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When you think about mindfulness, you might imagine people sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, chanting mantras.
But mindfulness is really about paying attention to the present moment.
And it doesn’t have to be that woo woo.
You’ve probably heard a lot about it in the past few years. It seems like everyone is talking about it, and for a good reason – mindfulness has some fantastic benefits for seniors.
In this post, we’ll go over why it’s especially important for older adults, the benefits of mindfulness, and provide easy tips for getting started.
Why is Mindfulness Important for Older Adults?
Mindfulness is “a state of active, open attention to the present moment”.
It’s also been described as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose in the present moment”.
And while it may not sound like much, it has some really amazing benefits for both your physical and emotional well-being.
We live in a chaotic world where everything and everyone is competing for your attention. Mindfulness can help you find peace and stay in the present moment.
And not just for the sake of being calm in the present moment, but also for the critical clarity that you need to make sound decisions throughout the day and truly live the life you want.
It can be practiced in a variety of ways — through meditation, yoga, or even just by taking a few deep breaths throughout the day. No matter how you choose to practice mindfulness, it’s a great way to stay healthy and avoid the distractions that pull you in a variety of wrong directions.
In particular, the mindfulness benefits for seniors are the following…
8 Mindfulness Benefits for Seniors
#1 Boosts Mood
Mindfulness is something that teaches you how to approach and acknowledge whatever comes up in life, in the present moment, without a crazy knee-jerk reaction and hard judgment.
It’s a way to give yourself space and allow for more mental clarity because it helps free your negative thought patterns — the hardcore unhelpful ones that we all have engrained in our brains from life experience.
When you learn to set aside some time each day and take note of your emotions and thoughts, you will boost your mood over time — it has a compounding effect.
In fact, research even suggests that mindfulness meditation can help you instantaneously cope with a sour mood and increase momentary positive emotions.
It’s about learning not to avoid or fix what you’re feeling. Instead, you can approach it with an open mind and let go of any hard stubborn emotional and behavioral patterns that no longer serve you.
The simple practice of mindfulness, especially over time consistently, gives you the gift of awareness — awareness about how you’re feeling and, more importantly, why you’re experiencing those emotions.
When you’re mindfully aware, you’re less likely to get caught up in negative thoughts and emotions because you can proactively catch yourself when they start and quickly reframe them.
Plus, you’re able to focus on what’s happening right now instead of worrying about the past or future.
#2 Reduces Stress & Anxiety
If you tend to worry and stress out, it’s especially useful to engage in mindful activities. When you do, your breath slows down and the rest of your body follows — the so-called relaxation response. Through mindfulness, your heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, the tension in the body decreases, and your brain activity slows.
You engage what’s called your parasympathetic nervous system which is the opposite of fight-or-flight. By calming your mind, you calm your body, and the stress you feel can more often than not just melt away.
And the reason is when you have less stress, you can have more clarity and more perspective into what’s actually truly important in your life. And we can all use more clarity and guidance, right?
#3 Improves Sleep
Do you toss and turn at night, worry about what tomorrow will bring, or think of everything on your to-do list for the next day? Or maybe it’s just that your mind won’t stop?
Mindful activities are one of the best remedies to help with these sleepless nights. As we mentioned, it lowers stress. And lower stress levels leave you feeling more relaxed, which results in an easier time falling asleep at night.
On top of that, meditation has also been shown to increase melatonin levels. Melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, promotes healthy sleep and serves as a cue for our biological clock.
Ultimately, mindfulness will help you establish sleep habits because it teaches you how to be aware of your thoughts throughout the day, accomplish what you set out to do, and finally let it all go at night.
It’s almost like you learn how to master your mind, so you can more easily relax into a state of calmness.
#4 Prevents Memory Loss
One of the most significant mindfulness benefits for seniors is that it improves memory. There’s a reason why so many people in their retirement years are turning towards meditation.
In fact, 53% of older adults meditate, which is more than any other age group.
The aging brain needs stimulation just like any other nerve cell, and the two primary memory hubs are the hippocampus and the frontal lobe. By engaging in mindfulness practice, both parts of the brain become better at storing and retaining information.
And according to the preliminary results of several new studies, it can also help prevent those with mild cognitive impairment from developing Alzheimer’s. And the benefits for the brain don’t stop there because mindfulness also helps with your cognitive functioning.
