There are so many factors that can stress us out in our day-to-day life. As we age, we are met with new stresses. While retirement should be a time filled with exciting adventures and well-deserved relaxation, many older adults experience an increase in stress and anxiety caused by new lifestyle changes. Studies show that meditation can positively impact mental and physical health. Whether it’s by decreasing stress, improving sleep, boosting focus, or improving relationships, studies show mindfulness practices work.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice that us over thousands of years old. Originally, meditation was meant to help deepen the understanding of sacred and mystic forces in life. Today, meditation is used for relaxing and stress reduction. Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Because meditation causes a deep state of relaxation and tranquil mind, it is a commonly recommended practice for stressed-out elders.
During meditation, you are able to focus your attention and eliminate streams of thoughts that may be crowding your mind. Practicing meditation daily allows you to think clearly and thoughtfully as you go about your day-to-day routine. There are no special tools you need to meditate. All you have to do is breathe and allow your mind to wander.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation Reduces Stress
Meditation is incredibly effective at reducing stress and anxiety. According to neuroscience research, mindfulness practices dampen activity in our amygdala and increase the connections between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Both of these parts of the brain help us to be less reactive to stressors and to recover better from stress when we experience it. Meditation lowers your brains tissue responsible for stress responses. Which in turn, allows you to find relaxation easier. The more you meditate, the easier staying mindful gets.
Meditation Improves Sleep
A very common problem we all face as we get older is the inability to sleep as easily as we used to. Medications and lifestyle changes can have us jittery and up at night with insomnia. A common practice for improving sleep, is to meditate. Because meditation slows down your brains receptors into beta waves, many find it easier to stay in a relaxed state for longer periods of time. A regular meditation practice during the day or before bedtime helps relax the mind and prepare it for sleep.
Meditation Improves Memory
Meditation is shown to help increase your memory and consolidate new information. Regular meditation increases blood flow to the brain, which creates a stronger network of blood vessels in the cerebral cortex to reinforce memory capacity.
Types of Meditation
Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many ways to meditate that can be adapted per person.
Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization. With this method of meditation, you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. Try using as many senses as possible, such as smell, sight, sounds, and textures. For this meditation, you are often lead by a teacher or an audio recording.
In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts. You can also repeat an affirmation such as “I am powerful”. Mantra meditation is useful to help limit self-doubts and anxious thoughts.
This type of meditation is based on being mindful and having an increased awareness of the present moment. During this meditation, you are asked to focus on an experience, such as your flow of breathing or the feeling of sitting in a chair. As you focus on an experience, your mind is able to pass thoughts and emotions without judgment.
There are various types of yoga you can do. The purpose of yoga in meditation is to preform controlled breathing exercises and concentration. However, yoga is also a great form of exercise to promote flexibility.
As you practice meditation, you will discover it gets easier over time. The longer you practice, the easier it is for your brain to respond to these new changes. Keep in mind, it is common for your mind to wander during meditation. It is a common misconception that meditation means sitting with a clear mind. That is not true. Meditation involves clearing your mind and processing challenging thoughts and feelings. If your attention wanders, slowly return to your relaxed state of mind. Experiment, and you'll likely find out what types of meditation work best for you and what you enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at the moment. There is no right or wrong way to meditate.