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Meditation is nothing new—humans have been practicing various types of mindful contemplation for thousands of years, and for good reason. Mounting evidence reveals this ancient practice comes with some significant health benefits, both physical and mental.
One of the most attractive features of meditation is its accessibility. Anyone can do it—young and old, active and sedentary, beginners and experts. All you need is a willing attitude and about 15 minutes to hit the reset button and relax your mind. This comes as welcome news for older adults looking for ways to up their wellness game. If you need further convincing, here are some of the ways meditation can benefit older adults (and their hardworking caregivers!).
Meditation has been shown to delay age-related cognitive decline, and may even improve cognitive ability. According to the Exploration of Consciousness (EOC) Institute, stimulating the brain’s hippocampus and frontal lobe through meditation can enhance both short- and long-term memory. It can even boost one’s ability to store new memories!
Over time, regular meditation can improve your attention span, alertness, and mental clarity. When practiced in tandem with other healthy habits like exercise, eating right, and socialization, studies have also shown that meditation may be able to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Results from a 2012 study found that meditation may even alter the brain physically. Researchers found that participants with years of meditation under their belt developed more folds in their brain (gyrification) than those who did not. These additional folds could signify greater cognitive function. Not a bad reason to give meditation a try!
Aging can be a stressful process. Older adults face challenges like chronic pain and illness, loss of independence, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. The Mayo Clinic reports that meditation is a simple way to mitigate this stress while maintaining a clear-headed and relaxed state of mind.
When stress triggers the body’s flight-or-fight response, cortisol and adrenaline are released into the bloodstream. This causes your heart rate and breathing to accelerate and your blood pressure to rise. Meditation halts this response by training the body to enter a state of deep relaxation. As a stress management tool, meditation can vastly improve your overall health.
The benefits of meditation aren’t limited to cognitive ability—this ancient practice can also improve your physical health. Meditation helps with a range of physical issues that may be of particular interest to aging adults. Studies suggest that mediation can accomplish the following:
For older adults struggling to cope with a multitude of age-related changes, meditation may offer an effective antidote. According to Healthline, meditation can improve the user’s self-image and outlook on life. While it’s no replacement for traditional medical treatments, as a complementary measure meditation can make a serious difference in a person’s perspective and sense of positivity.
How does meditation accomplish this? By triggering the release of endorphins, which are mood-boosting hormones responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. Evidence also suggests that meditation may decrease the body’s levels of cytokines, the inflammatory chemicals that lead to depression.
Sleep is important for good health, no matter your age. If sleep eludes you, meditation may be able to help. One study found that folks who participated in mindfulness-based meditation slept longer than those who didn’t. Healthline reports that meditation may increase the body’s level of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Meditation relaxes the body, releases tension, and improves your ability to redirect racing thoughts: the perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep.
A review of studies related to the efficacy of meditation concluded that mindful meditation can, in fact, reduce physical pain. The Cleveland Clinic echos this assertion, maintaining that a mere five minutes of reflective meditation per day can reduce inflammation and ease pain. This is all thanks to the release of endorphins, the brain’s natural pain relievers. Furthermore, meditation relaxes the tissue and muscles around your joints, soothing aches and pains. By instilling a sense of calm, meditation can also decrease your perception of pain.
At Provision Living, we promote wellness at every level—physical, mental, social, and emotional. Discover how we encourage residents to live their best lives by contacting one of our care consultants today.