If you’re looking for holistic methods to improve your overall health, you’ll likely explore what types of exercise are right for your body, what foods to incorporate into your diet to support your immune system, and how to build and maintain meaningful relationships. All these avenues can lead to improved health, but you may also want to establish a meditation practice. The benefits of meditation for seniors are multidimensional and widespread. A daily practice can improve important aspects of your health.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a mental practice and set of techniques that encourage focused attention on the self and a state of relaxed awareness. There are two primary types of meditation: concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. Concentrative meditation involves focused attention on one word, one idea, or your breath. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of observing the present moment without judgment. The practitioner pays attention to their thoughts but doesn’t hold on to them. Mindfulness is an organic antidote to a person’s fight, flight, or freeze response.
Benefits of Meditation for Seniors
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
This benefit of meditation for seniors is an important one because your level of stress directly affects other aspects of your health. Stress, whether mental or physical, increases your body’s level of cortisol. Cortisol can release inflammation within the body. It can also spur depression, increase blood pressure, disrupt sleep, and muddle cognition.
Therefore, by lowering your stress, and subsequently, your cortisol levels, meditation provides the following benefits: Decreases inflammation, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, lessens depression, clears thinking.
Slows Memory Loss
This benefit is also tied to the cortisol connection. Cortisol can cause neurotoxic cell damage in the hippocampus, which plays an important function in both learning and memory. By lowering cortisol levels, meditation can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Lessens Chronic Pain
Research shows mindfulness can be a beneficial part of an overall treatment plan for chronic pain. Mindfulness can also help mitigate depression symptoms, which often accompany chronic pain.
In a recent study, when patients with coronary heart disease included meditation in their rehabilitation regimen, their cardiac blood flow increased by more than 20%. Good circulation increases your body’s oxygen levels and helps your organs function properly. Your blood flow also carries cells that fight infection, meaning it plays a key role in a healthy immune system.
How to Start a Meditation Practice
Beginning a meditation practice can be as simple as setting aside five minutes of your day to focus on your breath. Breathe in and out, and try to keep your mind actively engaged in this task instead of on other thoughts or worries. It sounds simple, but the practice takes patience. Start with five minutes and increase your time as you feel able.
If you’d like a little more guidance to help you focus your thoughts, look for a meditation podcast. There are many options you can choose from. You may like the Tara Brach Podcast, I Should Be Meditating, Meditation Station, Meditation Oasis or Hay House Meditations.
You might prefer to find a meditation class. Seniors who live in a senior living community may be able to join a class on campus. But you can also find a meditation class in your wider area. A class can help you commit to a schedule, and classes can make it easier to try different types of meditation. You can talk to your teacher or guide if you have challenges.
Meditation is an easy way to improve your physical and emotional wellness. It can help a senior round out their eight dimensions of wellness. And anyone can practice meditation — no matter their physical abilities. Your everyday life could improve through the benefits of meditation for seniors, so explore this time-honored practice in your own way and find an iteration that works for you.