Considering the benefits of mindfulness as you age?
You might be surprised to learn that data suggests that we naturally become more mindful as we age, and that this increase in mindfulness leads older adults to experience more happiness than younger adults.
That means two things: 1) you can definitely practice mindfulness as a senior - you probably already are, and 2) the benefits make it well worth your effort and intention.
What is mindfulness, anyway?
Mindfulness has been defined in a myriad of ways, but most definitions have this in common: mindfulness is a state of being present. It involves focusing on the thoughts, feelings, and sensations you're experiencing in the present moment as a way of mitigating stress from the past or worries about the future.
People who are mindful are calm, grateful, and present.
Incorporating mindfulness into your day
You're never too old to incorporate mindfulness into your routines or to experience the benefits that come along with it. Here are some great ways to start practicing right where you are, whether that's at home, enjoying retirement in assisted living, or anywhere else.
#1 - Do a deep breathing exercise
Mindful breathing exercises can improve oxygenation throughout the body, help alleviate stress, and help you get "out of your head" and back into your body.
Here are step-by-step instructions for a common breathing exercise for you to try:
- Draw a circle on a piece of paper. Make the circle large enough to fill the page.
- Mark the top and bottom of the circle with a small line. On a clock, these marks would go at 12 and 6.
- Touch the mark at the top of the circle. As you inhale deeply and slowly, trace the circle, stopping at the end of your inhale, when you reach the mark at the bottom of the circle.
- As you exhale, slowly and deeply, the left-hand side of the circle.
- Repeat ten times (or more), focusing on the filling and emptying of your lungs and the tracing of the circle.
You can find other mindful breathing exercises here.
#2 - Start a gratitude journal
Taking just five minutes a day to focus on the things you're grateful for can be a therapeutic practice. Your journal can be simple - just one word or one line per day - or more elaborate, laid out like a traditional journal. Many people incorporate gratitude into their daily planner or daily prayer life.
It's common to get into a rut with a gratitude journal, starting with things like family and health and food and then running out of ideas. It's important to dig deeper as you consider the good things each day; was it a phone call from somebody you love, a particularly beautiful sunset, or your favorite meal for dinner? Taking time to recognize even the smallest moments and experiences can help you stay positive and grateful even during challenging times.
#3 - Fully experience the present
We tend to get so busy and distracted that we miss the full experience that each moment can be if we were only more mindful. Choose any moment - or every moment - in a day and ask yourself:
- What do I smell right now?
- What do I see?
- What do I hear?
- What do I feel?
- What do I taste?
Consider your morning walk outside; do you feel the crunch of fall leaves under your shoes? Does the smell of autumn bring back childhood memories of Trick-or-Treating or days in a treehouse? How does the brisk air feel on your skin?
Consider your most recent meal. Did you take time to recognize the aromas of the food on your plate? To hold it in your mouth long enough to taste it, to enjoy it?
#4 - Document your mood
Keeping track of your mood can help you develop a better awareness of how you're feeling. This is important because:
- the more aware you are of your mood and affect, the more you can do to cope with those feelings and appropriate intervene; and
- when you know how you're feeling, you can take steps to mitigate risk of hurting others or involving others in an "expensive way
For example, if you wake up and note that you're feeling down, you can choose to engage in social activity or keep your hands busy to redirect your thoughts to something more productive, preventing a down feeling from evolving into feelings of depression or hopelessness.
To learn more about growing in your golden years or explore luxurious retirement community living as a part of your retirement plan, reach out to us at Vista Springs. We're passionate about leveraging the golden years to become and do more - and we can't wait to share that with you and your family!