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 of the most serious 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. Here we explore what are the health benefits of meditations for the elderly and why do people meditate.
Mindfulness vs meditation
Mindfulness and meditation have many similarities that can overlap but fundamentally are 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 seniors 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 take it one step further, you can use an app like Calm and complete a guided wellbeing meditation daily to calm your mind. There are also meditation classes for seniors that you could attend. Visit the Wellbeing Campus for online classes for pure meditation or a mixture or Movement & Meditation. Performing an easy meditation for seniors is scientifically proven to significantly reduce your stress hormone known as cortisol which in turn, can reduce incidences of anxiety and depression.
Other ways to meditate, and one equally as popular as just focusing on your breathing, is a body scan meditation. This practice requires more focus and is usually done with a guided narration. It requires you to focus on each body part, and any sensations within that body part slowly moving throughout your body. The 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?
The broader health benefits of meditation for the elderly comes in many forms. When we practice awareness in our daily routine we then by default open our minds to better possibilities of removing things that cause us to react in ways that are non-beneficial and can cause up additional stress and/or harm to our wellbeing.
Is meditation beneficial?
The main benefits of meditation for the elderly are creating a calmer mindset. 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.
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. View the more in-depth list highlighting 12 scientific reasons to start meditating today.
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. This could be decided totally on personal preference.
You may be an early bird and feel it will be more beneficial to do 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 lot of health conditions come from heightened cortisol within the body which can weaken the immune system and with meditation if practised enough you can even prevent illnesses. 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.