Meditation: The New Medicine for Senior Health and Alzheimer’s
When you hear or read the word “meditation”, what comes to mind? Do you picture a wise Buddhist monk peacefully resting on a rocky peak in the Himalayas? Perhaps an image of people with long hair and colorful robes comes to mind, chanting and surrounded by the haze of incense. Many believe that meditation is too strange for them to try but it could actually be one of the best mental medicines that you have been missing out on. Meditation has amazing benefits to offer for everyone but if you are a senior or know a senior who is struggling with their health, some mindful meditation may be just be what the doctor ordered.
What is Meditation?
There are many different types or styles of mediation but all of the methods are centered around the idea of calming your mind. By relaxing and calming your mind, your body may quickly follow suit, which leads to a long list of physical and mental benefits, including lower rates of anxiety and depression and increased reports of happiness and contentment.
There are two basic mediation frameworks that you might gravitate towards. The first is referred to as “focus-based” or mindful meditation. When you meditate using this style, you focus on a single detail, such as a phrase, sensation, or the rhythm of your breath. The goal for mindful meditation is to keep your mind on your focal point and to notice when the mind becomes distracted so you may bring it back in focus again.
The second meditation framework is known as “open-monitoring”. When you meditate using this style, you observe everything that is happening around you. You notice every sound, every sensation but you react to nothing.
Who Should Meditate?
Absolutely everyone should meditate. There is a reason that the practice has been around for thousands of years and is being rapidly adopted by many top CEO’s and business leaders across the United States. There have been massive benefits shown when meditation has been implemented into the classrooms of younger Americans but it is important to remember that it is never too late to start. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 80 years old- if you start meditating today you may likely experience immediate health benefits.
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
Meditation has several health benefits. Here is a limited list of potential health benefits you may experience from meditation:
- Improved sleep quality
- Reduced feelings of loneliness
- Increased cardiovascular and immune system health
- Superior concentration
- Fights depression and increases general happiness
Meditation and Alzheimer’s
Mediation has been shown to have some effect on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A study out of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center tracked two groups of people, aged 55-90, where one group actively meditated for at least 2 hours a week, while the other lived their lives normally without mediation. The group that meditated had less atrophy in their brain and increased synaptic connectivity.
The results of the study suggested that prolonged concentration and relaxation could lead to the growth of new cells in the brain, reduce levels of stress-induced cortisol, and increase cortical thickness and grey matter. The take away message: meditation may serve as a tool to compensate for some of the early cognitive losses related to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Do you care for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia? The team at Always Best Care South Bay and West Los Angeles can help! We have several Memory Care programs, including Memory Club, Dementia Coaching™, Home Care, Free Education, and Assisted Living Referrals.