As you get older, you might begin to experience age-related health issues — such as chronic pain and poor sleep — or emotional pain like grief and loneliness. Research points to a proven way to address these health concerns: meditation, which can help ease physical and emotional distress.
Older adults face unique stressors, such as watching your social support network shrink as you lose loved ones and experiencing grief and loneliness more. Chronic stress activates an inflammatory response in our bodies that can affect the aging process. Meditation as a stress reducer is important for health and longevity.
Not only does meditation help reduce stress, it can relieve anxiety and depression, growing research shows, highlighting the positive effects of meditation on both mental and physical health. Regular meditation improves memory, focus, attention and concentration. Why? Because meditation is all about awareness — understanding where your mind is now, noticing when it wanders and knowing how to refocus your attention. This can be a lifesaver in social situations when you experience a “senior moment” during a conversation. Your mind might wander, but meditation helps you recognize this and refocus back to the present moment.
Meditation can offset the known risk factors for developing dementia, including chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Meditating helps build, restore and strengthen neural pathways. Try finding “mental fitness moments” throughout the day to work your mind, just like exercise works your body.
Here are a few basic steps to the practice of mindfulness.
- Find a quiet place and sit on the floor or in a chair.
- Close your eyes for about five minutes and take a few deep breaths. Breath in and out through your nose.
- Become aware of the sound of your breaths and clear your mind.
- If your mind wanders, bring your focus back to your breath.
- Be aware of what you are feeling and sensing at the moment.
- Open your eyes and be aware how you are feeling.
- Commit to the practice for just five or ten minutes a day.
We challenge you to meditate for 5 minutes each day for the next week.
Share your progress in our September Healthy Aging Challenge in our private Facebook group.