Being sick and feeling unwell, it may not cross your mind to be more mindful, but it should.
Finding motivation and patience to meditate can be hard, but practicing meditation and being mindful can actually help you feel better.
Meditation improves mental health and there is growing evidence that it can also relieve some physical symptoms and improve certain measures of chronic illness, like high blood pressure.
Meditation isn’t difficult, but it does take practice.
Start now with a few minutes a day, and the next time you get sick you will already know how to heal yourself from stress and relieve your symptoms with meditation.
What Is Meditation and Mindfulness?
Meditation is a type of mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness means being fully present in the moment and aware of one’s own feelings, physical sensations, reactions, and immediate surroundings.
It’s all about focusing awareness on your current feelings, thoughts, senses, and state of mind.
Anyone can be mindful, but we tend to be easily distracted by thoughts of the past or future or by things outside of ourselves.
The more you practice being mindful, the easier it becomes to ignore distractions and avoid being reactive or feeling overwhelmed by what is going on around you.
One way to be more mindful is to practice meditation.
It is a practice, or more accurately a group of practices, for training the brain on how to heal and relieve your body from stress.
You can meditate by concentrating on one thing, like a repeated mantra or your breathing.
You can also focus on your thoughts and feelings to meditate and be mindful.
The purpose is to practice a strategy to help train your mind to get into a calm, clear, and attentively stable state.
It is not easy to do initially, but meditation gets easier and more productive with practice, even if you start with just a few minutes a day.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Even if you are not trying to understand how to heal your sickness, meditation has plenty of health and wellness benefits.
Sure, it can help you when you are feeling healthy, but these benefits maybe even more useful when you are unwell. Some of the important ways in which meditation can improve physical and mental health are by:
- Reducing stress
- Reducing anxiety
- Improving self-regulation
- Increasing empathy
- Improving attention and focus
- Improving memory
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering heart rate
There is even evidence from research that meditation can change connections in the brain and alter your genetics. It may even help relieve depression.
Meditation and Chronic Illness
One of the most important ways in which meditation can help you when you are sick is by reducing stress.
Being sick is stressful, especially if you have a chronic illness that causes ongoing symptoms and will never really go away.
Stress is an emotional but also physical and biological response. If you can reduce stress safely, with meditation, doing so can have a big impact on both mental health and physical well-being.
So, if you are wondering how to heal your mind and body from the damages of stress, give meditation a try.
One study even found that participants in an eight-week meditation practice had actual changes in their gene expression.
These changes were related to physical health markers of chronic illness: glucose metabolism, inflammation, circadian rhythms, and blood pressure. The patients in the study all struggled with high blood pressure and more than half saw improvements with meditation.
Some other ways that meditation may improve physical health, whether you have a chronic illness or just a cold, including pain reduction, better sleep, lower stress, boosted immune system action and even improved gastrointestinal function.
Meditation and Cancer
Being sick is always stressful and uncomfortable, but when sick with a life-threatening condition like cancer, stress, and
fear can be overwhelming.
With cancer, you are facing uncomfortable symptoms and side effects of treatment, big decisions about treatment, and the stress of facing a battle you may lose.
Any type of cancer is difficult to live with, but those that are terminal or very difficult to cure, like mesothelioma, cancer associated with asbestos, or metastatic, late-stage cancers, are especially stressful.
Another study looked at cancer patients and compared those who practiced mindfulness meditation with those who did not.
Those practicing meditation participated in a weekly group session and engaged in individual, at-home meditation. These patients experienced significantly reduced stress, by as much as a third, as compared to patients who did not participate in meditation.
There is much more evidence that indicates meditation helps patients living with cancer, too.
It can help patients learn how to heal their minds and develop more positive attitudes. It helps reduce stress, anxiety, and the fear associated with trying to fight an illness that could be terminal.
Types of Meditation to Try When Sick
When you are sick, whether that means a one-time illness or a chronic disease, there are several different types of meditation that can help you to get relief.
Sometimes meditating will simply help you cope better with being sick. Sickness is never fun, but a little mindfulness practice can help you take illness more in stride.
Here are some techniques to try:
One of the simplest and easiest ways to be more mindful is to practice deep breathing.
Sit somewhere quiet and take deep breaths, inhaling slowly, holding your breath for a few seconds, and exhaling slowly.
Meditating on something more pleasant than your illness can also be powerful.
Visualize images that make you feel happy and calm or imagine being in a place you love and that you find peaceful.
Meditate by focusing on your senses. Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and close your eyes.
Notice everything you feel, hear, and touch.
Put all your focus on your immediate senses.
Meditating on mantras
A tried-and-true way to meditate is to use mantras.
Sit quietly and repeat a positive mantra in your head over and over.
Choose something related to being well again or that shows gratitude for positive things in your life. This will help take your focus away from feeling sick.
Finding motivation and discipline to meditate may be tough at first, but once you get yourself into a routine it can be a very powerful strategy for overcoming illnesses.
Whether you live with a chronic illness that flares up, are battling cancer, or just have a particularly bad cold, a focused practice of meditation and mindfulness can relieve stress and anxiety, take your focus away from illness, and actually make you feel better.