Relaxation techniques better for cancer patients than mindfulness therapy

May 11, 2017 by Anna Kellett, University of Auckland
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

New research has shown that the use of Mindfulness training in cancer patients can produce negative results to their wellbeing compared to using simple relaxation techniques.

Mindfulness is the process of bringing one's full attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment in a non-judging, accepting way. It can be developed through the practice of meditation and other .

Lisa Reynolds of the University of Auckland's Department of Psychological Medicine and her colleagues, conducted the research on 68 people receiving chemotherapy at Auckland Hospital.

Participants were randomised to one of two stress management groups; one group was given basic , like focussing on breathing, and the other was given a brief mindfulness intervention.

The paper, "A Brief Mindfulness Intervention Is Associated with Negative Outcomes in a Randomised Controlled Trial Among Chemotherapy Patients," was recently published in the journal Mindfulness.

Both groups had three 90 minute sessions, once a week over three weeks.

"We expected that both groups would be helpful for people, but that the mindfulness intervention would be more helpful," Lisa says.

"The results were not what any of us expected."

"It showed that mindfulness training can actually make things worse."

"In a we conducted with going through chemotherapy, we found that on some important measures (symptom distress, quality of life, ) that actually made things temporarily worse compared to ."

Lisa says that while relaxation techniques were helpful across a range of measures, people in the mindfulness programme had temporary negative effects straight after they finished the three week programme.

"Their quality of life went down, distress about their cancer symptoms went up, and their social avoidance went up."

Three months later both groups were on an equal par again.

"Sometimes it can be really confronting to focus on your present experience."

"Mindfulness training encourages you to be more accepting of your experiences, even painful ones, but that skill can take time, training and practice to develop."

Lisa says that while mindfulness has been used for thousands of years, recently there's been a real interest in using it in various forms and in different physical health populations like with people who have diabetes or cancer.

"There's been a real explosion in people saying how amazing it is and using it in different settings, however in this explosion of interest, people have taken at face value that it is harmless without really making sure about what it's doing."

"Our research suggests that we should be a bit more careful about how we use it, how it is being taught, and to think carefully about when it is introduced. There are some situations when we absolutely do not want to raise a person's distress, even if it is temporary."

"Mindfulness training is really helpful for lots of in lots of situations, but we need to think carefully about the boundaries of when it might and might not be appropriate."

Explore further: Mindfulness practice reduces cortisol blunting during chemo

More information: Lisa M. Reynolds et al. A Brief Mindfulness Intervention Is Associated with Negative Outcomes in a Randomised Controlled Trial Among Chemotherapy Patients, Mindfulness (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s12671-017-0705-2

Related Stories

Mindfulness practice reduces cortisol blunting during chemo

April 10, 2017
(HealthDay)—Mindfulness practice during chemotherapy can reduce the blunting of neuroendocrine profiles typically observed in cancer patients, according to a study published online April 7 in Cancer.

Meditation benefits patients with ALS

February 23, 2017
An eight-week mindfulness-based meditation program led to improved quality of life and psychological well-being in clinical trial of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Just breathe: Mindfulness may help freshman stress less and smile more

April 20, 2017
Mindfulness training may be one way to help students successfully transition to college life, according to Penn State researchers.

Letting go of worries during pregnancy associated with healthier birth weight

March 23, 2017
Attending to the present moment in an accepting way (mindfulness) during pregnancy may be beneficial for both mother and her baby, as mother's subsequent mood is better and baby's birth weight is healthier. That is the main ...

Mindfulness treatment as effective as CBT for depression and anxiety

November 27, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Group mindfulness treatment is as effective as individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in patients with depression and anxiety, according to a new study from Lund University in Sweden and Region ...

Recommended for you

Beauty is simpler, and less special, than we realize

August 20, 2018
Beauty, long studied by philosophers, and more recently by scientists, is simpler than we might think, New York University psychology researchers have concluded in a new analysis. Their work, which appears in the journal ...

Core thinking error underlies belief in creationism, conspiracy theories: study

August 20, 2018
It's not uncommon to hear someone espouse the idea that "everything happens for a reason" or that something that happened was "meant to be." Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on August 20 have found that this ...

Bilingual children who speak native language at home have higher intelligence

August 20, 2018
Children who regularly use their native language at home while growing up in a different country have higher IQs, a new study has shown.

FDA approves brain stimulation device for OCD

August 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—A brain stimulation device to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has received approval for marketing Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Research eyes role of stress in mental illnesses

August 17, 2018
We all face stress in our lives. Even researchers seeking to understand why some people shrug it off while others face battles against disorders like depression or PTSD.

16 going on 66: Will you be the same person 50 years from now?

August 17, 2018
How much do you change between high school and retirement? The answer depends on whether you're comparing yourself to others or to your younger self.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.