Meditation, the practice of using deep breathing to clear your mind, can be practiced by members of any age group and has potential health benefits for all. Meditation involves deep, even breathing and the pursuit of clearing the mind by focusing on the breath and body or, in some cases, a mantra, which is one calming or inspirational thought repeated over and over.
It doesn’t take years, or even months, to train yourself to meditate in order to appreciate the benefits of meditation, although the ability to focus and completely clear the mind will increase with practice. And not only does meditation provide relaxation and relief from day-to-day stress and worry, it can also provide physiological benefits as well. Here are a number of the physical and mental benefits of meditation:
- Increases Concentration. With habitual meditation, we are able to concentrate and focus on ideas more easily. This cognitive boost can help the brains of older adults stay engaged and sharp longer.
- Alleviates Stress. Many older adults experience severe stress due to disability, chronic illness, or the loss of a spouse. After a meditation practice has begun, many individuals enjoy reduced overall stress levels.
- Enhances Memory. Meditation can invigorate the hippocampus and the frontal lobes of the brain. These are the areas where both short and long term memory are stored, and by engaging these areas, an older person may be able to improve their ability to store new and old memories.
- Controls Chronic Pain. Meditation can aide in diminishing pain by triggering the thalamus and the brain stem, the areas in the brain where pain is processed.
- Reduces Depression. The prefrontal cortex brain region is the area of the brain where feelings of contentment live. By activating this area with meditation, older people, who may be experiencing depression can clear their minds of negative ideas and substitute them with more joyous thoughts and feelings.
- Improves Digestion. The deep breathing performed in meditation can enrich blood circulation and oxygen content. This enriched blood is sent to all body organs, as well as the stomach and intestines. Aging adults who have integrated meditation may notice digestion improvements.
- Lessens Sleep Disturbances. A report from the University of Southern California discovered that those with sleep issues who practiced mindfulness meditation began to sleep better and more soundly within several weeks, compared to other test subjects who were provided with predictable examples of helpful sleep practices.
There are more benefits of mindful meditation being discovered daily. Beginning meditation is not difficult, particularly when you have a guided meditation to help you focus on your breathing and ignore interrupting thoughts. With today’s technology, a guided meditation is only a few smartphone clicks away! Some examples of the free guided meditation apps available include Calm, Head Space, and the Mindfulness app.
By practicing mindfulness, older adults can take control of their thoughts and feelings, and are able to create inspired feelings of peace and well-being while connecting with their inner selves. Start practicing meditation by setting aside 10 to 15 minutes daily to de-stress and practice deep breathing, and you’ll see positive results within a few weeks!