An Introduction to Meditation for Chronic Disease Patients
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in meditation for chronic disease patients.
Meditation is the practice of focusing one’s mind for a set time to evoke feelings of relaxation and inner peace.
In recent years, this millennial practice has regained popularity, as researchers study its benefits on human physical and emotional health.
Benefits of Meditation
Numerous studies show that meditation has a positive impact on psychological symptoms, including stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. The findings also reveal that meditation is a helpful approach to chronic pain management.
While not a cure or stand-alone disease management strategy, an increasing number of physicians are recommending meditation as part of their patient’s self-care practices.
A 2014 meta-analysis reviewing 47 trials that included 3,515 participants concluded that mindfulness meditation programs help improve anxiety, depression, pain, stress, and mental-health-related quality of life.
These findings are important because stress can exacerbate symptoms of chronic diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. One report published in the journal PLoS ONE found that the relaxation response of different activities such as meditation, repetitive prayer, and yoga significantly improved symptoms in both IBS and IBD patients.
How to Get Started with Meditation
While there is no definitive guide on how to start practicing meditation, there are a few guidelines that can help with the process.
Choose a Meditation Technique
This ancient practice has many approaches, and different techniques have developed over the centuries. A little research can help you determine which method is more suited to your needs. Here is a brief explanation of the two most popular techniques.
Concentration Meditation: This method centers on focusing your mind on one point. The easiest way to begin is by focusing on your breathing. However, you can also try focusing your attention on a candle flame or repeating a single word or a mantra, and for some people listening to a repetitive sound also works.
With this technique, you simply refocus your attention to your chosen focus point whenever you feel your mind wondering.
Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness became popular in the late 70’s and recently regained popularity. This method encourages you to observe your thoughts as they drift through your mind.
The point is to become aware of each thought as it arises without interacting or judging it. Mindfulness meditation will allow you to see thought patterns and help you achieve mental balance.
Pick a Time and Place
When you are first starting, it’s best to pick a specific time of day and place to practice. Choose an area with few distractions and interruptions. Let your family know you will be meditating and wish not to be disturbed.
Don’t worry about having to meditate while sitting on the floor. You can choose to sit on a chair or lie down if this is more comfortable for you. The key is to find a position where you are comfortable and where your body has enough support without strain.
It’s not easy to keep your focus or let your thoughts drift for long periods. At first, try meditating for 10 minutes. You can progressively increase the time you spend meditating. For some people having several short sessions a day works best while others prefer to sit in quiet contemplation for an hour or longer.
The important thing is to remember that there is no right way to meditate. If you find a practice that works for you and provides benefits, then continue that path.
Speak to Your Doctor
Tell your primary care physician you are thinking about adopting meditation as part of your self-care management. Ask your doctor to recommend some guided meditation resources that can help you get started. It’s also a good idea to let them know of any benefits you obtain from meditating so they can evaluate your prescription medications if needed.