Mindfulness has become increasingly popular in the mainstream conversation about mental health and well-being. While its benefits help with mental and emotional health, this isn’t the specific target of the practice. Rather, mindfulness is the practice of consciously witnessing the present moment. Simply observing each passing moment as it comes, without judgment, subsequently quieting the constant onslaught of thoughts and distractions. Like meditation, this practice encourages the observer to patiently observe the present moment, and not judge or fret if the mind wanders, but gently guide thoughts back to the present or the senses. Over time, it will become easier to control the wandering mind.
It’s well known that mental health and physical health are deeply interconnected. When one suffers, the other often follows. For this reason, people at any age can benefit from mindfulness practices. For older adults, there are numerous ways the benefits of practicing mindfulness cascade into daily life, thoughts, and behaviors. Here are just 4 ways mindfulness helps aging adults. Mindfulness can:
- Improve emotional, behavioral, and cognitive regulation.
- Mindfulness improves adaptive capabilities to negative emotions and situations which can help promote behavioral control.
- Decrease stress and positively impact physical health.
- Emotional regulation leads to decreases in the stress hormone cortisol, steady doses of which can negatively impact health over time.
- Improve attention and working memory.
- When all the background chatter becomes quieter, the mind is more free to be able to focus attention and memory on the present task at hand.
- Allow you to more fully engage in and appreciate the present moment, improving overall quality of life.
- Focusing on the present can help you enjoy the “little things”, and greatly improve your quality of life when you’re not anguishing over the past or stressing about the future.
Why worry about the past or the future, when the present is all we ever really have? Certainly, healing the wounds of our past, and planning for our future is crucial, but not when it’s constant. With consistent practice, mindfulness has the power to ease some of the difficulties of aging but more importantly encourages us in this fast-paced, ever-distracting world to slow down, literally stop smell the roses, and train our mind to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us all.