Quieting the mind has been used for more than 5 000 years due to the various benefits connected with this practice. But many still believe meditation is a waste of time and nothing else.
We’re here to prove them wrong, especially when it comes to combating some of the negative health effects that come with aging.
What are the benefits of meditation for seniors? It helps slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia, enhances digestion, manages moods and emotions, improves memory, etc.
Scientists have linked meditation with a range of health benefits, and it may even be as effective as other treatments to lessen the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.
What Are The Benefits of Meditation for Seniors?
We all want to age like good wine and only get better as the years go on.
Unfortunately, that dream seldom comes true; growing old comes with various challenges, deteriorating health being the utmost concern.
Luckily, there is some good news. There are steps you can take to help you age gracefully, and mediation is one of the steps that come with physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.
1. Meditation slows down the progression of brain degeneration
Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other diseases where the brain progressively degenerates are feared by many. The idea of forgetting your loved ones and the life you lived is a depressing thought.
Sadly, it is estimated that 50% of seniors may have some form of dementia. Despite this, dementia is not a normal part of aging, and many grow old without ever getting this disease.
Maybe their secret is meditation? If you ask the people in the know, they will most likely say yes.
Scientists have found that combining meditation and breath-control exercises may help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases.
Meditation also helps with anxiety, stress, and mental issues such as depression that are often linked to memory loss. But more on that later.
On the whole, meditation is linked to better long and short-term memory recall, processing speed, and general cognition.
2. Meditation Enhances Digestion
Our digestive function plays a more significant role in our overall health and happiness than we think.
As we age, we develop digestion and circulation problems that will leave us feeling lethargic and just generally unwell.
If you practice mindfulness meditation regularly, it will recover your digestion by sending extra oxygen to that part of your body.
Meditation goes hand-in-hand with breathing, and this improves circulation and amplifies the oxygen in your blood.
For the elderly, this is very important because they may find immediate relief from digestive problems and other issues linked to a sick digestive system.
The increased oxygen uptake in the blood during mediation also boosts the immune system. It looks after the health of our lungs.
3. Meditation Develops a Sharp and Focused Mind
Who doesn’t want to be mentally alert? One way to increase focus is through regular meditation.
Calming your mind actually restructures the brain by shrinking the area that processes stress, worry, and anxiety.
The areas responsible for developing your personality, self-awareness, and planning, on the other hand, will grow. This leads to increased focus and creativity in older adults.
4. Meditation Manages Moods and Emotions
With aging comes physiological alterations that may impact our moods and make it difficult to control emotional reactions.
Add to that the fact that older adults often go through changes that can leave them feeling lonely and sad.
Through meditation practice, seniors can observe their emotions without having to react to them.
5. Meditation promotes relaxation and calmness
Seniors are faced with stressors in various forms; chronic illness, the loss of loved ones, disability, loss of independence, etc.
Meditation is perfect for melting away stress and replacing it with calmness.
By calming the mind and body and letting thoughts drift in and out, your breathing generally slows down, your heart rate drops, and blood pressure decreases, and with that, stress decreases.
Face it, we all need to take a break, and it doesn’t mean if you’re a senior and retired, you don’t need to stop and smell the roses.
6. Meditation Lights Up the Happy Part of The Brain
One of the benefits of meditation includes stimulation of the prefrontal cortex of the brain region.
This is the ‘feel-good’ section, and lighting up that part of the brain will increase happiness, reduce depression, and thus renew any senior’s zest for life.
The release of happy hormones called endorphins also has analgesic qualities that will ease aches and pains.
What Types Of Meditation Are There?
The practice of meditation comes in many forms, and seniors can select what best suits their lifestyle.
This is the practice of focusing on a word or sound that is repeated many times. This includes words such as ‘peace’ or ‘om.’
The focus here is concentrating on the moment without judging it.
Some offshoots include mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
MBSR is used more to reduce stress, while MBCT helps the person deal with emotional stressors.
During this type of meditation, you will focus on a mental image such as a beach or another calming environment that you enjoy.
This is a religious practice where you’ll use a sacred word to help you connect to a higher power.
Here you will concentrate on one body part at a time and explore the sensations that you feel.
Tai Chi, qigong, or yoga can also be seen as forms of meditation as it combines focused breathing with slow movements or static poses.
How and When To Start Meditating
Let’s start with when. Well, it’s never too early or too late in life to begin meditating.
There clearly are numerous mental and physical benefits to calming the mind, so the earlier you start, the better.
To start your meditation practice, it may be easier to learn what meditation is not, rather than focus on what it is.
For one, meditation is not about sitting lotus-style (difficult for even the young and agile among us) and ‘emptying your mind.’
Meditation is about finding a place to sit for a few minutes while breathing slowly and deeply and calming your mind.
Here are some easy ways to help you begin mindful meditation..
Make time for yourself
You can start small and work yourself up to a 20-minute-long meditation session a day (or longer if you want).
Note that you don’t need to sit, lie, or stand in a specific place to meditate. You can do it anywhere, anytime, even while taking a walk through the garden.
The important point here is that you carve out time for yourself.
Focus on your breath
Take deep breaths, focusing on the point where the air enters your nose. Think about inhaling and exhaling and feel all the sensations as you breathe in and out.
Try to clear your mind
Random thoughts will distract you from focusing on your breathing. That is okay!
Don’t force these thoughts away, but acknowledge them and let them come and go. Always return to concentrating on your breath.
Although the basics are easy to explain, it will be harder in practice. You must be patient with yourself, and through practice, mindfulness will come more naturally in no time. And, with that, all the wonderful health benefits linked to it.