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Therapeutic expression

Studies show that alternative healing methods combining a focus on the mind, body and spirit can have a positive effect on both cancer patients and those in recovery. Some examples include acupuncture and laughter therapy, as well as creative endeavors such as art, dance and music therapy.

National Cancer Survivors Day may have taken place on June 3, but for those who have fought cancer, every day is truly special. Staying healthy is always the goal, and alternative therapies are just one way to lift your mood and help you come to terms with the various emotions that may be a result of living with cancer.

Proven benefits

Though research is in the early stages, the American Cancer Society reports that clinicians have documented significant benefits found in art, music and dance therapy, also known as “creative-arts intervention.”

In one art therapy trial, 40 caregivers reported reduced stress, lowered anxiety and increased positive emotions in loved ones who were fighting cancer. Another study in Connecticut found that dance and movement enhanced the quality of life for women recovering from breast cancer. As for music therapy, not only can it reduce pain and relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, but the American Heart Association found it can lower a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate.

Currently, there are no known side effects associated with these therapies. The potential for improvement in mood, movement and quality of life is promising, so why not learn more and consider giving creative-arts intervention a try?

Note: These therapies should not replace your current cancer treatments. Always consult your doctor before exploring a therapy that may add stress to your body, such as dance therapy.

Art therapy

To participate in art therapy, all you need to do is create or view art, and share your observations with another. You can work with an art therapist one-on-one, or join others in an art class. When making art, you can reveal your feelings creatively in painting, drawing, sculpture or another art form. If you would prefer to observe art, the discussions with your therapist or friends and family can help you express your feelings and reactions.

Music therapy

During music therapy, you might listen to music, create music, write songs or sing. Music therapists believe that self-expression through music can help you work through underlying feelings and emotions, which can be therapeutic.

You might work with a music therapist alone, or participate in group activities, such as singing at church or joining a music class. Some music therapists recommend listening to a CD during cancer treatment, which can help you relax and reduce side effects, like nausea and vomiting.

Dance therapy

Dance therapy uses movement and dance to help participants improve self-esteem and body image, as well as develop effective communication skills. It also presents an active way of coping with problems and releasing stress. Since dance therapy is a form of exercise, speak with your doctor first to make sure you are healthy enough to participate.

If you are looking for a way to increase mobility and movement during/after treatment, dance therapy could be a good fit. Research has shown that physical activity triggers the release of endorphins that boost your mood. Dance involves total body movement, which can also stimulate other body functions, such as breathing, circulation and muscle development.

What art, dance and music therapies can do for you:

  • Reduce stress, fear and anxiety
  • Help you cope with pain, symptoms or treatment side effects
  • Enhance your cognitive abilities
  • Provide a creative outlet for expression
  • Trigger endorphins that improve your mood
  • Distract from treatments
  • Provide physical activity and improve range of motion
  • Allow you to communicate difficult emotions and feelings
  • Enhance body image and self-esteem
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