It’s ironic that just when we reach the stage in life where we can enjoy the wisdom gathered from our experiences, we’re faced with the challenges and limitations presented by aging.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to slow the aging process down so you can enjoy the rewards experience brings. One of the most effective is to reduce stress. Here are three very effective stress-reduction techniques that you can do on your own:
Recent studies show that simple meditation for 15 minutes a day can have a profound effect of improving several negative aspects of aging.
In one study, done in 2007 at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers using advanced brain imaging studies tested people aged 52 to 70. They found that 8 weeks of daily meditation dramatically improved blood flow to the area of the brain called the posterior cingulate gyrus. This is the part of the brain most closely associated with learning and memory.
The practical effect of this was that participants showed significant improvements in memory. Since memory loss is one of the worst effects of aging, this is a huge benefit for aging meditators.
In another study, this one done in the U.K., a group of participants over the age of 65 with a history of recurring depression were taught to meditate. A follow-up done one year later showed that those who continued to practice indicated that meditation reduced the degree and frequency of depression.
Because aging people tend to withdraw from the world, depression is a big problem. Meditation can help reduce this negative effect of growing older.
There are many meditation techniques you can practice. These range from simply paying quiet attention to your breathing to techniques of focusing on a single thought or image. A quick internet search for ‘meditation’ will offer you information on dozens of worthwhile choices.
2. Do Something Meaningful with Your Time
One of the best ways to keep active and alert is to focus your energies on activities that are meaningful to you. Typically these involve making a difference in the lives of others.
By not being totally absorbed in your own problems and issues, you expand your horizons. In addition, you remain more involved in the world at large.
This doesn’t have to be elaborate or detailed. For example, you can volunteer time at a local charity. Even simpler, you can resolve to spread good cheer to each person you meet during the day.
By making even one person’s day a bit brighter, you are adding value to the world. In turn, this increases your quality of life as you age.
3. Practice Yoga or Qigong
Both yoga and qigong combine the benefits of meditation with the advantages of exercise, stretching and progressive relaxation. You might describe these as forms of moving meditation.
Particularly for people who find quiet sitting mediation difficult, these are outstanding options. You can exercise and meditate at the same time!
There may be a cost for initially learning yoga or qigong, but once you learn them you can do them on your own for the rest of your life. Inexpensive books and DVDs are available teaching both, but the best way to learn is in person where the instructor can make sure you’re getting the best benefit from them.
Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008
Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia. Washington, D. C., USA. June 11, 2007.
Smith, A., et al. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for recurring depression in older people: a qualitative study. Aging Ment Health. 11(3):346-357, 2007.
The Blue Zones: Lesson for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Buettner, Dan, National Geographic, DesMoines, IA, 2008.