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Can Meditation Help With Lung Disease?

February 10, 2021
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen
Additions/comments by Pulmonologist Kelly Fan, MD

Meditation is an ancient Hindu practice with a wide range of spiritual benefits. It has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and general pain–which is why the custom has become so popular in fast-paced, demanding Western society.

 

But new research shows that meditation can have physical benefits in addition to the spiritual. If you’ve been diagnosed with a form of lung disease, here’s how meditation can ease your symptoms–in your mind and in your body.

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Benefits of Meditation

Benefits of Meditation

Using meditation to cope with COPD

 

The spiritual benefits

 

Being diagnosed with a chronic lung disease can be frightening and worrisome. Diseases such as COPD mainly affect the body, but when you’re constantly thinking about your treatment options or your eventual outcome, your mind is always elsewhere. This can cause immense stress and anxiety.  Many turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol abuse to deal with these negative thoughts.

 

However, meditation can help you manage your psychological symptoms of whatever lung disease you may have. In 2012, a large study found that meditating for only 11 hours per month could reduce levels of anxiety, depression, and anger. In the long run, you’re better off meditating than drinking. 

 

Still not convinced? Let’s see how meditation can strengthen your lungs and your heart.

 

The physical benefits

 

True, the primary use of meditation is to calm the mind and relax. But did you know that, while meditating, your body is influenced as well? 

 

One type of meditation involves deep breathing. Breathing in and out for a period of time improves lung capacity, similar to the effects of cardiovascular exercise. As long as you set a time each day to practice deep-breathing meditation, you should notice better lung capacity within a month. With any type of meditation, the key is consistency.

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How to Manage Stress

How to Manage Stress

Meditating also affects the heart. Sitting in a quiet spot and focusing on your breathing is incredibly calming. As a result, your heart doesn’t need to work as hard. While lung disease and heart disease are linked, studies have shown meditation to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce high blood pressure. Why not make living with lung disease a little easier and integrate a form of meditation into your daily routine?

 

How should I get started?

 

Don’t be overwhelmed. Yes, completely mastering the art of meditation is difficult, but actually doing it isn’t so hard. One of the best types of meditation for beginners is called “mindfulness meditation,” where you simply focus on your breathing.

 

  1. Find a quiet place away from any outside disturbances.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  3. As you breathe in and out, direct your attention to your breathing.
  4. Your mind may wander, but this is normal. Whenever this happens, redirect your focus to your breathing.
  5. Continue for 5 minutes. Note how you’re feeling calmer and more at peace afterwards.

 

If you set time aside every day to meditate for 5 minutes, eventually you’ll be able to go up to 10, 15, or even 20 minutes. Experts can meditate for over an hour without losing focus, but you’ll get physical and mental benefits even from a shorter session. After keeping at it for some time, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t started meditating sooner!

Kelly Fan, MD

Daily mindful meditation has been a tremendous benefit to my life. I've found myself more calm and focused in stressful situations. I'm able to remain present in the moment and better appreciate joys in daily life. I recommend everyone, and especially all patients with lung disease, to consider starting a mindful meditation practice

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