Meditation can be loosely defined as practicing purposeful anchoring of one's thoughts in either the present moment, or simply on nothing at all. When the conscious mind can be calmed, and peace can be achieved, even for short periods of time, this practice has been found to be very beneficial. According to Jim Concotelli, PhD, in his 2007 article, Meditation and mindfulness: Designing wellness programs for the mind, body and spirit, he identifies goals to strive for during meditation:
"In meditation, people learn to focus their attention and be present and aware of the stream of thoughts that occupy the mind. A nonjudgmental awareness of these passing thoughts is the key. In a meditation practice, the active mind begins to slow by shifting its focus from normal, ongoing thoughts to a specific focus—such as the breath, a word or a short phrase—resulting in a calmer state of mind. In addition, many beneficial physiological processes take place that allow the body to experience deeper relaxation."
Many people, especially seniors, are not reaping the benefits of meditation because they feel like they don't have the knowledge or skill to successfully practice. A simple way to get started is to choose a time that you can sit down each day, and make that "YOU" time. Sit in a comfortable chair, with your feet firmly resting on the floor, and your hands resting on your thighs. Take a deep breath. Raise your gaze to the horizon, aligning your back and your head as if a string is pulling you to the sky. Close your eyes. Take another deep breath. Notice what it feels like this time, how the air feels entering your nose, your lungs, and your stomach. Clear your mind of clutter. Focus on the sounds around you. Let the air out, and visualize negativity, anger, fear and anxiety leaving your body. Breathe in once more and see light, health, and happiness coming into your soul. Take long, slow breaths in and out, eyes closed, using these visualization techniques until your mind and body feel calm and at peace. When you are ready, open your eyes, and thank yourself for taking the time to nurture your most important asset - YOU!
Repeat this process liberally.
So what are the top 5 reasons that you should carve time into your busy schedule to meditate?
1. Stress Reduction: Positive effects are often seen when meditation, deep breathing and even prayer are practiced daily. The amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety and stress, shrank in biological size in test groups studied by Harvard neuroscientists in 2015. Lowered heart rates, decreases in depression and anxiety, and even an increase in happiness and contentment have been shown to come from daily meditation.
2. Becoming Centered: Taking the time to sit with yourself and clear your mind to the "life noise" is extremely therapeutic. Having the opportunity to focus on your breathing, and to release negativity and stress, allows seniors to focus on what is truly important. Those who take care of themselves first, are much more successful in taking care of their partners, friends, and loved ones.
3. Increases Longevity: A 2013 study in London that examined a sample of people diagnosed with cancer who chose to implement "lifestyle changes" including yoga and breathing exercises, as well as regular meditation as their treatment method. Of the sample group, 100% showed increased length of telemeres on their chromosomes, a telltale sign of increased life expectancy. The telemere length typically shortens as we age, unless we implement brain stimulating techniques, such as meditation.
4. Improve Mood: According to the June 7, 2015 edition of BioMedical Research Intenational, MRI images were taken of participants who engaged in meditation over the course of 8 weeks. There was evidence of deactivation of parts of the brain during their meditative states, such that an increase in wellness was noted even after meditation stopped. Chronic pain was diminished, anxiety declines, and feelings of happiness were improved. Stress-related physical symptoms were consistently decreased with this practice.
5. May Slow Alzhiemer's Progression: According to a 2015 study by Harvard neuroscientists, positive increases in thickness of four distinct regions of the brain were found when seniors engaged in meditation. Author Brigid Schulte shared these four regions as being affected in a positive manner: The posterior cingulate, the left hippocampus, the temporo parietal junction (TPJ) and the Pons. In plain English, the benefits seen from these biological improvements included staying focused, increased learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation including increased empathy and compassion.
I hope this has inspired you to get out there and meditate!
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Healthy lifestyle 'slows cellular ageing' - Healthy lifestyle changes such as eating whole foods and practising yoga could
reverse the ageing of the body's cells, a new study suggests. (n.d).
Shulte, B. (2015, May 26). Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain. The
Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-
Welcome to Cre8ive Senior Solutions! I'm Amanda Andrade and I'm a gerontologist, a teacher, and an innovator around all things "wellness." I absolutely love creating new and unique solutions geared toward happiness and engagement for those affected by Alzheimer's or related dementias. Working to solve the individualized and complex problems seniors, and their families face is what inspires me and renews my hope for the future. I hope you join me on this journey, and share your family stories along the way!