#5 Preserves Cognitive Function
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not just for spiritual enlightenment – it has many practical benefits for older adults as well.
Meditation may be the key to preserving cognitive function for people who are starting to struggle with memory and cognition problems.
A recent study found that practicing meditation can lead to better mental health and it can offset age-related cognitive decline.
What’s not to love about better cognitive health? If you or someone you love is struggling with memory and cognition issues, or if you simply want to take preventative measures against Alzheimer’s and other dementias, consider picking up a mindfulness practice.
#6 Reduces Loneliness
It’s no secret that loneliness is a major problem among the senior population. In fact, research tells us that social isolation can be as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
The good news is that researchers now report that a simple meditation program lasting just 8 weeks reduces loneliness in older adults. You might wonder how that’s even possible since meditation is a solitary activity.
Here’s how: By becoming more mindful you’re more aware of your thoughts, and you have more control over your anxieties. You understand your emotions and reactions better, and, ultimately, when you’re more mindful, you’re less afraid and better equipped to connect with the right people in the right way.
Including yourself. Research shows that it prompts you to increase social contact which in turn lowers feelings of loneliness:
Not only can you reach out to the right people and speak up at the right times in a more loving compassionate way, but you also get to connect with yourself more, which means connecting with others in a more authentic way.
The same study also discovered that mindfulness regulates inflammatory genes which brings us to our next benefit.
#7 Bolsters Immune System
As you age, your immune system weakens and you become more susceptible to illnesses. (We’re all pretty aware of this, especially after the pandemic hit.)
However, recent studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can help strengthen the immune system and keep you healthy as you get older.
What’s more, mindfulness has also been linked with increased white blood cell count and activation of natural killer cells, which are important for fighting off infection and disease.
So if you’re looking for a way to boost your immune system, try incorporating some mindfulness practices into your daily routine.
#8 Helps With Pain Management
Living with chronic pain can be really tough. It’s hard to stay positive when you’re in constant pain, and it can be tough to get through each day.
We all know that aging comes with its share of aches and pains, but what can you do about it? A lot, as it turns out — since mindfulness benefits for seniors extend far beyond mental ones.
Mindfulness-based meditation helps with chronic pain management. It significantly relieves pain through multiple, unique mechanisms after a brief period of a single week.
Psychophysical pain intensity (left graph) and unpleasantness (right graph) ratings are significantly lowered through mindfulness meditation:
If you’re struggling with chronic pain, give mindfulness a try — it may just change your life. If anything it’s worth seeing if it’ll curb some of the pain and help you manage it better.
How to Start a Mindfulness Practice
Hopefully, by now, we’ve convinced you to give mindfulness a shot.
It is deceptively simple. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
We’re all in high gear and constant overdrive which makes it surprisingly hard to wind down and let go. Mindfulness can be a tough habit to form, but the rewards make it worth every step.
To help get you started, here’s an example calendar of 28 days of mindfulness activities for older adults (some are harder than others):
Take these activities as simply an inspiration to include more mindfulness into your day-to-day life and routine. Find one practice that works for you, and commit to it consistently.
Several studies have noted that the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for seniors kick in after 10 minutes. But more importantly, it’s about making it a regular part of your routine. Consistency is key.
Keep Your Mind, Body, and Soul Healthy
There is still much to learn about the effects and benefits of mindfulness for seniors, but a growing number of evidence-based research is indicating that it’s time to start investing in this practice.
To recap the eight powerful mindfulness benefits for seniors:
- #1 Boosts mood — it provides self-awareness that improves your outlook on life
- #2 Reduces stress & anxiety — by staying in the present moment you can reduce your stress levels and keep anxiety at bay
- #3 Improves sleep — mindfulness can help you clear your head before bed and relax your body
- #4 Prevents memory loss — it engages both parts of your brain and protects your memory
- #5 Preserves cognitive function — mindfulness offsets age-related cognitive decline and boosts your mental health
- #6 Reduces loneliness — by becoming more self-aware, you’re more likely to form authentic connections
- #7 Bolsters your immune system — protect your physical health through just 10 minutes of mindfulness a day
- #8 Helps with pain management — if you’re struggling with chronic pain, mindfulness can significantly ease your discomfort
There’s no better day than today to start living mindfully and reap these benefits.