Improve Personal Growth in Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness and Spirituality
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“religion and spirituality can help cancer patients find meaning in their illness and provide comfort in the face of fear.” – American Cancer Society
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis.
Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including fatigue, stress, sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. In addition, religion and spirituality become much more important to people when they’re diagnosed with cancer or when living with cancer. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. Hence, spirituality and mindfulness may be useful tools for the survivors of cancer to cope with their illness. Thus, there is a need to study the relationships of spirituality and mindfulness on the ability of cancer survivors to positively adjust to their situation.
In today’s Research News article “Spiritual coping, perceived growth, and the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness in cancer survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340393/), Rudaz and colleagues recruited cancer survivors and had them complete questionnaires measuring spiritual coping (using spirituality as a comfort during difficulties), spiritual mindfulness, personal growth, and positive reinterpretation (interpreting stressful events in a positive way).
They found that for the cancer survivors, the greater the levels of mindfulness, the greater the levels of personal growth and the greater the levels of positive reinterpretation. Hence mindfulness was associated with positive adjustments to their illness. Further they found that higher levels of spiritual coping were associated with higher levels of personal growth and higher levels of positive reinterpretation only when mindfulness was high. No relationship was present when mindfulness was low. Younger participants and those with higher levels of education had significantly higher levels of personal growth.
It has to be kept in mind that the study was correlational and as such no conclusions about causation can be reached. But the results suggest that spiritual mindfulness is associated with two positive characteristics in cancer survivors, personal growth and positive reinterpretation. In other words, being mindful was associated with an ability to interpret the illness in a positive way and use it as a springboard for greater personal growth. Being able to take solace in spirituality (spiritual coping) was only an effective strategy when the cancer survivors had high levels of mindfulness. Hence, mindfulness is an important characteristic on its own but also one that allows for spirituality to be associated with growth. They appear to have to work together.
So, improve personal growth in cancer survivors with mindfulness and spirituality.
“Results show promise for mindfulness-based interventions to treat common psychological problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression in cancer survivors and to improve overall quality of life.” — Linda E. Carlson
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Rudaz, M., Ledermann, T., & Grzywacz, J. G. (2018). Spiritual coping, perceived growth, and the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness in cancer survivors. Journal of psychosocial oncology, 36(5), 609–623. doi:10.1080/07347332.2018.1464091
This study examined the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness on the association between spiritual coping and perceived growth in individuals with and without current treatment for cancer.
Adults with a cancer history (N = 534) from the Midlife in the United States study completed a telephone interview and self-administered questionnaires.
Moderated regression analyses, controlled for age and educational attainment, showed that mindfulness moderated the effect of spiritual coping on personal growth and on positive reinterpretation. High mindfulness amplified the effect of spiritual coping on both personal growth and positive reinterpretation. Further, this moderating effect was significantly different for adults with versus without current treatment for cancer for positive reinterpretation but not for personal growth.
These findings highlight the potential amplifying effect of spiritual mindfulness on the effect of spiritual coping on perceived growth in cancer survivors.