James Metz, MD
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: September 11, 2013

Complementary medical techniques are gaining increased acceptance within the medical community. Some of the most helpful complementary techniques include the mind-body therapies. These include meditation, biofeedback, guided imagery, music therapy, art therapy, prayer, and hypnosis. Each of these may help the patient deal with anxiety, stress, and other subjective symptoms related to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Meditation is a wonderful technique to help with stress reduction. It is easy to learn and can be done without the help of therapist. It can be practiced in a variety of places including work, home, and in the hospital. Meditation originated in the Eastern religions and was used for calming and focusing the mind. It has been popularized in the United States through the introduction of transcendental meditation by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s. Deepak Chopra, who has been a strong supporter of meditation, has also helped spread its popularity.

There are many ways to practice meditation and each individual develops their own style and preferences. Most recommend performing meditation once or twice a day for 10-20 minutes to reap the full benefits. Find a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed. Sit in comfortable position with your back straight. Close your eyes so you are not affected by visual stimulation. Breathe naturally. Some will use a mantra (phrase or word that you repeat to yourself to help distract your thoughts) such as "om". Gradually relax all the muscles in your body from your feet up to your head. Your mind may wander, but use your mantra to help continue to focus on your breathing and relaxation.

You can find many resources for learning meditation online or in your local bookstore or library. Meditation is a wonderful complementary medical technique that is safe, relaxing—and best of all, free!

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