Meditation for seniors is great way to boost wellbeing.
There are classes, apps, podcasts, you name it, to help you make meditation a daily habit.
This blog looks at why meditation for seniors, and people of any age, is a great idea.
We demystify the myths around meditation and give you the honest facts about the practice and why you should do it.
Here’s a summary of what we will cover in this article:
- Meditation is a way of calming the mind and experiencing peace, by allowing thoughts to settle, creating space between emotions.
- The origins of meditation can be found in Buddhism but the practice is now mainstream for people of any age.
- Research suggests that meditation can reduce the rate of cognitive decline.
- Meditation is known to boost sleep, mood and quality of life.
What is meditation for seniors?
Meditation for seniors is not just sitting still.
It is a powerful practice combining focus, awareness and breathing techniques.
Practising these elements together can allow the mind to settle.
Mental health benefits of meditation
Meditation also creates space between our thoughts, emotion and feelings, so we can experience a greater sense of peace and contentment.
And it has even been known to reduce the amount of thoughts experienced.
All of which is great news if you would like to experience less negative emotional states such as stress, anger or anxiety.
Origins of meditation
Meditation is believed to have its origins in Buddhism and the teachings of the Buddha who lived and taught in South East Asia over 2600 years ago.
It’s now firmly mainstream and many people have made it part of their daily practice to boost wellbeing and to improve concentration.
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What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a combined term, often used alongside meditation, that describes a state of psychological or emotional awareness.
The practice of mindfulness is being aware of the present moment.
It taps into the quiet or invisible workings of the body such as breathing or thought processes.
Mindfulness is the exercise of noticing how you are feeling and what emotions you are experiencing in that moment.
What are the benefits of meditation for seniors?
Meditation can improve both physical and mental function for those who practice it.
This is equally important for older people as the process of ageing can be difficult.
In the process of slowing down and focusing on your breath you become more aware of your internal state.
When you feel the rise and fall of your chest as you inhale and exhale, it becomes easier to relax.
You begin to learn how to access an internal state of peace and balance.
By meditating, you can expect to improve multiple elements of your life.
You can begin to understand the changes you experience as you age. And you could combine it with your morning stretches.
Reduce cognitive decline
In a clinical trial conducted in 2018, scientists studied how meditation and other mindful practices had an effect on cellular ageing.
They looked at blood markers which identified cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The results of the trial were positive. Adults who meditated regularly significantly reduced the rate of cognitive decline.
In addition, they also improved other factors such as their sleep, mood and quality of life.
Meditation for seniors to improve focus
Have you ever felt distracted from your daily tasks or that you lack the motivation to carry them out?
You might be lacking focus – a side effect of numerous factors such as anxiety, depression or tiredness.
Meditating regularly can start to change the structure of your brain, bringing with it more positivity.
Growing this awareness for the good in your life, rather than the bad, can motivate you and keep you focused.
This is one of the many brain functions that can help combat cognitive decline.
Increase energy through mediation for seniors
While meditation is associated with a sense of calm and focus it can also improve energy for day to day activities.
This might allow you to take some light exercise such as walking or jogging or complete more tasks around the house.
These achievements will, in turn, make you feel good.
You will decrease your susceptibility to negative or depressive moods and even learn how to cope with loneliness.
If you have had more energy for activities in the day, you’re most likely to have spent more time being active.
This means you will be genuinely tired in the evenings and ready for sleep.
Deep breathing creates a reflex for relaxation so doing this regularly means you can relax faster.
Improved relaxation is especially beneficial when trying to get to sleep and is paradoxically important ion keeping your brain active.
Improve and stabilise mood
It is no secret that hormonal changes in both men and women can be uncomfortable. They can produce mental challenges such as anxiety and depression.
Loneliness is a very real problem for those who have lost a partner or are living away from family and friends.
It can be difficult to manage the emotions caused by these significant life events.
But you can greatly improve your coping strategies through meditation.
It teaches you to become aware of your emotions. Meditation helps you slow down your reactions and be more balanced -such as bursting into tears or getting angry.
Practising meditation produces internal space and allows you to observe your emotions.
As a process, it helps you to understand why you feel a certain emotion and helps you to work through it in a healthy way.
Reduce the risk of stress-induced disease
Meditation is scientifically proven to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, as taking a moment to slow down and breathe deeply engages the Vagus nerve.
Stimulating this nerve signals to your body to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease cortisol.
Reducing pain and inflammation
From a physical perspective, meditation has proven its potential as a method of pain relief that bypasses opioid receptors in the brain.
This research published in the Journal of Neuroscience has promising implications for the future of treating pain and shows that meditation is a helpful and easy intervention for those suffering with chronic pain.
How to meditate
- Don’t try and force yourself to not think of anything. Let your thoughts come and go without following them.
- Stay present in the moment.
- Focus on your breath in a way that suits you. It could be that you visualise the movement of your breath, or count your inhales.
- Random thoughts will come into your awareness, but just try to reset your attention to the breath.
- It is often advised to ‘soften your gaze’. This just means let your eyelids be heavy giving you the opportunity to close them if you wish.
- Gradually you will notice space arising between your thoughts, naturally and spontaneously.
- You may become more aware of your surroundings and senses.
