Growing older brings with it a whole host of changes – some of them welcome, others not quite so welcome. While we are bombarded with ways to ease some of the age-related problems that may strike as we get older, be it supplements, leafy greens or a ten-minute morning power walk, meditation often gets cast aside.
However, meditation is a fantastic way to help you deal with a whole number of aches and pains, as well as helping to ease mental strain and provide you with some much needed me-time. With stresses about retirement, your health and worries about children or grandchildren, we could all do with feeling a little more zen.
Here’s the top 7 benefits of meditation for the over 60s to help you cope with those age-related setbacks.
Contrary to belief, the over 60s are busy! Life doesn’t slow down as soon as you hit a certain age, and it can be difficult to keep up. While taking ten minutes out of your day to meditate may seem counter intuitive when you have a to-do list the length of your arm, it can actually do your productivity levels a world of good.
Meditating can cause a physiological change in the brain – increasing gyrification. This gyrification (or brain folding) boosts how well the brain processes information, makes decisions and can even increase your attention span. So, next time you feel bogged down with the weight of all the tasks you’re yet to do, take a ten-minute time out to focus on your breathing – we promise it’ll be worth it!
Increases Immune System
As we get older our bodies find it more and more difficult to make it through cold and flu season unscathed. Meditation creates a positive mental environment which allows our immune system to thrive. Studies have shown that meditation can boost antibodies and help our immune system to function more effectively. Just ten minutes a day is all it takes to get your body back on side and help it fight off those nasty germs.
Slows Ageing Process
Stress is one of the main components of premature ageing. According to a wide range of studies, stress can speed up the ageing process by shortening the length of our DNA strands. As if ageing isn’t stressful enough as it is, stressing about ageing will actually make it worse!
This vicious cycle can be broken by something like meditation which can help decrease stress and increase happiness. When we are totally in the present, we are not absorbed in worries about the future or stressing about the past. The added bonus is a decrease in stress hormone, cortisol and an increase in happy hormone, dopamine! Unlike many anti-depressants or medication, meditating has virtually no negative side effects.
Helps to Cope with Pain
A regular meditation practise can help you cope with pain, anything from chronic pain to an achy back at the end of a long day. Growing older comes with a whole bundle of stresses and strains, which can make the ageing process difficult and upsetting.
Meditation can help ease pain in various ways. One of the main goals of meditation is to be able to sit with your emotions and experiences as they happen – not living in either the past or the future. Quieting the mind through meditation can provide a safe space for you to explore your pain and accept whatever sensations come with it. This can help you to stop struggling against your pain, which may eventually help it to dissipate.
Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to reduce chronic pain by up to 90%. This is fairly ground-breaking, especially considering it’s now being prescribed by hospitals. Breathing deeply into your pain can do wonders when it comes to releasing any tension and helping both your mind, and body, to relax.
The older we get, the more memories we must store so it’s no wonder we often get a little forgetful! Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve both long and short term memory.
Meditation works as a form of mind training. Sitting and focusing on something for a period of time (when it comes to meditation, focusing on your breath) works as a strengthening exercise for your mind. Just like we need to train our biceps and triceps to get them stronger, we also need to train our minds. By training our brain, we are prolonging its life and helping to prevent memory loss.
Another interesting effect of meditation is that subconscious memories may rise to the surface. Meditation can help your subconscious mind kick into gear, and the result is vivid memories of something you may have totally forgotten about!
Some days our digestion may be top of its game, others it simply refuses to play ball – something many people simply accept as part of the ageing process. However, there are various ways to improve your digestion and save you the discomfort of a bad stomach. Meditation is one of these ways. Breathing deeply in the way that meditation encourages will improve circulation and oxygen levels around the body. This will help ease any digestive issues and leave you to enjoy your day free of digestion-related stress!
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for many conditions, including heart disease and dementia. Your risk of experiencing these only gets worse with age, and that’s where meditation can work its magic. By regulating stress hormones like cortisol, meditation can reduce your blood pressure and decrease your risk of these age-related diseases. Not only that, but all other systems within the body will regulate themselves and should start to work better and more efficiently!
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: http://www.vikasayoga.com