There’s no question—social interaction is key when it comes to improving your physical and mental health. But in between social interactions, there are other things that seniors can do to help them combat loneliness. Meditating and mindfulness are two of these activities—not only are they free, they’re also accessible to all seniors, regardless of their physical abilities.
What is meditation?
A relaxation technique, meditation may involve reciting a mantra (or phrase), closing the eyes, or practicing deep rhythmic breathing. It allows practitioners to focus inwards and calm the mind and body.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means fully focusing on the present moment—including your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness is a form of meditation; it helps practitioners connect what is going on around them with their emotional reaction to it. Rather than pushing feelings down or away, you focus on them, including those associated with stress, anxiety or loneliness. By fully acknowledging these feelings, you’re able to calm your mind. Essentially, it’s a way of meditating during every waking moment. By not dwelling on the past or focusing on the future, participants are able to be fully aware of the present.
Who Can Practice Mindfulness or Meditation?
Anyone of any age—from children to seniors—can practice mindfulness or meditation. However, it’s particularly helpful for seniors because unlike other recreational activities, it doesn’t require a particular level of physical ability and can be done from the comfort of their home. Meditation can even be taught to seniors with dementia according to a study published in Geriatric Nursing.
Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation to Seniors
Mindfulness and meditation help seniors tackle loneliness
The study from Geriatric Nursing also pointed out that meditation and spiritual practices could promote significant social and emotional benefits for those in social isolation. A 2012 study at the University of California, Los Angeles of 40 seniors found that mindfulness and meditation helped them tackle loneliness and feel more connected. Those who participated in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program—which included meditating for just 30 minutes each day—had significantly decreased rates of self-reported loneliness.
Mindfulness and meditation help seniors sleep better
Researchers from the University of South California have determined that mindfulness meditation can help seniors get a better night’s sleep and reduce daytime fatigue. In their study of nearly 50 older adults with sleep problems, it only took six weeks of practicing mindfulness before they started sleeping better, making it far more powerful than just learning good sleep habits.
Mindfulness and meditation protect seniors’ brain from memory loss
Meditation reduces the effects of undue anxiety, stress and loneliness on the brain, which could be a risk factor for dementia. In fact, according to a 2013 research, meditation may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease: meditation can help increase the functional connectivity in the default mode network (the brain system engaged when people reminisce or envision the future) and lower the atrophy rate in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for emotions, learning and memory).