Cancer Patients Embrace Forgiveness Therapy and Other Self-Care Strategies

Making the Mind-Body Connection: Self-Care Strategies for Cancer Patients
by Brad Krause 

The importance of the mind-body connection is evident in the increasingly impactful role that mindfulness and spiritual belief play in helping cancer patients improve their quality of life. And a growing number of cancer patients are turning to alternative approaches that draw on the mind’s ability to moderate the body’s responses to illness.

There is a growing body of research, including research done by the International Forgiveness Institute, showing that mind-body approaches in oncological medicine aid the healing process; help patients with advanced cases of the disease cope with their condition and its devastating emotional effects; and help sufferers maintain a happier lifestyle and positive mindset. Self-care strategies and spiritual strength can also help alleviate depression, anxiety and fatigue, and even energize the patient.

Strategies:

Cancer patients have to cope with an overwhelming situation dominated by treatments that are often as unpleasant as the disease. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy cause nausea, weakness, hair loss and other side effects that keep the patient feeling sick. Fortunately, there are many powerfully-effective mind-body strategies that help the cancer patient maintain a healthy and efficacious self-care regimen.

Deep breathing 

Breathing deeply and mindfully helps establish the mind-body   connection. It’s a core component of yoga and many forms of meditation. Deep-breathing exercises relax you, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and enable you to focus on positive thoughts. Try breathing deeply and center on how it makes you feel. If you prefer, listen to calming music during your breathing exercise. You can also combine breathing with some form of physical exercise, such as walking, biking, or yoga.

Forgiveness and self-forgiveness 

According  to the respected health website WebMD.com, if you can bring yourself to forgive, you are likely to enjoy lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and a drop in the stress hormones circulating in your blood. Back pain, stomach problems, and headaches may disappear. And you’ll reduce the anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, and other negative emotions that accompany the failure to forgive.

While refusing to forgive may not directly cause disease, according to WebMD, the negative impact of holding on to painful memories and past wounds can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to illness including cancer.

“It’s important to treat emotional wounds or disorders because they really can hinder someone’s reactions to the treatments — even someone’s willingness to pursue treatment,” says Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “In fact, forgiveness therapy is now an integral part of treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.”

Watch a short video about the amazing power forgiveness has had on one woman’s life and her battle with cancer. “If I hadn’t learned to forgive,” says Jayne Valseca, a cancer patient who was essentially given a death sentence, “I may not even be alive today.” Watch the video here.


          “If I hadn’t learned to forgive, I may not even be alive today.”                                                                                                                            Jane Garcia Valseca


While not a treatment method per se, the act of forgiving yourself can free you mentally and emotionally so that you may best concentrate on healing. When you get cancer, you may blame yourself for smoking, eating the wrong foods, spending too much time in the sun…the list could go on forever. You question every decision you’ve ever made and punish yourself for the actions you did, or did not do, that might have contributed to your disease. By practicing self-forgiveness, you will gain an inner peace and the freedom to look to the future instead of the past.

Meditation 

Meditation is another self-centering exercise in which quiet and inner stillness focus one’s awareness. Meditation can help cancer patients manage nausea, pain and stress, and aid the body’s ability to heal by improving sleep and mood. Mindfulness is key to self-care in cancer patients, and few things help focus one’s energy and inner resources better than meditation. There are many forms of meditation. Some people concentrate on one part of their body, while others focus on a word or phrase as they meditate. Some meditative disciplines focus on controlling pain, while others are designed to help practitioners accept and cope with the physical changes their bodies are going through.

Image projection

The mind’s ability to project images with sensory qualities is another effective means of making the mind-body connection. Mental images can affect your senses, a useful exercise for people suffering the physical discomforts of cancer. Some patients combine their spirituality with meditation by concentrating on religious images. Patients with a strong sense of spirituality often gain a strong sense of well-being, which makes it easier to cope with the disease.

It should be noted that spirituality and religion are not interchangeable terms. Some people use religion to channel and focus their spirituality, while other patients consider themselves spiritual, though not religious, at least not in the formal sense of the word. A cancer diagnosis may cause some people to become religious, or to return to a religious practice they may have previously abandoned. Research has shown that spirituality is capable of enhancing the patient’s quality of life through renewed optimism and hope for a future free of the disease.

Cancer patients sometimes experience difficulty with prescriptive medications, as these are often used as necessary pain management. Incorporating self-care practices like deep breathing and meditation can help prevent cancer patients from becoming addicted to opioids during their course of treatment. The use of alternative therapies to create the mind-body connection has been proven effective at alleviating pain without an excessive use of prescriptive methods.

Cancer ravages the body in many ways. Its effects can also oppress the mind, impeding its ability to help patients deal with the symptoms of the disease. But alternative self-care therapies and spirituality can help marshal the power of the mind to mitigate the pain and physical misery of cancer. 


About Brad Krause:
After four years in the corporate world working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, Brad Krause demonstrated the ultimate act of self-care by leaving his draining, unfulfilling job behind. He now spends full-time helping others as a self-care guru, writer and life coach (SelfCare.info). He sums up his vision by saying, “We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. And that’s what I’m here to help people discover!”

