When it comes to cancer, stress can be a cause and effect; reducing it is a big part of both the prevention and the treatment of illness.

Mindfulness meditation, the practice of clearing the mind through deep breathing exercises, is becoming an increasingly widespread part of healing and coping with cancer.

Dr. Miroslava Lhotsky, one of the facilitators of Mindfulness Meditation Toronto, is a physician who spent years delivering bad news to women whose mammograms had revealed breast cancer. “You can imagine the kind of adrenaline that flows in their body and the fear they have,” she says. Now, she helps patients focus on the present moment and control their stress and anxiety through meditation. “It’s a skill that you have to develop.”

Lhotsky started leading mindfulness meditation sessions nearly a decade ago and has seen the practice grow in popularity. “(It) is one of those things that can change your brain in a very positive way,” she says of the exercise.

“It can control the pain, it can control the stress, it can improve your immune system.”

It’s also scientifically proven to work: studies show that with deep breathing, the movement of the diaphragm stimulates the parasympathetic system, which helps the body relax.

This relaxation is a key to good health, says Lhotsky. “Your lifestyle is so very important. This is just another way of getting into a good lifestyle.”

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