We require food for fuel, water for hydration, and exercise for physical health, but what about our overall well-being? In the fast-paced world we live in and the rapidity of our daily lives, how often do you really ‘check in’ with yourself and assess your emotional needs? The medical world is uncovering significant benefits in the area of cognitive fitness, specifically, meditation.
The National Institutes for Health explain meditation as “a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.” Although there are many forms of meditation, they all have certain elements in common: a quiet location, comfortable posture (i.e., sitting, lying down, walking), focusing attention on a specific word or the sensation of breathing, and an open attitude (i.e., allowing distractions to come and go naturally without judgment).
A recent study by the University of California Los Angeles found that meditation helps to minimize feelings of loneliness and increases health in older people. In fact, meditating for just fifteen minutes each day changes the brain in positive ways; reducing stress and anxiety, increasing decision-making, improving health, and increasing happiness, as well as, reducing blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, depression, insomnia, and the incidence, duration, and severity of acute respiratory illnesses (such as influenza). In fact, more doctors are prescribing meditation because of these proven health benefits, and us patients are reaping the rewards. Mindfulness is free and you an office visit and prescription are not required.
There are many different types of meditation, but the main component is developing a positive connection between your mind and body. This is where the mindfulness aspect comes in. As your meditative practice becomes more regular, your brain will begin to change in amazing ways as it develops these new connections. This serenity will then transcend into other aspects of your daily life, most notably, your health.
There are many resources available to learn more about the benefits of meditation, which are worthwhile at any age. The Merion offers a Stop, Think, Breath Meditation class to assist its residents, because it is never too late to begin a mindful journey, or to continue on the one you have already begun!