As we age, we may worry more about our physical health, but that doesn’t mean we can let our mental health go. Mindful meditation promotes many physical and psychological benefits. It’s nothing new though, people have been meditating since 5000 BC. Read on to learn about mindful meditation, its benefits, and how to get started.
What is mindful meditation?
Meditation is all about cultivating presence, awareness, and non-judgment. The mental training practice offers a different way of dealing with stress, by calming the mind and body. You just sit still or lie down, relax, and don’t dwell on the thoughts that drift through your head. When you meditate your breath slows down, heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, stress decreases, and tension in the body decreases. Mindfulness is simply observing and accepting thoughts as they occur without judgment. Instead of worrying about the future or ruminating on the past, mindfulness meditation focuses on the present, blocking out modern-day distractions.
Mindful meditation is just one of the many meditation techniques. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program was developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a student of the Buddhist monk and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh. The standardized eight-week program assists people with stress, anxiety, depression, and pain by using a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, yoga, and exploration of patterns of behavior, thinking, feeling and action. But you don’t have to enter a program. You can cultivate a daily mindful meditation practice any time, anywhere.
How can mindful meditation benefit seniors?
Mindful meditation has many potential physical and psychological benefits for older adults, including better focus, enhanced calmness, less stress, and improved sleep. Research shows that mindfulness and meditation can reduce depression and pain, and boost emotional well-being. It can even help adults come to terms with the challenges of aging.
Meditation stimulates the memory centers within the brain. US News reports that meditation is associated with enhanced short- and long-term memory. A recent study showed that it might even slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s. Preliminary evidence suggests that meditation can offset the age-related cognitive decline. Not only does it activate the “feel-good” prefrontal cortex, but it can also actually change your brain to improve focus, creativity, and cognitive function.
Mindfulness helps manage moods and emotions, giving you space between a stimulus and your reaction. It even reduces loneliness and helps with inflammation! According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, its also associated with reductions in irritable bowel symptoms. Ready to become a happier, healthier, more-focused human? Read on to learn how to practice mindful meditation and experience the transformation of this pill-free miracle-drug.
What are some easy ways to begin practicing mindful meditation?
Carve out time and space for you. Start small, while you want to work up to about 20 minutes a day, that might be hard to do at first. Even if you have mobility/agility issues, you can practice mindful meditation any time, anywhere.
Start by sitting still or lying down in a quiet place. Take deep diaphragmatic breaths. Focus on inhaling and exhaling, and acknowledge any other physical sensations your body is telling you about. Whether lying down or standing, check-in with your posture. Like Adriene from Yoga with Adriene says, “head over heart over pelvis”.
Make an effort to completely clear your mind. Random thoughts will attempt to distract you. Acknowledge those thoughts with kindness and invite them to relax and release. Feel the breath in your belly. When you’re ready, take a moment to give thanks for your body and mind, pat yourself on the back for taking time out for you, and notice how you feel. That’s it! Sounds way too easy, right?
YouTube has a host of videos on mindful meditation for older adults, while apps like Headspace offer guided meditation for a monthly fee. The UCLA Mindful App can help you develop a meditation practice and learn to bring more mindfulness into your daily life. There are even some podcasts that can help. See if there are any mindful meditation classes at local senior centers, hospitals, private studios, or retirement facilities. Mindworks offers easy-to-follow guided meditation modules for people of all levels, from beginners to seasoned meditators.