Meditation and mindfulness have been shown to provide significant health benefits. Older adults, in particular, can improve their quality of life through meditation.
Studies have shown that meditation can improve cognitive function and boost the immune system. It can reduce inflammation, insomnia, stress, feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and digestive problems. In addition, meditation can relieve chronic pain.
This article will explain in detail how meditation can help improve various physical, emotional, and neurological health issues. Read on to see the full list of 23 benefits of meditation for older adults.
Reduce Feelings of Loneliness
A study by the University of California found that a simple meditation program, performed over the course of eight weeks, reduced feelings of loneliness in older adults. Many seniors suffer from feelings of loneliness, especially if they were previously married and had a spouse that passed away or are otherwise living alone.
Feeling lonely isn’t just something that takes an emotional toll on people, but it can also have serious physical effects. Consistent feelings of loneliness can lead to a greater risk of heart disease, memory loss, and premature death.
In the study, participants followed an eight-week program where they tried to focus on living in the present instead of worrying about the future or obsessing about the past. They practiced meditation for 30 minutes at home and attended two hours of mindfulness meetings a week. Participants ranged from age 55-85, and they reported reduced feelings of loneliness after completing the program. Here is a video with more information https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWpsZvOsZDA
Engaging in just 10 minutes of meditation a day can help reduce stress.
Stress is caused by the fight-or-flight response produced by the body when faced with threats or perceived dangers. Meditation helps control the chemical reactions that come with this fight-or-flight response by stabilizing your heart rate.
Although meditation can help relieve stress at any time, practicing meditation consistently can help train your body to be more relaxed instead of automatically switching to fight-or-flight mode as soon as it perceives any sort of danger. This will help reduce stress overall and lead to better health in the long run.
In the University of California study, researchers found that after following the eight-week meditation program, participants saw a decrease in inflammation. This was measured by taking blood samples to detect the presence of inflammation-related genes in the blood. Inflammation is not just uncomfortable, but it can also lead to various diseases and psychological problems.
Another study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people who suffer from chronic inflammation can find relief by meditating. This includes people who are suffering from arthritis and even asthma.
The study compared two groups of people: Those who followed a meditation-based treatment plan and those who took a more “standard” approach to reduce stress, such as walking and listening to music. Since a lot of inflammation is caused by stress, finding ways to reduce stress is one of the best ways to fight inflammatory diseases.
Researchers found that the meditation-based approach to reduce stress was more effective than traditional methods.
Improve Sleep Quality and Reduce Insomnia
According to the National Sleep Foundation, older adults are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night. This can be due to a few factors, including needing to urinate more often. However, many older adults also suffer from insomnia and have difficulty falling asleep or getting a good night’s rest.
Insomnia is often caused by stress, inflammation, and anxiety. There are various solutions to help adults who suffer from insomnia, including cognitive behavior therapy and supplements like melatonin. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, just five minutes a day of deep breathing and meditation can be helpful at preventing insomnia. This can be combined with other methods to increase their effectiveness.
One of the benefits of meditation over other insomnia solutions such as supplements is that it is entirely free.
Headaches are often caused by excessive stress or tension in the muscles and joints. Meditation can relieve stress and help you stay relaxed, reducing tension in your body. By meditating every day, you can reduce both the frequency and intensity of your headaches.
Studies have shown that meditation can help provide relief to those who suffer from frequent migraine headaches. According to the American Migraine Foundation, even a brief period of meditation can alleviate stress and lead to an increase in gray matter in the brain. Migraines are associated with a decrease in such gray matter.
Improve Ability to Focus
If you are having trouble focusing, try practicing meditation on a regular basis. An inability to focus is often caused by obsessive dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. However, this is something that can be controlled through consistent meditation. Meditation teaches you to live in the present and enjoy the moment instead of worrying about things you cannot control.
By training yourself to focus on your breath during meditation and push away distracting thoughts, you will improve your ability to focus. This will help you in all areas of life, whether you get distracted when reading or book or space out when talking with a friend.
