By Celeste Tarbox
Loneliness at any age can have an impact on mental and physical health, but in older adults it can lead to even more serious health consequences, such as earlier-than-expected death and the loss of physical functioning (NYTimes). Older adults often feel lonely and disoriented after moving into a nursing home or assisted-living community due to geographically-dispersed children and lost spouses. However, a simple technique of mindfulness-based meditation can be practiced to potentially lessen the health threats of loneliness and depression.
A recent study conducted by UCLA professor of medicine and psychiatry, Steve Cole, adds to the growing collection of research demonstrating the positive benefits of meditative practices and techniques. The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity reporting that just eight weeks of training in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) decreased loneliness in older adults (ucla.edu).
MBSR uses mindfulness-based meditation to teach the mind to be more conscious of the present moment and not dwell in the past or project into the future. Participants in the UCLA study attended weekly two-hour meetings learning body-awareness techniques and were asked to practice mindfulness meditation exercises for 30 minutes each day at home. Simply by noticing sensations in the body and working on one’s breath, older adults prone to loneliness can work their way toward better understanding how to mindfully attend to their feelings of loneliness and daily life practices. The scientific results offer hope for individuals to use simple practices at home to improve their mental and physical health.
If you are interested in participating in mindfulness-based meditation or introducing it to a loved one in your life, it is important to find a qualified instructor to train the mind, just as if you would wish to learn any new activity.