How meditation can help you age gracefully

As we get older, the body’s natural defenses gradually begin to break down, making it more difficult to cope with stress and anxiety

By Alisha Moopen

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Published: Thu 29 Dec 2022, 11:34 PM

Last updated: Sun 1 Jan 2023, 3:24 PM

More women in their 40s and 50s may just get the opportunities that were once only given to the younger lotStress is an inevitable occurrence during any stage of life. Aging, like stress, is also a natural part of life. While we’re young and resilient, stressful situations may not take as much of a toll on our bodies and minds. But as we get older, the body’s natural defenses gradually begin to break down, making it more difficult to cope with stress and anxiety. Indeed, stress can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behaviour.

One could argue that getting older can also be a stressful experience itself: navigating the loss of loved ones, anticipating potential declines in health and independence, and long-term unemployment can all be disorienting. Fortunately, there are several ways for you (or your elderly loved one) to keep stress levels under control and get the most out of senior living.

When we are physically or emotionally distressed, our bodies release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones can be helpful for providing short-term energy and focus so we can appropriately deal with the stressful situation at hand. However, chronic stress can lead to an overload of stress hormones, resulting in harmful imbalances in the body. Excess stress hormones have been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, weakened immune systems and memory loss, which impacts the quality of life as we age. Also, over time, the brain loses its ability to regulate stress hormone levels. Not only does this contribute to hormonal imbalances, but it also leads to increased stress levels in older adults. An individual who experiences chronic stress is more likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices which causes additional health problems. In other words, stress accelerates ageing, and ageing causes stress — it’s a vicious cycle.

However, the good news is that reducing stress levels can improve your overall health and vice versa. There are many different ways to manage stress levels such as staying connected to loved ones, staying physically active, stimulating your mind, getting plenty of good quality sleep, and eating a well-balanced diet to boost your physical health and cognitive function but meditation encompasses all and is a simple and fast way to reduce stress.

Meditation can wipe away the day’s stress, bringing with it inner peace and the best part is that anyone can practise meditation. It’s simple and inexpensive and doesn’t require any special equipment. Also, you can practise meditation wherever you are — whether you’re out for a walk, waiting at the doctor’s office or even in the middle of a difficult business meeting.

Meditation has been practised for thousands of years and was originally meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. But today, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. It can help you learn to stay centered and keep inner peace.

Incorporating mindfulness meditation in your day-to-day routine can boost your confidence and mindfulness around your triggers and emotions. Mindfulness meditation trains you mentally and teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body by being fully focused on ‘the now’ so you can acknowledge and accept your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgment.

When you meditate, you may clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress. It can help you gain a new perspective on stressful situations, build skills to manage your stress, increase self-awareness, focus on the present, reduce negative emotions, lower resting heart rate and improve sleep quality among many other benefits.

Some people incorporate meditation into their daily routine. For example, they may start and end each day with an hour of meditation. But all you really need is a few minutes of quality time for meditation. You can start by breathing deeply and focus all your attention on your breathing. Combining a walk with meditation is also an efficient and healthy way to relax as well as a great physical activity. Engaging in prayer is the best known and most widely practised example of meditation.

Lastly, focus your love and kindness and think of others with feelings of love, compassion and kindness. This can help increase how connected you feel to others and end the feeling of loneliness that might come with ageing.

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