You can contact Brad at Brad@selfcaring.info.

Forgiveness, like Dr. Enright’s Model, should be Cultivated on National and International Scales

According to an editorial in the February issue of an international humanities journal, forgiveness interventions like Dr. Robert Enright’s 20 Step Process Model,  should be employed on a much broader basis and, in fact, national leaders should be assessing “when or how it might be appropriate to cultivate forgiveness on national and international scales.”

The influential American Journal of Public Health, continuously published for more than 100 years, further editorialized that:

“If forgiveness is strongly related to health, and being wronged is a common experience, and interventions. . . are available and effective, then one might make the case that forgiveness is a public health issue. . .

“Because being wronged is common, and because the effects of forgiveness on health are substantial, forgiveness should perhaps be viewed as a phenomenon that is not only of moral,  theological, and relational significance, but of public health importance as well.”


“Forgiveness promotes health and wholeness; it is important to public health.”      AJPH


The editorial cites Dr. Enright’s Process Model (also called his Four Phases of Forgiveness) as one of only two “prominent intervention classes” now available. “Interventions using this model have been shown to be effective with groups as diverse as adult incest survivors, parents who have adopted special needs children, and inpatients struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.

“Forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced nicotine dependence and substance abuse; higher positive emotion; higher satisfaction with life; higher social support; and fewer self-reported health symptoms. The beneficial emotional regulation (results in) forgiveness being an alternative to maladaptive  psychological responses like rumination and suppression.”

Read the rest of this compelling editorial: Is Forgiveness a Public Health Issue?

Learn more about Dr. Enright’s Four Phases of Forgiveness


 

True Forgiveness Stories from Across Europe

While Dr. Enright is speaking at a workshop in Coventry, UK,  this week–as he calls it, “building bridges to make Forgiveness Education more accessible,”–here is a collection of forgiveness news stories from the UK and other European locations:

Self-Care for Your Mental Health

Editor’s Note: The significant benefits of forgiveness are of little use to you if you aren’t around to embrace them. That’s where self-care comes in. Here are some basic tips from Brad Krause–self-care guru, writer and life coach–on taking better care of yourself. 

Self-care encompasses all the actions you do every day to keep yourself in good health, such as exercise, eating well, and brushing your teeth. However, it also includes the smaller, overlooked things you can do to help with your mental health. These are not always obvious to us, so it is useful to reevaluate our habits and routines to gear them toward a happier, less stressful life.

Take Time to Relax
This is perhaps the most important act of self-care you can do for your mental well-being. Set some time aside every day for unwinding but be mindful of what you choose to do. For many people, relaxing means binging a TV show, playing a video game, or browsing the web, which does not allow us to truly unwind.

This is why taking just 15-20 minutes to sit in absolute silence and focus on your breathing can be extremely beneficial for your well-being. If you can, create a dedicated space in your home for this, away from distractions and other people. Make it as comfortable and soothing as possible and make sure no one can interrupt you during your mindfulness practice. More information at: How to Design the Perfect Meditation Room.

Get Enough Sleep
For years, doctors have seen insomnia as a symptom of many mental health disorders, but according to Harvard Health, it could be the other way around. A lack of sleep can lead to mental health issues, and yet many of us continue to neglect our sleep habits.

Take the time you need to wake up and subtract eight hours. That is the time you should be getting into bed. From that point, all electronics should be banned because they can make sleeping difficult. For an extra touch, use a relaxing pillow mist or aromatherapy oil to lull you to sleep.

Learn to Say “No”
If you are a classic people-pleaser, consider whether your eagerness to help others is affecting your mental health. Being generous, helpful, and unselfish is a wonderful thing, but not to the detriment of your well-being.

Before saying “yes” to any request, consider the following:

  • Do I want to do this?
  • Do I have the time and energy to do this?
  • Is this person taking advantage of me by asking this?
  • Could this person easily solve the problem themselves?
  • Is this a one-off favor?

Depending on your answers, you may have to say “no.” Be firm but polite and do not let other people guilt you into changing your mind. A friend who tries to do this is not a good friend.

Let Go of Emotional Baggage
If you are holding onto past grudges, let them go. Leading thinkers throughout history have espoused the value of forgiveness in their lives, and for good reason, as Dr. Peter Breggin outlines in “How Forgiveness Can Change Your Life.” Studies have shown that forgiveness can have a positive impact on our physical and emotional health (see “Why Forgive?”), as well as helping us get into a more positive mind space.

Get Offline
According to Time Health, negativity bias is a phenomenon in which we tend to be drawn to news that will upset us. When you combine it with the decline of print media, it’s no wonder our Twitter and Facebook feeds seem overrun with terrible, anxiety-inducing news. At the same time, we tend to compare ourselves to the highly curated lives we see on sites like Instagram, which leaves us feeling terrible.

In this day and age, it can seem impossible to fully get offline, so just aim to consciously reduce your consumption of news and social media. When you catch yourself scrolling mindlessly through a feed, force yourself to stop and go do anything else.