Improve Decision Making Skills
Studies have also shown that meditating consistently can help you make better decisions. This includes both social and economic decisions. According to Frontiers In Psychology, meditation can increase empathy, compassion, and altruism, which can influence your social decisions.
In addition, meditation can help you make better economic decisions. Gambling was one area that researchers looked at. Obsessive gamblers often feel a need to take additional risks when they lose money, causing them to invest and lose even more money in a never-ending downward spiral.
This is known as the sunk-cost fallacy. When someone invests in something that causes a loss, they might feel an impulse to invest even more, hoping that this time, they will see a positive return, and their original investment won’t be in vain. This is usually done even when they know that they should probably stop investing in managing their losses. Meditation helps you control that impulse and inhibits your willingness to take unnecessary risks.
In general, meditation can help you plan ahead, think about the future, and make economic decisions that will lead to better financial stability.
In the long run, making better decisions will lead to increased happiness. By meditating consistently, you can improve your ability to make better decisions and avoid the feelings of regret or mental anguish that often come as a result of poor decision-making.
In the study cited by Frontiers In Psychology, researchers found that meditation can help fight addictions such as smoking. Smoking tobacco is harmful to the lungs and can lead to many health problems in adults of all ages. Many older adults struggle to stop smoking due to tobacco’s addictive nature and ingrained habits.
Researchers found that meditation helps people manage addictions and make better decisions regarding smoking, substance abuse, and other addiction-driven behaviors.
It may seem paradoxical that sitting and doing nothing can increase productivity, but it can. Meditation helps clear your mind so you can focus on your goals, whether that is finishing a book, learning a new skill, or organizing your house. It will help prevent stress and anxiety from clouding your mind and preventing you from taking the steps you need to take to get things done.
Improve Memory and Prevent Alzheimer’s
Research has shown that meditation can improve your memory and help fight dementia. Alzheimer’s can be caused or exacerbated by stress, and since meditation relieves stress, it can prevent the risk of Alzheimer’s.
In addition, meditation and relaxation help new brain cells grow. This can prevent brain shrinkage, which is commonly associated with memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
In an eye-opening study, brain scans of older adults who meditated showed that the brain age of someone who meditates is, on average, seven years younger than their actual age. In other words, the brain age of a 70-year-old person who meditates will be 63 years old.
Many older adults struggle with declining short-term memory. Researchers at UC Berkeley found that a simple mindfulness program can improve short term memory in older adults.
It’s not just memory that can be improved, however. As mentioned, meditation improves decision-making skills. It also helps with problem-solving and other cognitive functions.
There are a number of ways meditation helps manage diabetes. First of all, it can reduce blood pressure by reducing stress. Stress can also raise glucose levels. Meditation leads to better blood circulation in the body, an improved heart rate, stabilized glucose levels, and better insulin resistance.
In addition, stress can also negatively impact your eating habits. When you are stressed and anxious, you are more likely to binge-eat on potato chips, chocolate, and other unhealthy foods. By staying calm and relaxed, you can control the kinds of foods you eat and your portion sizes.
Obesity can lead to various health problems, such as heart disease, joint pain, diabetes, and an increased risk of cancer. Although obesity is a health risk for adults of all ages, older adults are particularly at risk as it is often harder for them to exercise and lose weight due to decreased energy and various chronic diseases such as arthritis.
As mentioned, meditation can help you control your eating habits. The most common reason people struggle to lose weight is that they have difficulty controlling what they eat. Eating is often used as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, so by reducing stress, it will be easier to lose weight.
Another common problem people face is that when they do give in to their impulses and eat something they have been craving, they feel guilty and experience feelings of shame and regret. This often causes them to feel depressed; sometimes, they will give up on eating healthy altogether. Meditation can help you deal with those feelings and allow you to accept that you don’t have to be perfect 100% of the time in order to see self-improvement.
In addition, meditation can put you in a “healthy mindset” and motivate you to do more exercise. When you are calm and stress-free, you are more likely to want to take a walk in the park than sit on your couch and watch TV. Surfing the internet and binge-watching TV are also used as coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety.
