What are the health benefits of meditation?
What is meditation?
Meditation is a mind and body practise that promotes calmness, relaxation and has many psychological benefits. It can help improve mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Some medical conditions can also be improved with meditation due to it creating a decrease in stress hormones. Essentially meditation is finding focus within and becoming aware of your breathing and body. But what are the health benefits of meditation for the elderly and why do people meditate?
Mindfulness vs meditation
While mindfulness and meditation have many similarities that can overlap they are both very different things.
Mindfulness is a quality, a mental state which is achieved by gaining full awareness of your surroundings. It can be everything from being aware in the present moment, through to bringing attention to experiences and learning to accept them.
Mindfulness comes from ‘Sati’, which is a significant element of Buddhist traditions, based on Zen, Vipassanā, and Tibetan meditation techniques. When you read into Buddhist traditions it explains what is responsible for the creation of mindfulness and how the past, present and future moments arise and cease as you undergo brief mental phenomena in order to experience a full meditative state.
Meditation is typically the act of seated practice. It allows you to open your heart, focus on your breathing and calm your mind in order to experience inner peace. Some of the different types of meditation include:
- Guided Meditation
- Body Scan Meditation
- Loving- Kindness Meditation
- Mantra-Based Meditation
- Vipassana (Breath- Awareness) Meditation
Depending on what kind of practice you prefer, there are plenty of variations of wellbeing meditation. Here, we have set out a beginners guide to meditation for you to find out how to start your journey to self-awareness and a calmer state of being.
One of the simplest ways of starting wellbeing meditation is by giving yourself 5 minutes a day to breathe. For a 5 minute meditation, sit cross-legged or on a chair (whatever makes you feel most comfortable), close your eyes and focus on breathing in and out. An easy meditation for elderly people is to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and breathe out in a controlled manner for 8 seconds. Repeat for as long as necessary.
If you want to explore meditation further, there are many apps available. You might find yourself doing a guided wellbeing meditation daily to calm your mind. You could also have a look or get somebody else to check online to see if there are any classes available in your area.
Even doing an easy meditation that is designed for older people, has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce your stress hormone known as cortisol. This is known to help with incidences of anxiety and depression.
Another way of meditating is to do a body scan meditation. This practice requires more focus and is usually done with a guided narration. It needs you to focus on each body part, and any sensations within that area. Slowly, you move throughout your body. Focusing alone can reset your mind and allow you to carry on your day in a more positive and calmer state. This particular practice is normally done at bedtime to promote a night of restful sleep.
What are the health benefits of meditation?
It's thought that the health benefits of meditation can include:
- Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety
- Better control of thoughts and feelings
- Reduced stress levels
- Increased energy levels
- Increased blood flow and a slower heart rate
Is meditation beneficial?
Being able to go about your day in a mindful manner and allowing yourself to be hyper-sensitive to surroundings and practise perspective thinking then leaks into every aspect of your life.
As you or your loved one gets older, naturally tempers shorten and frustration kicks in due to not being able to do as much as you would in your younger years. These sort of activities combined with a personal care alarm can really make you or your loved one feel at ease.
The power of meditation has no limits. With awareness and hyper-sensitivity we then become more resilient and tolerant which in turn allows patience. It gives space in your brain to focus better on being the best version of yourself.
How long should you meditate for?
Studies show that the optimum time to meditate per day is 27 minutes. One particular study had a group of people who meditated on average for 27 minutes a day over 8 weeks. They all experienced significant improvement in measures of mindfulness including acting with awareness and non-judgment.
Through the result in brain images after the 8 weeks, it showed that there was a large increase of grey matter in each participant. Grey matter is the part of the brain which houses all the nerve cell bodies. Meditation changes the brain structure to help to improve emotion regulation, focus, sense of self, and perspective thinking.
The effects of meditation are significant and to answer the question on how long should you meditate for, the more time you can practice the better impact meditation can have for your mind and body. This is something which takes patience and like anything, the true health benefits of meditation for the elderly will increase depending on the time spent in practice.
How often should you meditate?
After ‘How long should I meditate?’, the second most common question is ‘How often should you meditate?’ Research shows that to reap the health benefits of meditation you should meditate every day. To develop a habit, experts recommend meditating at the same time each day.
You may be an early bird and feel it will be more beneficial to do it first thing when you wake, or you may use it as a way to wind down after a long day before you go to bed. Either way, the health benefits of meditation will still apply. If you feel like it’s hard to start with daily practice, why don’t you start practising every other day and slowly build up how long you meditate for, followed by how often.
In unprecedented times, using techniques to calm our mind and increase our awareness is the best way to help manage stressful situations. A moment of calm each day in a world full of stresses is exactly what we all need right now. Paired with using our personal alarms, meditation for the elderly can be the answer to pure peace of mind and contentment.
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