Relaxation and meditation

What are they?

Relaxation usually includes slow breathing and muscle-loosening exercises to physically and mentally calm the body. Meditation is an ancient practice that involves focusing on a single thing, such as your breathing.

There are many different types of meditation. Mindfulness meditation means being aware and present in each moment, while guided imagery or visualisation use your imagination to create healing thoughts.

Why use them?

Relaxation and meditation may help to release muscle tension and reduce anxiety.

What to expect?

Lying or sitting in a comfortable position, you are led through a series of exercises that focus on breath work and calming the mind. Often, serene music is played to create a peaceful environment. After a period of relaxation, you will usually be prompted to stay awake to enjoy your relaxed state of mind.

What is the evidence?

There is good evidence to show that relaxation and meditation lower the levels of stress hormones in your body, which can assist in healing and improving immune function.

Clinical studies have shown that people being treated for cancer who practise relaxation have lower levels of anxiety, stress, pain and depression. Studies on meditation have shown it helps improve the quality of life of people with cancer, increases coping, and can reduce pain, anxiety, depression and nausea.

Learn more about:

Some hospitals, cancer support groups and community centres offer relaxation and meditation groups. There are also many self-help CDs, DVDs and smartphone apps that will guide you through the different techniques. Cancer Council produces relaxation and meditation CDs. Call 13 11 20 for free copies.

This information was last reviewed in May 2015
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