Mindfulness meditation has been proven to help seniors and people of all ages reclaim peace and centeredness in their lives. Meditation is especially beneficial for older adults in that it can increase brain function and reduce feelings of loneliness and depression. Here are some of the incredible things meditation can do for older adults:
- Regulate blood pressure
- Reduce stress
- Increase libido
- Improve cognitive function
- Enhance the brain’s ability to change
- Reduce loneliness
- Regulate mood
- Reduce inflammation
- Manage pain
Meditation helps older adults get their minds off of worry and focus on the fact that everything is okay in the present moment. It also helps do away with the “if only I had…” thoughts or regrets. Mindfulness practice teaches us to remain present and forget worries of the future or regrets of the past.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness meditation is paying attention, purposefully and non-judgmentally, to your experience in the present moment. This may seem like it won’t make much of a difference, but if you practice mindfulness intentionally throughout the day and for long periods of time, you will notice a change and an opening of your mind.
Much of mindfulness has to do with simply paying attention. Even if you are not sitting for hours meditating, you can be mindful and present in each moment, whether it is washing your hands, walking in the grass, or doing the dishes. Pay attention to all of your senses and how each action feels, smells, and tastes. To take it to another level, imagine all the other people around the world who are performing the same task at the same moment, and share your experience with them in your mind.
How Mindfulness Works
Mindfulness can work as a kind of self-therapy to center your mind, regain your perspective, and open your heart. Here, we’ll outline three meditation techniques you can try to introduce you to mindfulness practice: Breath meditation, Metta, and RAIN.
Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Simply breathe naturally. Focus your attention on your breath. When the mind wanders, let the thoughts float away and focus your attention back on your breath. Set a timer for a short amount of time at first, for example, one or two minutes. Later, you can gradually move to longer periods of time.
Metta (Lovingkindness Meditation)
A tried-and-true beginning meditation practice is called Metta, or lovingkindness meditation. This meditation keeps your heart open and connected to others.
As meditation leader Jack Kornfield explains, you begin by thinking about yourself and reciting the following phrases. Modify the wording as you wish to what works best for you. Keep reciting the phrases, either aloud or in your head.
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
Next, move on to someone who has truly loved you in your life, a benefactor, and recite the following phrases.
May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May you be well in body and mind.
May you be at ease and happy.
Thirdly, expand the phrases to loved ones, friends, community members, strangers, and beings all over the earth. Recite the phrases.
Lastly, repeat the same phrases but for difficult people in your life. Start with the most difficult person in your life, and then move on to others. Continue reciting the phrases even if your mind wanders and you feel anger or irritation. Let the process do its work.
Meditation instructor Tara Brach created the RAIN meditation. This helpful tool can be used in moments of high anxiety when you feel like your mind and body are spinning out of control.
In RAIN, the R stands for Recognize the fear when it arises. Acknowledge what it is that’s bothering you, and, if you can, what the fear stems from. The next step is to Allow the fear to coexist within you. Accept it and don’t try to hide it or brush it away.
Next, Investigate the fear. Feel how it feels in your body, and where it is located. Investigate without judgment, as if it’s an object you’re examining. Lastly, Nurture the feeling. Place your hand on your heart or another part of your body where you feel the fear. Writes Brach, you can even say to the fear, “Thank you for trying to protect me; it’s okay.”
Breathe deeply during this process and be as present as you can.
Taking some time to write in a journal can clear your mind and set you up for more productive meditation practice. Some prompts to get you started are to list things you’re grateful for (even if you don’t feel like it at the time), what you are most worried about, what tasks you need to complete this week, how you are feeling, how your body is feeling, what makes you happy.
Cleansing the mind and writing down your thoughts is not a cure-all, but it creates space in your mind to tackle your day and focus on what’s best for your health.
Most importantly, give these mindfulness techniques a try and don’t judge yourself. Mindfulness may be hard at first, and might even bring up some difficult emotions. Stay with the practice and be kind to yourself, and over time you will learn to accept and enjoy the present moment.