Research tells us that “mindful stress reduction” has proven instrumental in slowing cognitive decline (also known as dementia or stress induced memory loss). This fact alone should pique the interest of seniors everywhere.
Sadly, a recent study revealed that people aren’t really into quiet time. Test subjects freely admitted that they were happiest when they were super busy and under the gun. These same subjects admitted that spending even brief periods alone with their own thoughts made them feel uncomfortable. If people are programmed to thrive on one adrenalin rush after the other, why are we seeing so many mental and physical ailments associated with stress?
Meditation is the word that comes to mind when stress reduction is mentioned, but not enough people are paying attention. You are probably thinking that older people don’t need to meditate because they have plenty of time to relax, but of course that isn’t true. Seniors worry about everything, especially about memory loss and dementia. Cognitive decline has no respect for age, financial status, or college degrees; it threatens all of us.
If meditation is known to slow cognitive decline, why aren’t seniors lining up at the door to study yoga or learn meditation techniques? I asked friends, relatives and fellow classmates and this is what I learned:
People of all ages feel that they don’t have the time or the patience to learn anything that they perceive as being “too hard.” Some felt that messing with their minds was wrong; contrary to their religious beliefs or they just weren’t into trying something new. Many of these ideas were formulated long before stress became headline news. Today we know that stress is at the root of many mental and physical ailments. People today are stressed and it shows.
Saying a prayer, focusing on the rise and fall of your chest as you breath, or even enjoying a beautiful waterfall are all forms of meditation; that doesn’t sound too hard does it? If that is all there is to it, it could be worth your while to give it a try.
Some people find it best to take a class or listen to a meditation video. A soothing voice is certainly a lovely way to calm a restless mind; others in the interest of speeding up the process prefer to meditate on their own. All you really need is a quiet place and a few minutes when you can be assured of not being disturbed (no beepers, no pets, no phones and nobody coming in to ask where their clean socks are).
Try sitting quietly in a chair, on the couch, or on the floor (no you don’t have to sit in the lotus (pretzel) position or balance on painful knees; comfort is the operative word. Take a moment to enjoy the silence surrounding you before gently focusing on a word, the sound of your own breath as you breathe in and out, or a prayer. Many practitioners start by breathing slowly as they concentrate on relaxing one body part at a time. Errant thoughts are bound to creep into your conscious mind, but will soon learn to shoo them away as you learn to refocus on beautiful thoughts. That is pretty much it; basic meditation. Not hard, not time consuming, and only as religious as you want it to be. Try it for ten minutes. You don’t have to frustrate yourself by trying to be still for an hour or more. Anyone can do ten minutes.
There are many ways to meditate; once you get the hang of it you may want to try different types. Your public library has both audio and visual guides for you to examine. Many find that focusing on a soothing voice, beautiful music or nature sounds more interesting than simply breathing. Please yourself; if you can’t sit still for even 10 minutes you will be pleased to read about walking meditation or even laughing meditation.
If the claims about slowing cognitive decline are true; don’t you think calming your mind for 10 minutes a day is something worth trying? I am going to do my first ten minutes this afternoon. Would you like to join me?