Mindfulness for healthy aging

Mindfulness can help with many common concerns of aging.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. Although it may sound simple and learning to do daily mindful techniques is very easy, it can have huge impacts on your emotional and physical well-being. These benefits hold true for anyone, but especially for those who are interested in maintaining health as they get older.

Can it help with healthy aging?

There are many challenges, both physical and emotional, as we age and many ways of dealing with those challenges. Doctors and therapists have various medicinal, nutritional and physical therapies to ease the aches and pains of arthritis, lower high blood pressure and high blood sugar, manage depression, and address decreased mobility. Adding mindfulness to these therapies can enhance their effectiveness.

Researchers over the past decade have supported the many benefits of daily mindful practice in the areas of cell regeneration, better blood pressure and blood sugar control, increased mood, decreased stress levels, short-term mobility gains and decreasd pain.

Is it hard to do?

The good news is that learning mindfulness is not rocket science. Mindfulness techniques range from breathing, walking, eating, thought surfing and even laughing. Now, that doesn’t sound hard, does it? These techniques  may even prove to be very enjoyable.

How do I begin?

For starters, just take a three-minute break and concentrate only on your breathing. Find a comfortable place to sit, with your feet on the ground, spine straight, shoulders and limbs relaxed and eyes closed. For three minutes, breathe easily in and out, at your own comfortable pace. Say to yourself, “I am breathing in, and I am breathing out.” Concentrate on how the air feels as it fills your lungs and as it leaves. If thoughts come to your mind, gently remind yourself, “I am breathing in, and I am breathing out.” After three minutes are up, notice how you feel now. More than likely, you will find a feeling of peace, calmness and gentle health. Know that at any time of the day or night, you can return to this type of mindful breathing to take you back to feeling peaceful, calm and healthy. Try this every day for a week or two and see how you feel. You may want to keep a journal to record some of your symptoms and any improvements you might notice, like feeling less pain, lower blood pressure or better blood sugar levels. If it works, then make a plan to keep going. It can’t hurt and can have lasting benefits.

How can I learn more?

Michigan State University Extension has a program called Stress Less with Mindfulness. This five lesson series will teach you a variety of easy-to-use mindfulness techniques. Each lesson focuses on one technique: mindful breathing and moving, mindful walking, mindful eating, thought surfing, or being kind to your mind and laughing for better health. To find a series near you, please visit our website at MSU Extension events page. Classes are held in a variety of community centers and agencies.

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