Meditation has been around for centuries, as early as 5,000 BCE, according to some researchers. Over the years, meditation has evolved. However, its same purpose remains – to create a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
Meditation has been known for inducing relaxation, managing health conditions, and enhancing psychological well-being. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the use of meditation has tripled since 2012. The age group that meditates the most is 45- to 64-year-olds. However, those 65 and older are close behind them.
Research has shown meditation to provide many benefits, especially to seniors. In fact, in a study done in 2016 published by Scientific Reports, 60% of the participants said that meditation helped significantly in many areas, such as improving energy, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, and enhancing memory and concentration. Therefore, meditation is certainly worth trying as a senior.
The most common type of meditation
There is almost a never-ending list of types of meditation. However, most of them all maintain four key elements:
- A calm, relaxing environment
- A comfortable position
- A non-judgmental attitude
You’ll likely hear about mindfulness, spiritual, movement, focused, mantra, reflection, visualization, and transcendental meditation most often. However, mindfulness meditation seems to be the most popular type of meditation today in the U.S.
Mindfulness meditation is a meditation practice that requires your full concentration on your thoughts as they arise and then contemplating them without judgment. By doing this, you become more aware of your thoughts and why you have them. The goal is to help you overcome impatience, intolerance, and many other negative habits.
Benefits of mindfulness meditation for seniors
In addition to improving negative habits, mindfulness meditation has also been known to enhance focus, memory, relationship satisfaction and help manage many health conditions. While researchers continue to study the effectiveness of meditation, many studies have shown the positive effects mindfulness meditation can have on those suffering from certain chronic conditions.
High blood pressure
Proper meditation allows you to slow your heart rate, lower your stress levels, and release body tension. Therefore, you may be able to lower your high blood pressure with meditation. According to the American Heart Association, many studies have proven that meditation moderately lowers blood pressure.
As stated above, meditation can enhance focus, memory, and other cognitive functions. Researchers have also found that meditation can improve and sometimes help prevent certain cognitive disorders, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and dementia. While meditation hasn’t been known to cure these cognitive disorders, it has been shown to manage the symptoms and allow people to use less traditional therapies such as medications.
Another condition meditation has been known to help manage but not cure is chronic pain. For example, a 2016 study published in PubMed Central showed that adults in the meditation group found improvement in their lower back pain and overall body function compared to the group who received usual and customary care. Because of these results, many participants were able to reduce the use of prescription painkillers.
Meditation has also had positive effects on smoking cessation. A 2015 review of thirteen separate studies showed that mindfulness meditation helped participants stop smoking, reduce nicotine cravings, and lower the chance of relapse.
How to get started with meditation as a senior
If these benefits sound appealing to you, consider trying mindfulness meditation for a little while. Like anything, you can’t practice meditation once or even twice and become an expert and reap all the benefits. So, you will have to commit to several sessions if you truly want to benefit from meditation.
First, you’ll want to find a calm, quiet location that you feel comfortable in. This could be your living room, bedroom, or even backyard if you find the outdoors relaxing. Then, find a comfortable position, such as sitting cross-legged, laying down, or sitting in a chair.
Gain control of your breathing and find a comfortable rhythm to remain in through the meditation. Finally, open your mind to all your thoughts and let them pass by without stopping to judge them or dwell on them too long.
If you’d rather have a guide to help you through your beginner meditation sessions, consider using an app or podcast. A few popular apps are Headspace and Calm. Some popular meditation podcasts are Meditation Oasis, The Daily Meditation Podcast, and Meditation Station by Stin Hansen. Whether you’re practicing on your own or taking a class, with proper technique, you should start to notice some of the benefits of meditation within a few sessions.