Studies explore the ways in which mediation, prayer, chanting, walking in nature, and mindfulness help people cope with disease, specifically women with cancer diagnoses.
“Meditation doesn’t have to occur in a religious context,” Phillips says. “It is really about understanding how contemplation and voluntary solitude give purpose and meaning to people’s lives.”
Meditation is linked to many health benefits such as alleviating anxiety, depression, insomnia, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and high blood pressure. In a study survey of 130 women who had been diagnosed with cancer in the past five years, Philips observed that 90 percent of participants felt empowered by their voluntary time for solitude and mindfulness. Philips hopes her research will further the clinical understanding of mindfulness practices, including how contemplative practices help someone emotionally regulate.
It can be easy to forget the importance of peace of mind and a positive outlook, even in the toughest of times. If you want to recenter a bit and check in with yourself, check out these easy meditation tips.
Source Study: Boston University The Brink — Can Meditation and Mindfulness Help Cancer Patients Thrive? | The Brink | Boston University (bu.edu)