In addition to stress and anxiety, feelings of loneliness can cause people to eat unhealthy foods and binge-watch TV all day. And, as mentioned, meditation can reduce feelings of loneliness.
Improve Digestion and Alleviate IBS
Meditating can reduce digestive problems by alleviating symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Research has shown that meditation can suppress genes that are causing inflammation in the gut, which causes IBS.
Digestive problems can be caused by stress as well. Since meditation alleviates stress, it can be used to treat digestive problems. In addition, some digestive issues can be caused by obesity, and you already saw how meditation could help people lose weight.
Many older adults experience decreased levels of energy. A lack of energy and constant fatigue is one of the most common negative effects of aging, but meditation can help deal with that.
A study from the University of Waterloo found that meditation can increase blood flow to the brain and improve energy levels. Although regular mindfulness meditation was helpful, the study found that Hatha yoga, in particular, provided an additional energy boost.
Hatha yoga is a combination of yoga and meditation. Those who practice Hatha yoga perform breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises while in specific yoga poses. The study found that 25 minutes of Hatha yoga a day had significant energy-boosting benefits.
As a side note, yoga has many benefits of its own. It can help increase flexibility and mobility. Yoga stretches can help relieve muscle tension, as well as arthritis and joint pain. It’s a type of exercise that can be done at home without the need for any special kind of equipment (other than a carpeted floor or yoga mat), and there are many yoga routines available for free online.
Deal With Cancer Treatment
Those suffering from cancer can also benefit from meditation. Meditation can help with the mental anguish and anxiety people with cancer often experience. In addition, it can help with the pain and fatigue caused by cancer-related treatments.
Boost the Immune System
Research has also shown that meditation can provide your immune system with a much-needed boost and help you fight viral infections. Frequent meditators often report that meditation helps them feel healthier overall and that they believe it improves their immune system. According to Forbes, this is backed up by research.
Meditation can actually alter the genes that are responsible for fighting off infections. It can also alleviate the stress that your body experiences when it is trying to fight off a virus. Although further research needs to be done on this, there is no denying that meditators feel healthier and happier overall.
Relieve Chronic Pain
Those who suffer from chronic back or joint pain might want to try meditation as a form of therapy. Chronic pain is common among older adults, and many of the methods used to treat and deal with it are not very healthy. Painkillers, steroids, and other supplements are used to drown out the pain, sometimes to no avail.
Meditation helps relieve pain on several levels. First of all, it reduces inflammation, which is the cause of various types of chronic pain. In addition, it helps improve pain tolerance. People reported being able to psychologically and emotionally deal with pain much better after they started meditating.
Relieve Depression and Anxiety
Along with feelings of loneliness, many older adults suffer from persistent feelings of depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety can be caused by many factors, but meditation can help reduce those feelings. Meditation teaches you to enjoy the moment without worrying about the past or feeling sad about your future.
Meditation can help people feel more satisfied with their current lives. In addition, it can help them feel more hopeful about their future. A lack of hope is one of the most common causes of depression, and many older adults experience feelings of hopelessness.
It’s important to deal with depression and anxiety, as they can lead to various other emotional and physical health issues.
Improve Emotional Intelligence
The ability to understand your emotions and how they affect you is called Emotional Intelligence. By understanding what you are feeling, accepting your feelings, and recognizing how your feelings impact your life, you will be in a better place to manage your emotions.
Meditation forces you to focus on things you otherwise would not have focused on. Whether you are meditating on your breath, on music, or on the sounds of nature, you train yourself to block out distractions and tune your mind to listen for small things.
Some forms of meditation call for meditating on your feelings and emotions. When you are feeling upset, depressed, lonely, anxious, happy, excited, or nervous, you can stop and meditate on the emotion you are experiencing. You can recognize how it makes you feel and think about what causes that feeling.
By meditating on your emotions, you can understand what causes you to feel stressed and what causes you to feel happy. You can start to pay attention to the negative thoughts that are causing you anxiety. You can then respond to those negative thoughts in your mind by telling yourself that they are false or ungrounded. And you can also train yourself to block them out and replace them with positive thoughts.
