A team of researchers from Canada led by Dr. Linda E. Carlson of Tom Baker Cancer Center Alberta Health Services already knew that mindful meditation provides positive effects to the mind and emotion of cancer patients. What they didn't know is whether the benefits also extend to physical health.
It turns out that they do. But to be able to conclude this, they had to conduct an experiment among breast cancer survivors.
For the study, they asked more than 80 breast cancer survivors to participate in a series of activities that involved working with support groups and practicing mindful meditation. The mean age for these participants was 55 years old. They also received their cancer treatments two years before the study and experienced significant emotional distress brought upon by the disease.
The activities, which lasted for 3 months, divided the participants into two groups. The first group participated in two activities. One, they had to attend a recovery group that taught them about mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga. Each session lasted for 90 minutes per week, and the entire program went on for 8 weeks. Participants also had to perform meditation and yoga at least 45 minutes every day.
They also met for more than an hour twelve times. During the sessions, they were encouraged to express themselves and openly discuss their concerns, questions, and other feelings about themselves and their disease.
The second group, meanwhile, participated in only one session of stress management, which lasted for six hours.
After the experiment, researchers then compared their blood samples and their telomeres and discovered that those who belonged to the first group had longer telomeres than the second group. Telomeres, which are found at the tail of the chromosomes, have long been considered to be associated with the risk of developing certain diseases such as cancer.
The researchers hoped that they can expand their study to determine whether such effect is sustainable way beyond three months.