Many of these bad habits have become ingrained in our daily lives and in the way we interact with the world. It takes some introspection to identify these negative patterns, and a lot of hard work to change them. However, the effort is well worth it.

Commit to taking better care of your mental and emotional well-being, work on forgiving anyone who has ever harmed you, and you will find yourself happier and more open to exciting new opportunities. 


More self-care articles from Brad Krause:


About Brad Krause:
After four years in the corporate world working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, Brad Krause demonstrated the ultimate act of self-care by leaving his draining, unfulfilling job behind. He now spends full-time helping others as a self-care guru, writer and life coach (SelfCare.info). He sums up his vision by saying, “We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. And that’s what I’m here to help people discover!”

You can contact Brad at Brad@selfcaring.info.


 

Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness Blogs In High Demand

One of the nation’s premier blog sites, Psychology Today, says the number of people who are reading blog posts authored by Dr. Robert Enright for its online journal has reached a record peak.

Dr. Robert Enright

Here are the number of views Dr. Enright’s blogs have tallied since he joined the website’s elite writing corps:

  • Last 7 Days – 5,956
  • Last 30 Days – 12,638
  • Last 90 Days – 31,257
  • Since Dec. 1, 2016 – 115,000+

Psychology Today is a New York City-based print magazine that last year celebrated its 50th year of continuous publication. Its online journal has gathered a group of renowned psychologists (including Dr. Enright), academics, psychiatrists and writers to contribute their thoughts and ideas on what makes us tick. According to the website, “We’re a live stream of what’s happening in Psychology Today.”

The forgiveness blog section on Psychology Today’s website is called “The Forgiving Life.” Here are links to just a handful of the 38 blogs Dr. Enright has produced for the site:

  Is It True That Forgiveness Is “Ridiculous”?
This provocative blog replies to the author of an Amazon.com book review who labeled Dr. Enright’s Model of Forgiveness “ridiculous.”
 Why Forgiveness Is Heroic
While he clarifies that not all people necessarily practice forgiveness in a “heroic” manner, Dr. Enright says many others forgive on a high level encompassing Aristotle’s concept of heroism as “greatness of heart.
  Five Reasons Why Your Romantic Relationships Do Not Last
Has this ever happened to you: A relationship starts and is filled with hope, only to end all too soon? Dr. Enright offers 5 reasons why this may happen and offers suggestions for breaking the pattern?
  Anger and Cancer: Is There a Relationship?
Research indicates, according to Dr. Enright, that intense, persistent, and suppressed anger may indeed be implicated in certain cancers such as prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers.
  Complete list of Psychology Today blogs written by Dr. Enright. 
Click the link above to access all the blogs Dr. Enright has written for Psychology Today.

 

 

Admired by Millions of People Around the World, Billy Graham was Ardent Forgiveness Advocate

The Washington Post, Montreat, NC – Just months away from his 100th birthday, William Franklin Graham Jr. (Billy Graham) died on Feb. 21 at his home in Montreat, NC.  An American evangelist known to millions around the world, Graham was buried beside his wife Ruth who died in 2007. His casket was made by inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary where Graham often ministered to death-row inmates.

As a preacher, Graham consistently espoused a message of patience, love, respect, and forgiveness of others. He hosted large indoor and outdoor rallies for more than 60 years that he called “crusades.”  Because of those crusades, Graham preached his message to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity.   According to his website, Graham preached to live audiences of 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. 


“In these days of guilt complexes, perhaps the most glorious word in the English language is FORGIVENESS.”   

 


Including radio and television broadcasts, Graham’s estimated lifetime audience tops 2.2 billion people world-wide. Graham was on Gallup’s list of most admired men 61 times, more than any man or woman in history. According to the book Billy Graham: American Pilgrim, “Billy Graham stands among the most influential Christian leaders of the twentieth century. He belongs on the Mount Rushmore of greatness in American religion.”

For Graham, an important and often repeated part of his message was that “we need to have patience with others and their shortcomings.  Don’t hold on to your bitterness and anger any longer — for they’ll become a poison to your soul.”

Here are some other forgiveness quotes made famous by Graham:

  • “Forgiveness does not come easily to us, especially when someone we have trusted betrays our trust. And yet if we do not learn to forgive, we will discover that we can never really rebuild trust.”
  • “Hot heads and cold hearts never solved anything.”
  • “Every human being is under construction from conception to death.”
  • “Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”
Billy Graham (third from left) was spiritual adviser to 11 U.S. presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. Here he is pictured with (from left) former presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. Graham’s son Franklin, stands beside his father.
Read more:

The New York Times – Billy Graham, 99, Dies; Pastor Filled Stadiums and Counseled Presidents; Feb. 21, 2018

The Washington Post – How an aging Billy Graham approached his own death; Feb. 21, 2018

The Washington PostHere are details for Billy Graham’s funeral: A viewing at the U.S. Capitol and a private service in N.C.; Feb. 22, 2018

NBC News – Billy Graham, evangelist pastor and counselor to presidents, dead at age 99; Feb. 21, 2018

Wikipedia – Billy Graham