One of the easiest – and most beneficial – things you can do for your health doesn’t require any special clothing or footwear, can be done almost anywhere, and doesn’t cost a dime. Meditation, the act of quietly stilling your mind in order to create calmness and find mental clarity – can have enormous positive effects on the aging process.
Sitting for just five minutes every day and observing your breathing patterns and thoughts can help reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and can even help improve circulation and digestion. Learn about some of the meditation’s key benefits for older adults and how to incorporate it into your own life. The last one may surprise you.
5 Benefits of Meditation for Older Adults
- Keeps the Brain Sharp. According to a meditation study at UCLA, participants who meditated long-term had higher functioning brains as they aged than participants who did not meditate. Scientists noted that those who have been meditating an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain than those who did not have a regular meditation practice.
- Helps the Digestive System. When we breathe deeply, we are helping to improve circulation and provide fresh oxygen to the blood. This, in turn, helps all of our internal organs stay healthy and cleansed – and that includes our stomach and intestines. Meditation can also help boost the immune system, strengthen and heal the lungs and help improve circulation.
- Improves Mood. Meditation stimulates the prefrontal cortex brain region, known as the “feel good” part of the brain. Older adults with an active meditation practice report a reduction in depression and apathy and an enhanced appreciation for life.
- Reduces Stress. Many older adults deal with various sources of stress – from the loss of a spouse or other important loved one, to chronic physical health issues, to frustrations associated with the loss the loss of mobility, and end-of-life anxiety. Meditation helps eliminate stress through deep breathing that in turn slows the heart rate and reduces blood pressure. So it’s not just great for the mind – but good for heart health as well.
- Decrease Loneliness. You may think that sitting on your own quietly would have the opposite effect – but people who meditate report feeling more connected with their friends, family and community. According to a study performed at UCLA, seniors who engaged in a simple eight-week meditation program significantly decreased rates of self-reported loneliness.
Ready to Meditate? Tips to Get You Started
There’s no wrong way to meditate, so if you’re concerned you won’t do it right – you can relax. If you’re a novice, start with these helpful tips.
- Meditate First Thing in the Morning. As the day progresses, our minds become more cluttered with the events that transpired. By starting off meditating first thing in the morning, you will enjoy a clearer mind throughout the rest of the day.
- Give it Five Minutes. There’s no need to sit for long periods of time, especially when you are just beginning. Sitting and breathing mindfully for just five minutes can have lasting health benefits.
- Let Your Thoughts Happen. While you may hear meditation advocates advise “emptying” your mind of all your thoughts, the fact is that it’s easier said than done. If you are experiencing a nagging thought or worry while you meditate, don’t try to ignore it. Observe it like you’re watching clouds. Be aware of the thought and instead wait to deal with it when your meditation time is over.