At the recent Canadian Psychological Conference I attended, June 2016 I learned about the benefits of “mindfulness mediation.” What caught my attention was that studies have shown that mindfulness-based intervention are effective in the reduction of both rumination and worry which contribute to mental illness such as depression and anxiety. Mindfulness has become popular because its meditative style has a distinctive method of handling emotions. Many of our elderly population ruminate and verbalize anxiety about their own life changes. Many seniors worry about their health, will they run out of money, will they have to move to a Nursing Home, will their children take control of their lives, etc. Would the practice of Mindfulness Meditation help decrease their ruminations about life stressors?
Mindfulness meditation consists of about 10 minutes per day of focusing attention on breathing exercises, which engages the body, breath, and thoughts, and focuses attention to the present experience. With regular and consistent practice the breathing exercises eventually extend into awareness of thoughts, feelings and actions.
The Initiator of Mindfulness Meditation has stated: “there are tremendous benefits that arise from mindfulness practice, but it works precisely because we don’t try to attain benefit,” says Kabat-Zinn. “Instead, we befriend ourselves as we are. We learn how to drop in on ourselves, visit, and hang out in awareness.” One of the exercises is to become aware of the little things in life, something as insignificant as examining and eating a raisin. To experience it with all our senses, sight, touch, smell and taste.
Research studies and positive reports from the elderly reveal that there are positive benefits with the practice of mindfulness meditation. Some of the benefits include improved memory, improving circulation, managing chronic pain, alleviating stress, eases sleep problems and reduces depression. Research also reveals that meditation helps sharpen and focus the mind and stimulates the hippocampus improving the aging person’s ability to store new and old memories, hence improving memory.
Improved circulation occurs as deep breathing exercises bring oxygen enriched blood to all the body’s organs, including the stomach, brain, and intestines.
Research has demonstrated that meditation is effective in managing chronic pain by reducing the intensity of the pain by activating specific areas of the brain which are related to pain processing.
Stress in seniors may be due to a variety of causes, and many experts regard meditation as the “fountain of youth” for both the body and the brain. Likewise mindfulness meditation stimulates the “feel good” prefrontal cortex brain region. Researches reveal that meditation clears the mind of negative energy and focuses the mind on things that bring happiness to the individual.
Easing sleep problems is a benefit of meditation according to a recent study by David Black, assistant professor at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Researchers found that among his study group, that individual with sleep problems, who practiced mindfulness meditation started to sleep better within six weeks of practicing meditation.
Mindfulness meditation does appear to have benefits for seniors in their physical, emotional and psychological health.
Canadian Psychological Conference Victoria June 2014, Mark A Lau, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia
Time Magazine’s cover story for Feb., 3, 2014 was entitled: The Mindful Revolution: