Mindfulness is a gentle practice of observation and awareness of the self and others, non-judgmentally and in the moment. The origins of mindfulness are thought to be from Asian traditions where it has been taught for over 2,500 years.

In recent years it has become a popular practice for people craving a way to manage the stress and busyness in their lives. For many the diagnosis of an illness such as cancer brings the need to reduce stress and somehow get through the tough time of treatment, into immediate focus. Techniques like mindfulness, meditation and relaxation can help people navigate this difficult time. American psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher, Micki Fine says “A cancer diagnosis brings an awareness of the preciousness of life,” Fine explains. “And mindfulness can help us to experience that precious life with greater clarity, balance, and gratitude, one moment at a time.” (https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/04/16/meditation-and-cancer-patients/)

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) the potential of mindfulness-based stress reduction to reduce many symptoms associated with cancer and its treatments has been studied in several clinical trials. Most trials have been in people with breast cancer and have limitations such as small numbers of participants. However, results have shown that mindfulness helps reduce psychological distress in patients with lung cancer and improves mood and general well-being in people with other types of cancer.

In studies of people with breast cancer, mindfulness-based stress reduction was found to help reduce anxiety and depression. It also helped relieve some of the emotional and physical effects of chemotherapy and hormone treatments, and improved sleep. Partners of people with cancer were also shown to benefit from mindfulness.  (http://www.ascopost.com/issues/may-25-2017/the-role-of-meditation-in-cancer-care)

According to Cancer Research UK meditation and mindfulness are generally very safe and side effects are rare. They state that is usually safe to use these techniques as a complementary therapy alongside your cancer treatment. However, they recommend you that you talk with your doctor about any complementary therapies you are considering trying so they can have the full picture about your care and treatment.

If you feel anxious after meditation please talk with your doctor or nurse.


Mindfulness Resources

Books (all available for loan from Cancer Society Wellington library, Newtown)

Here for Now: living well with cancer through mindfulness by Elana Rosenbaum, Satya House Publications, USA, 2007.


Leaves Falling Gently: Living fully with serious and life-limiting illness through mindfulness, compassion and connectedness by Susan Baier-Wu, New Harbinger Publications, USA, 2011.


Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana, Wisdom Publications, USA, 2011.


Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery by Linda E Carlson and Michael Speca, New Harbinger Publications, USA, 2010.

Read an interview with Linda Carlson here: https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-cancer-recovery-living-healing-moment/


Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Perlman, Piatkus, UK, 2011.


Online Resources


ASCO Patient Information –  How Mindfulness helped me cope with cancer https://www.cancer.net/blog/2018-02/how-mindfulness-helped-me-cope-with-cancer

Headspace: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/04/16/meditation-and-cancer-patients/


Relax – a series of relaxation and mindfulness exercises https://auckland-northland.cancernz.org.nz/how-we-can-help/want-support/relaxation-and-mindfulness-cd/

Mindful Meditation – Cancer Council NSW


Coming Soon- Mindfulness Courses in Wellington and Kapiti

At Cancer Society Wellington we plan to run free six-week mindfulness courses in Wellington and Kapiti in September/October with Peter Davis. Peter is a retired medical doctor, and mindfulness teacher. Please contact info@cancersoc.org.nz or 0800 CANCER (226 237) for more information.


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