Restore Spiritual Well-Being Mind, Body, Spirit Connection
There is no doubt that being diagnosed with breast cancer can upset the physical, mental and emotional balance in your life and spark feelings of sadness, stress or anxiety. If you believe that your body responds to the way you think, feel and act then, perhaps, whatever mental, emotional or spiritual imbalance occurs could manifest physically in an illness.
This is often called the “mind/body/spirit connection.” Being aware of this connection helps you become “grounded” or “centered” in who you are, your beliefs and your overall well-being. Without an awareness, or “consciousness,” of the connection to what grounds you or centers you, you are at greater risk of imbalances in your mind and body, which can lead to a less-than-ideal state of being.
Just like in Ayurvedic Philosophy, the mind, body and consciousness work together to maintain balance, which promotes a healthy lifestyle. As a breast cancer survivor, this is important because your recovery is about more than just adhering to your follow-up medical visits. It involves taking care of the “whole” you, i.e. your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Ayurvedic Philosophy emphasizes prevention and promotes maintenance of health by adopting a healthy lifestyle that feeds your mind, body and soul. Proper nutrition and physical activity, mental stimulation and fulfilled spiritual needs are key success factors in maintaining balance and staying healthy for the long term.
In yoga philosophy, there is no separation between the mind, body and spirit. The three exist in union; what happens to the body also happens to the mind -- and even to the spirit -- and vice versa. If something affects you emotionally, it will show up physically. By being conscious of this, you can develop a practice that will enhance and enrich your body and your mind.
There are many aspects to keeping your mind, body and spirit in balance, and there are resources and tools to guide you in your quest to achieve balance in your journey through recovery. Practicing yoga is one; mindful meditation is another. Mindful meditation is a form of Buddhist meditation, which is a calm awareness of one's body functions, feelings, content of consciousness or the consciousness itself. It is a useful tool in dealing with the transformation that takes place as a result of surviving breast cancer.
Sameet Kumar, Ph.D., a Buddhist psychotherapist and expert in the areas of palliative care, spirituality in psychotherapy, stress management and relaxation and grief and bereavement at the Memorial Cancer Institute, recently wrote about the transformation that he sees in cancer patients confronting their illness. He says:
“One of the biggest psychosocial challenges of cancer treatment is how to handle the profound uncertainty about life, relationships and the future that is opened up for many people by cancer. Relationships, including friendships and marriages, can change in unexpected ways. You might find that help can come from unexpected places, while being disappointed at other relationships. Your professional life may experience a setback. And you might find that you have different priorities.
“What I most hope for when I meet someone with cancer is that they will eventually develop an appreciation for each of life's precious moments after having experienced its most difficult twists and turns.
“That is, that in experiencing physical illness, you develop an ability to cherish the here-and-now of life's moments rather then dwelling on the failures of the past or the uncertainties of the future. I have found that this focusing on the moment is the only reliable antidote to the uncertainty inherent in human existence. This profound uncertainty about ‘what if’ is at the heat of the fear that most people develop with cancer, or any life-threatening illness.
“There are many ways to bring your mind back from the fear and into the reality of today. Many people engage in meditation. Others find artwork to be soothing and comforting. Other people devote more quality time to family and friends. What matters most is not what works for other people, but what works for you. The one thing to remember from the day you are diagnosed is that, although you did not choose cancer, you do have choices in how you live and what you make of the experience.”
The following resources provide additional information to help you better the role of the mind/body/spirit connection in your recovery:
Study explores mind-body-spirit connection in breast cancer survivors
Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health
Relation Between Mind Body Spirit
Mind-Body Therapies for Breast-Cancer Patients
American Cancer Society mind, body spirit
Mind and Body Fitness for Lifelong Good Health
For more information on the mind/body/spirit connection, go to Resources. You can share your knowledge and experience with other survivors at Survivor Tips or start a discussion in our Partner Forum.