There’s no question—social interaction is key when it comes to improving your physical and mental health. It has countless benefits, including lowering blood pressure, obesity and even mortality, which is where programs like Keeping Connected can help.
But in between social interactions, there are other things that seniors can do to help them combat loneliness. Meditating and mindfulness are two of these activities—not only are they free, they’re also accessible to all seniors, regardless of their physical abilities.
What is meditation? A relaxation technique, meditation may involve reciting a mantra (or phrase), closing the eyes, or practicing deep rhythmic breathing. It allows practitioners to focus inwards and calm the mind and body.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness means fully focusing on the present moment—including your thoughts and emotions. Often called mindfulness mediation, it helps practitioners connect what is going on around them with their emotional reaction to it. Rather than pushing feelings down or away, you focus on them, including those associated with stress, anxiety or loneliness. By fully acknowledging these feelings, you’re able to calm your mind. Essentially, it’s a way of meditating during every waking moment. By not dwelling on the past or focusing on the future, participants are able to be fully aware of the present.
Who can practice mindfulness or meditation? Anyone of any age—from children to seniors—can practice mindfulness or meditation. However, it’s particularly helpful for seniors because unlike other recreational activities, it doesn’t require a particular level of physical ability and can be done from the comfort of home. According to a study published in Geriatric Nursing, meditation can even be taught to seniors with dementia, which can help to reduce the effects of social isolation.
How do meditation and mindfulness help seniors battle loneliness? Across 19 different studies, mindfulness has also been proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. For older adults, this is particularly beneficial. A 2012 study at the UCLA of 40 seniors found that mindfulness and meditation helped them to tackle loneliness and feel more connected. Those who participated in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program—which included meditating for just 30 minutes each day—had significantly decreased rates of self-reported loneliness.
What are the other benefits?
- Better sleep: Researchers from the University of South California have determined that mindfulness meditation can help seniors get a better night’s sleep and reduce daytime fatigue. In their study of nearly 50 older adults with sleep problems, it only took six weeks of practicing mindfulness before they started sleeping better, making it far more powerful than just learning good sleep habits.
- Protects the brain from memory loss: Meditation reduces the effects of undue anxiety, stress and loneliness on the brain. For this reason, research indicates that meditation and breathing exercises may even slow the effects of Alzheimer’s.
- Better overall physical health: According to a study published in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology, elderly practitioners of meditation may have improved longevity.
Mindfulness mediation is an easy and accessible activity that anyone may undertake to improve his or her physical and mental well being.