The Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation for Seniors
If stress has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying meditation. It’s been practiced for thousands of years and was originally meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, it’s more often used for stress reduction and relaxation. As more people, especially seniors, discover the benefits, its popularity is increasing.
Mindfulness meditation is the most widely used form of meditation in the U.S. Practicing is very simple. You pay attention to your breath, and when your attention wanders, return. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment. You can do it all sitting in a chair, regardless of mobility or ability. You can also do it walking, standing in line with a walker or cane, or lying down.
When you meditate, your breathing and heart rate slow down and your blood pressure decreases.
For these reasons, mindfulness meditation can be beneficial for our physical and mental well-being. Especially for seniors, meditation offers a great way to cope with the issues that arise as we advance in age. It can help older adults better accept their changing bodies or chronic pain. It puts them more in control of their lives. While the idea of meditating may seem strange to many older Americans, once they understand the benefits, they’re often convinced it’s worth a look.
Here are a few of the benefits of meditation for seniors:
Slows the progression of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease destroys memory, upsets crucial mental functions, and can wreak havoc with emotions. But a recent study showed that a combination of meditation and breathing exercises can help slow memory loss and the development of dementia-related diseases. Other studies suggest that mindfulness meditation helps people cope better with the anxiety and stress that often accompany memory loss in seniors.
Many factors can contribute to the development of depression as we age, and no one treatment works for everyone, but there are many benefits of meditation for seniors dealing with depression. In fact, some find meditation to be just as effective as medication in managing their symptoms. Mindfulness meditation helps decrease worrisome thoughts and increase awareness of feelings. By focusing on breathing and bringing attention to the present moment, you can manage your symptoms, become more compassionate toward yourself and others, and replace your negative thoughts with more positive emotions.
The deep breathing that occurs during meditation improves circulation and increases oxygen levels in the blood. For seniors, regular meditation may afford relief from digestive issues that aren’t caused by other ailments.
Develops a sharp, focused mind
One of the great benefits of mindfulness meditation is its ability to sharpen mental alertness and ward off decline. Regular meditation causes the brain’s physical structure to change. For example, the amygdala region that’s associated with processing negative emotions such as stress, worry and anxiety often shrinks, while the areas responsible for self-awareness, personality development and planning (such as the prefrontal cortex) increase. As a result, meditators experience improved focus, creativity and cognitive function.
Manages moods and emotions
As we age, physiological changes may impact mood stability and make it even more difficult to control our emotional reactions. Meditation, with its focus on nonjudgmental presence, teaches us that we can observe our emotions without being compelled to react to them. There is also evidence that meditation enhances positive emotions of well-being and empathy for young and old alike.
Meditation stimulates the memory centers within the brain. And since memory loss is one of the undesired effects of aging, improved memory and cognitive function are precious allies as we grow older. Preliminary evidence indicates that mindfulness helps maintain both long- and short-term memory functions.
How to Get the Benefits
To experience an integration of the advantages into daily life, regular practice is necessary. It takes only a few minutes every day, and once you make it part of your routine, meditation may become the best part of your day.
Think of meditation as a form of mental hygiene. When you were young, you were trained to create the habit of brushing your teeth. The same goes for meditation – once you get into the habit and experience all the mental clarity, emotional stability, and physical relaxation that the practice offers, not practicing meditation seems unimaginable.
Laurel Circle offers regular meditation classes for seniors. Learn more about them and view our activity calendar to see what else we offer.