Meditation can help you improve relationships with spouses, family, and friends. Relationship issues often arise due to stress and anxiety, which cause fights and arguments. By staying calm and reserved, you can avoid arguments.
In addition, meditation gives you an opportunity to reflect on yourself and your relationships with others. You can come to value meaningful relationships and come to understand which relationships are toxic and hurtful.
In particular, spouses can meditate together. This can strengthen the bonds between them and help them cope with the various struggles they face in their everyday lives.
Boost Your Self-Confidence
Meditation helps boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. Low self-esteem often comes from doubting, nagging thoughts that are constantly going through your brain. These are sometimes referred to as the little voices inside your head. Through meditation, you can become aware of those thoughts, where they come from, and how they affect you.
You can also meditate on positive affirmations. Meditating on a mantra like “I’m a kind, thoughtful, and intelligent person” might seem silly at first, but it helps shape the way you view and value yourself subconsciously.
Become Kinder to Others
Often, we are abrupt, mean, or rude to the people closest to us because we are stressed, anxious, and in a bad mood. Meditation can help you relax, stay calm, and view the world in a positive light. You’ll start seeing the good that everyone has in them instead of focusing on the negatives. Meditation helps you learn to enjoy the small aspects of life and human interaction and takes you out of the dangerous traps of jealousy, anger, and bitterness.
Improve Your Overall Well-Being
Meditation helps improve your well-being and overall quality of life. You’ll feel happier and ready to take on the world. It can help increase your motivation to work on new projects, learn new things, exercise, and do meaningful activities with people you care about.
Important Meditation Tips for Older Adults
To fully experience the benefits that meditation provides to older adults, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
Choose the Right Kind of Meditation
There are a few different types of meditation, and all of them are helpful for reducing stress and improving your quality of life. You can incorporate all of these types of meditation into your sessions, or you can choose the ones that are most enjoyable to you.
- Mindfulness meditation: This is the main type of meditation referred to in this article. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing inward. You can focus on your breath, your emotions, or your thoughts. The goal is to avoid distractions and stop your brain from going in many directions at once.
- Mantra meditation: This is also called transcendental meditation. It involves focusing on a specific mantra or phrase. This can be a Buddhist phrase or positive affirmations such as “I am a wonderful person.” The goal is to take your mind out of your daily thoughts and drill the meaning of the phrase into your subconscious.
- Music meditation: This is great for relaxation. You’ll turn on relaxing music (classical music is good, but other genres work too) and try to focus on the tune that is being played. Allow your mind to go up and down with the music and push away distracting thoughts.
- Yoga meditation: This type of meditation combines mindfulness and breathing techniques with various yoga positions. While keeping your body in certain poses, focus on your breath, and stay calm.
Set Aside a Time
It’s important to set aside a specific time to practice meditation every day. It’s easy to forget to meditate or to push it off for later. You can set a reminder on your phone or set off an alarm to remind you that it’s time to meditate.
Designate Your Meditation Corner
It’s also important to set aside a certain spot for meditation. This can be a certain room or even a certain corner of your house or yard. This corner will be your refuge from the outside world, a place where you can meditate in peace without any distractions.
Make sure you choose a comfortable spot. You don’t have to sit on the floor if it is difficult for you to get up. You can meditate while sitting on your couch or even lying on your bed.
Be Persistent and Don’t Give Up
If you’ve never meditated, it won’t be easy at first. Be prepared for this. It will be hard to get your mind off your distracting thoughts at the beginning, but with practice, it will become easier. When you start meditating, even five minutes of focusing on your breath in silence might seem excruciating, but you will soon be looking forward to meditating for 15, 30, or even 45 minutes.
So there you have it — 23 ways meditation benefits older adults. Not everyone suffers from digestive problems or chronic back pain, but everyone can benefit from stress reduction, improved mood, and increased cognitive function that comes as a result of consistent meditation. The best part is that it doesn’t take much to start. In fact, you can get started right now — just sit down in a quiet place and start focusing on your breathing.
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