Now more than ever before, people are recognising the benefits of meditation.
While some may think meditation is just a fad, it’s ability to ease stress and anxiety are well proven. With celebrities including Magda Szubanski, Hugh Jackman, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres all boasting about the benefits of meditation, there are plenty of reasons why over-60s should give it a go.
“Many people in the West have been drawn to meditation or mindfulness with the hope of finding better ways to manage their stress,” trained psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Elise Bialylew tells Starts at 60. “However, although these practices are a powerful antidote to the stress in our lives, they have a much deeper capacity to transform us.”
The benefits range from feeling calmer and less stressed to feeling more focussed and less scattered. Some people see a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, while others sleep better and find it easier to switch off at the end of the day.
Despite misconceptions, Bialylew says the aim of meditation should be find a sense of peace and contentment.
“The purpose of practising meditation is not to get good at meditation but to get better at life, experiencing greater joy and less stress and suffering,” she says. “So, in this way, it’s important to learn how to integrate this quality of calm, and presence into all aspects of our life, not just doing it when the circumstances are perfect.
“It can be helpful to initially practice meditation in a quiet room, however, I teach busy people how to bring these mindfulness practices into every aspect of life including their relationships, the way they eat, exercise, work, so that the benefits are experienced more broadly not just while you’re meditating.”
Bialylew adds that mindfulness meditation isn’t about emptying the mind, because it’s impossible to stop your thoughts completely. Instead, it offers a new understanding of how to relate to your thoughts so you “become master rather than slave of your mind”.
And while people can be sceptical, the results speak for themselves.
“There’s plenty of examples in the scientific literature that explain why mindfulness is not just a fad, but will continue to be further integrated into our lives,” she says.
Bialylew cites a number of studies that she says proves mindfulness meditation works. Participants can experienced an enhanced immune function, while parts of the brain correlated to positive emotion are activated in meditators. She adds that there can be grown in higher-functioning regions of the brain, as well as protection against age-related DNA damage. There are also improvements to overall mental health, with a reduction rate of 44 per cent in relapse of depression noted in some cases.
Bialylew will launch her sixth annual Mindful in May event next month — a one-month online global meditation challenge that brings the benefits of meditation together with an opportunity to contribute to a global cause.
For more information head to mindfulinmay.org.