Meditation: Make It Your Thing

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Meditation for Seniors

meditation Brittany Fleck

Brittany Fleck

Brittany Fleck will be a periodic contributor to the Assisting Hands blog. She is a student at the University of Southern California pursing a degree in Human Development and Aging at the Davis School of Gerontology. Brittany’s posts will focus on health, wellness and mindfulness practices for seniors of all ages. We hope you enjoy Brittany’s blogs.

As we go through life changes, especially those associated with aging, stress can begin to take a toll on our mental and physical wellness. At times, a good night’s sleep and a back rub just may not be enough. I invite you to try the ancient, yet life-changing, practice of meditation. Meditation was originally meant to help deepen the understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life, oh so fancy, but today it is commonly used for relaxation, stress reduction and finding peace within yourself. Anyone can practice meditation, no matter the location— whether you’re out for a walk, sitting on a chair, or simply lying in your bed at home.

A study, done at Brown University, found that religiously practicing meditation holds promise for improving the everyday function of our bodies and our brain. This study coined the term, “mindful based stress reduction” (MBSR) which proved that training our attention through meditation can directly affect the alpha waves behavior in our brains. Alpha waves are the normal bursts of electrical activity from the cerebral cortex of the brain of a drowsy or an inactive person—they are a key component to how our brain gives sensory outputs. If we are able to filter these inputs it is a fundamental part of cognitive processes like selective attention (being able to split the focus of our attention) and our working or short-term memory- all necessary in being a whole and present individual.

This is why mindfulness based stress reduction’s significance goes even beyond its ability to improve our attention during simple tasks. It is also been proven to be able to sustain us during times of immense chronic pain. Meditation can be useful if you have physical discomfort, especially some that may be worsened by stress. If we are able to tune out, meditate out, the stimuli of pain, we are able to bring ourselves to feel better without even noticing we are doing it. Meditation—simple or complex—is all-mental through the use of what we say to ourselves.

Mediation also seems to be used as an umbrella term, meaning there are many forms of it. Some of these forms include:

Yoga. A physical use of the term where we perform a series of poses and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and calm mind. As we do each poses we work to try to throw out the days stresses and focus on balance and concentration. Throughout Yoga meditation you’re encouraged to focus less on your busy day, what you have to do next in your life in the real world and more on bettering your body at the moment.

Guided meditation. Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, usually with another person, or “guide.” This method of meditation is all about images that you create in your mind. You think of happy times when you felt relaxed and try to picture yourself in that place and time. The goal is to try to use as many of your senses as possible, like as smells, sights, sounds and textures.

Tai chi meditation. This is a form of gentle Chinese meditation where the follower believes that the universe is run by a single principle, the Tao, which is made up of the yin and the yang. They are two opposing principles, but they come together. In tai chi, you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, calm manner while practicing deep breathing and mind strengthening activities.

Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase multiple times in your head and out loud. There is no body movement, just simply the use of the mind and the mouth. The point is to prevent distracting thoughts and is usually done is a quiet and warm room.

Transcendental meditation. The whole goal of this approach is to use one word, like “om” in yoga. With this mantra, which can also be a sound or a phrase that is repeated, it narrows your conscious awareness and eliminates all thoughts from your mind. The goal is to focus exclusively on your mantra to achieve a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.

Lastly, the only other form I know to be successful in my own life is mindfulness meditation. This is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment, which is SO much easier said than done. You broaden your conscious awareness and take time to just focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath and the feelings of your body. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but the goal is to try to let them pass without judgment or overanalyzing them.

Meditation has proved very beneficial for me in the past, especially when I am dealing with a personal or family issue—life can become overwhelming and a little terrifying at times. Meditation doesn’t have to be long, take only 10 minutes to devote to yourself and I promise you that you will reap the benefits!

 

Here is my favorite website to go to for guided meditation.

http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22