Mindful in May is the world’s largest online mindfulness fundraising campaign. Running for the entire month of May, the idea behind the concept is simple: to provide education, tools and support for meditation practice. Research has shown that it only takes 10 minutes of meditation a day to see substantial positive benefits. For older adults, the benefits of meditation are even more significant. As we age, we often worry more about our physical health than our mental health. However, it is just as important to look after our mental health; and meditation promotes many psychological benefits.
There are a number of things that may concern us as we get older. We may start thinking about things, like will I run out of money? What will happen if I am not able to stay in my own home? Am I going to get really sick? What do I do if my spouse passes away first? How do I fix fractured family relationships? These thoughts can go over and over in our heads, and it can be difficult to overcome the anxiety that this causes.
As meditation encourages us to focus on the present, it can be extremely beneficial for older adults who find themselves worrying about what may be to come. With meditation, we are encouraged to stop these negative thoughts from entering our minds, and focus on the thought that, “In this moment, I am okay”.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is about cultivating presence and awareness. It is a mental training practice that calms the mind and body, and creates a different way of dealing with stress. Meditating involves relaxing and trying to clear the mind, ensuring that you do not dwell on the negative thoughts that enter your head. When meditating, breathing and heart rate slow down, blood pressure decreases, and feelings of stress and tension in the body are also reduced.
As meditation quiets the mind, it is often very calming for people. While everyone is busy and continuously distracted by stimulus and technology, meditation assists us in being able to be still.
The Medical Benefits of Meditation For Seniors
Meditation has a number of physical and psychological benefits for older adults. Firstly, meditation activates the ‘feel-good’ prefrontal cortex of the brain, which means that it improves our mood. For older adults in particular, meditation can help them come to terms with the challenges of ageing. It also helps our well-being through creating a sense of calm and reducing stress, which in turn, can lead to improved sleep. Research has found that meditation can even help with more serious issues such as minimising the effects of depression and reducing physical pain.
Meditation can also actually change the brain in order to improve focus, creativity, and cognitive function. As meditation stimulates the memory centres within the brain, it can improve both short- and long-term memory. In fact, a recent study showed that it might even slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s.
How to Start Practicing Meditation
There are a number of meditation programs available for seniors to join, but you don’t have to enter a program to start meditating. You can practice meditation any time, anywhere. The only thing that you need to start meditating is a bit of time and space for yourself. Ideally, you will work up to 20 minutes a day of meditation but you can start off small with just 5 minutes a day.
Older adults with mobility issues can also practice meditation. All you need is a quiet environment, where you can sit or lie down. Once you are positioned comfortably, start by taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths with a focus on inhaling and exhaling. Acknowledge any physical sensations that you can feel and take a moment to address what your body is telling you. You may need to adjust your position accordingly. Whether you are lying down, sitting or standing, ensure your posture is good.
Now, try to completely clear your mind. While random thoughts may pop into your head and distract you, try to acknowledge them, but release them without dwelling on them. Feel your breath in your stomach and continue to inhale and exhale. When you’re ready, start to consider the things that you are grateful for and give thanks for your body and mind. This is all you have to do to get started with meditation; it’s that simple!
At Brain Sparks, we understand the importance of keeping physically and mentally healthy as we age. Meditation is one way to do this. Another alternative that you may enjoy is Ageless Grace®. Using all five areas of the brain, combined with simple, organic movement, Ageless Grace® can help improve brain health through a combination of fun, playful exercises. Get in touch with us for more information.