- The more you practice the more space will come and the more peaceful you will feel.
How can I start meditating?
You can start practising meditation at any stage of your life.
You don’t need any experience or skill, just the desire and ability to keep an open mind and make some positive changes in your life.
Find a time of day that suits you
It shouldn’t clash with anything on your schedule or cause you to feel stressed. Just find a time where you feel good, such as first thing in the morning, or towards the end of the day.
As you begin to get into the routine of meditating, you might find that another time suits you better than the one you initially thought.
You might even decide you want to extend your practice to more than once a day.
Make yourself comfortable
Meditation is about a lot more than lying down and feeling so relaxed that you fall asleep.
A good position should be comfortable while allowing you to engage with your body and breath.
One option is to sit up tall and cross, fold or extend your legs in a way that is comfortable for you.
You might find that you’re not as flexible as you used to be or that some positions are downright painful for your knees, hips or back.
It’s important not to force yourself into any position in which you don’t feel comfortable. No one is expecting you to be the ultra yogi in lotus position!
Top tips for making yourself comfortable in seated meditation
- Sit up straight with your back against a wall or other hard surface.
- Place a pillow or folded blanket under your bottom for a softer seat.
- Sit on a raised cushion or meditation stool to give you extra stability.
Alternatively you can meditate lying down by pressing your weight into the ground and allowing it to support you.
In order to get the most out of meditation, it is better to meditate in an active position, as you risk becoming so relaxed you fall asleep.
However, you can try lying down for another few minutes at the end of your practice.
Top tips for making yourself comfortable meditating lying down
- Lie on your back on a yoga or sports mat (not on your bed!)
- Try to keep your back engaged
Choose a time frame for meditation for seniors
You can meditate for as little or as long as you feel is right for you.
You might want to set your goal small the first time so that it is achievable and leaves room to progress.
Taking just five minutes out from your daily routine is a great place to start, and you can work your way up to whatever you feel comfortable with at your own pace.
Remember to breathe
There are a number of breathing techniques associated with meditation for seniors that everyone can achieve with a little practice.
For beginners, it is recommended to start with normal breathing.
Though it may seem like you aren’t doing anything different, this practice encourages a focus on the breath we use everyday.
Capturing the rhythm and movement of that is the best place to start understanding your body.
Keep in mind that this breathing should be relaxing and mindful.
Meditation apps and podcasts to help you get started
Nowadays technology has an answer to most things.
Believe it or not, this includes meditation.
It is totally up to you whether you incorporate technology into your practice.
Technology is there to support you, but you might also find it takes away from what you want to achieve from your practice.
Whatever your preference, we’ve compiled a list of the latest and greatest of the tech world’s creations that you might want to try as part of or supplementary to your meditation practice.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, there are a number of apps that provide support for people wanting to start practising meditation.
Apps such as Calm, Headspace, Aura and 10%happier offer features such as guided meditation programmes which allow you to set goals and plan your meditations.
All of these apps can be downloaded in your regular app store.
Podcasts on meditation for seniors
Podcasts can be a great way to learn more about meditation for seniors.
Whether you’re interested in the history, the science, or you just want to listen to stories from like-minded people in the meditation community. There’s a podcast for it all.
Podcasts can also be a great tool for breaking the cycle of reading from laptops or phones.
Listening to them allows for information to be absorbed more passively.
This can be done while you’re completing other tasks or simply relaxing.
Here are a few of the top meditation podcasts on Apple Podcasts.
The podcast brought to you by Meditation Studio and Muse Meditation Headband includes interviews with professionals about their experiences with meditation. Expect frank conversations about mental health and wellness and how meditation can help.
Listener Review: 4.4
10% happier podcast
News Anchor turned podcast host Dan Harris had a panic attack live on American television. Consequently, this event caused him to look further into his mind and explore what happiness means for a variety of angles. Expect stories from around the globe from a number of guests who are all implementing different mindfulness practices to help them lead a happier life.
Listener Review: 4.6
The Mindful Minute
This is a thoughtful collection of themes to consider and try out during your meditation practice, from letting go to acceptance. The Mindful Minute is a short and sweet podcast to supplement your practice and shape your goals.
Listener Review: 4.9
Meditation teachers and daily practitioners share tips and find stories that encourage listeners to embrace meditation in their everyday lives. Get up to date on the science behind it and how it can help you.
Listener Review: 4.8
Meditation products for seniors
Muse offers ‘meditation made easy’ to people of all levels across the globe.
This fantastic bit of technology uses biofeedback (data from your body’s vital functions) to optimise your meditation plan.
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How to build a healthy meditation habit
Just like anything else, meditation for seniors takes practise and patience.
You may find that you change your approach as you start to learn and get more comfortable with creating your own practice.
There is no set approach to creating a new, healthy habit.
But, sticking to a few factors, such as doing it at the same time every day, can really help you adhere to a routine.
However, it is so important that you don’t beat yourself up if you miss a few sessions.
The best thing to do is to relax, and accept that this is a journey that you won’t always get right.
Meditation for seniors: is it worth it?
If you are looking to improve your energy levels or reduce the risk of cognitive decline, meditation could be good for you.
However you choose to do it, this mindful practice can help you start making positive changes in your everyday life.
Good luck on your meditation journey!
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