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Meditation is much more than taking deep breaths in a quiet room. Meditation helps stress slip away and provides an array of mental health benefits. What’s more, it can be done anywhere and it’s a skill that all of us have inside. Just consider the profound words of Andy Puddicombe, author, speaker, and co-founder of the meditation app Headspace.
“There is no good or bad meditation — there is simply awareness or non-awareness.”
Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment.” The Headspace app adds that mindfulness is “the idea of learning how to be fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment.” What’s more, it's accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and the body’s sensations.
Research shows that meditation provides an array of improved mental, emotional, and social health outcomes. For older adults, the benefits may be even greater. U.S. News & World Report highlights benefits to memory, preventing cognitive decline, digestion, and circulation. It’s been reported that older patients have been able to reduce medications such as antihypertensives and antidepressants. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health also notes that studies have shown that meditation can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups from ulcerative colitis.
The first step in starting meditation is finding a suitable location. Headspace suggests a place that “feels comfortable and has minimal interruptions.” The space might not be perfectly quiet, but it’s best to silence devices and keep distractions to a minimum. And meditation is something that can be done while seated or lying in bed. Then there’s building it into one’s routine, finding time each day and getting into the habit of meditation. Some people find it easiest to identify the same place and same time each day.
Meditation can be done individually, too.
Here, at Friendship Village of Schaumburg senior living community, we’ve written in the past about the benefits of creating art, the power of giving thanks and the serenity of gardening. Friendship Village fosters these and other mindful, calming activities like tai chi, yoga, and worship services. Meditation can be done individually, too.
Famed author Deepak Chopra describes meditation in near-religious terms and given its benefits one can see why. “Meditation is allowing the spirit to speak to you,” he says. For people looking to reduce stress and become more mindful, meditation might just be the ritual that they’re missing.