The power of mindfulness in healing chronic and life-threatening illness

We know that stress can make us more vulnerable to cancer because of the ways it suppresses the immune system.

We know that stress can make us more vulnerable to cancer because of the ways it suppresses the immune system.

by Dr. Eileen R. Borris — 

It is thought that stress management and mindfulness training can reduce the long-term chances for heart patients to experience future cardiac events, and also provide immediate and significant healthcare cost savings.

All around us, we encounter people with concerns about heart disease. You may be one of them — concerned you are at risk for a heart attack or stroke because of high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol. If so, practicing stress management techniques, including mindfulness training, will improve your heart health.

We know that stress can make us more vulnerable to cancer because of the ways it suppresses the immune system. Reducing the stress levels created by dealing with the cancer itself also can have a positive impact on recovery.

If you have heart disease or cancer, you are not alone. One in two men and one in three women can expect to develop heart disease after age 40. Cancer rates are not far behind those figures. By changing certain behaviors, you can significantly decrease your risk of developing both these illnesses, facilitate a more thorough recovery and improve the quality of your life. The game plan is deceptively simple: stop smoking, eat better, exercise regularly and reduce stress.

Of course, changing habits — and maintaining those changes — can be difficult. This is where mindfulness training becomes important. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention, of listening to your heart.

As you become more mindful of situations and behaviors that put you at risk, you can make choices about developing your individual strategy for healthy change. Mindfulness training is a practical way to foster our ability to see clearly and to better understand ourselves and others so that we can live more joyful and fulfilling lives.

Mindfulness is more than a meditation practice; it can have profound medical and psychological benefits. This way of life reveals the gentle and loving wholeness within the heart of our being, even in times of great pain and suffering. It not only can improve our health, but it affects the quality of every aspect of our lives. Mindfulness training provides profound healing principles — it is a practice that couldn’t be timelier or more necessary in today’s stressful world.

 

Dr. Eileen R. Borris is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz. She works with mind/body approaches to health and healing, forgiveness training, stress management and mindfulness-based interventions for troubled relationships, including separation and divorce. erborris@cox.net or 480-951-0544.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 4, August/September 2005.

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