When you meditate, your breathing slows down, and so does you heart rate. Blood pressure and stress both decrease, digestion systems improve, and overall tension in the body is lowered. Meditation calms the mind and body alike and requires no fancy equipment. To meditate, you simply sit or lie down. As you relax, you train yourself to pay little attention to your thoughts, with a doctor quoted by USNews.com calling meditation an “antidote to the fight-or-flight response.”
This response originally served as a survival mechanism when a life-threatening situation occurred. It is a “carefully orchestrated yet near-instantaneous sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses [that] helps someone to fight the threat off or flee to safety. Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties,” according to Harvard University.
Meditation helps to calm this response without medication, provides multiple health benefits for older adults. Here are three benefits of meditation, the main types of meditation you can practice, along with resources to help you find classes.
No. 1 Mental Health Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been shown to enhance memory, both short-term and long-term, and can also fight against cognitive decline. A review of a dozen studies focusing on older adults was published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in 2014, noting links between meditation and “positive effects on attention, memory, executive function, processing speed and general cognition.”
Stress can decrease for older adults who meditate, allowing them to have more focus, more organized thoughts and an overall clearer perspectives. A 2012 study even showed that one type of meditation, mindfulness, decreased loneliness in older adults.
You can find even more information about mental health benefits of meditation for older adults at our blog.
No. 2 Reduction in Inflammation
An article in SeniorPlanet.org shares how people who meditate can benefit from reduction in inflammation. They report on a study of people aged 55 to 85 who participated in a meditation program that lasted eight weeks. A Carnegie Mellon University researcher taught them techniques and then measured their C-reactive protein levels.
Why is this important? Inflammation has a role in many diseases.
No. 3 Better Digestive Health
MindWorks.org reports on how a meditation program can improve digestion, providing relief to older adults, and the EOC Institute provides more insight. The digestive system, it explains, can react strongly when someone is tense. When the body is stressed, everything becomes secondary to the fight-or-flight reaction, including digestion. The deep breathing that occurs during mediation, though, boosts blood oxygen levels and can even provide long-term solutions. And, if someone over eats because of anxiety, meditation can help with that, too.
Types of Meditation
MedicalNewsToday.com lists seven different types of meditation, noting that each type actually encompasses multiple subtypes. Different teachers, of course, practice differently and teach differently, so the article suggests you test approaches until you find the one that’s best for you (which might, in fact, be a blend of more than one type!).
You can read the article to find more information about each of these types:
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Body scan or progressive relaxation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Breath awareness meditation
- Kundalini yoga
- Zen meditation
- Transcendental meditation
Finding Your Own Meditation Program
Some people want to meditate in private at home, while others want instruction and/or class support. If you’re in the latter group, talk to teachers to find out what experience they have, what type of meditation they practice and answers to whatever other questions you have.