The sharpest, most focused person I know is the grandmother of one of my longtime friends. Although she’s well into her 90s, she is as clear as a bell. In fact, when I stopped by, I unwittingly interrupted her in the middle of her daily meditation.
That surprised me, because in all the years that I’ve known her, I had no idea she practiced meditation.
I assumed it must be something new. But I was wrong…
She told me that she had started meditating back before I was ever born. That it helped her relax and, more importantly, she felt that without it, she might be in the nursing home like so many of her younger friends already are.
I politely nodded my head and continued the visit. Although I’ve been a long-time advocate of meditation, I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that a practice I considered great for relaxation, could actually have the power to keep someone out of the nursing home.
So, when I got home, I decided to dig deeper. Here’s what I found…
Countering the effects of aging on the brain
New research from the University of California Davis is now giving us clues to the value meditation truly brings to the aging brain.
You see, researchers decided to go back and visit results of a previous study where they followed a group of people who regular practiced meditation. That particular study showed that cognitive abilities, as well as attention span and focus, significantly improved following a meditation training retreat.
So they decided to follow these same meditation practitioners, to see if benefits gained during the training were maintained after seven years.
And, guess what?
As long as the participants continued to practice the meditation techniques they had learned, their cognitive gains, reaction times and ability to stay on task, were maintained no matter what their age.
And, this was especially true for the older participants who, compared to those who practiced less, had no signs of the typical patterns of age-related decline in focus.
Chalk up one to my friend’s grandmother… She definitely knew what she was talking about.
Make meditation work for you
Here’s your guide to starting a meditation practice of your own.
- Choose a quiet place for your practice and put on soothing music if you like.
- Find a comfortable place to sit – You can use a chair if you have back problems, a cushion on the floor or even your bed.
- Keep your back straight and focus on your breath.
- Close your eyes if you feel comfortable. Or, keep them open. The choice is yours.
- Rest your hands on your thighs.
- Turn off your thoughts and bring your attention back to your breath if your mind wanders.
- If it helps to keep you focused, you can count your breaths.
- Start small and shoot for just five minutes a day. You can work your way up as you go.
The new research clearly shows that meditation is about more than just relaxation and can actually keep you clear and focused as you age. Maybe as my friend’s grandmother says, it can even keep you out of the nursing home. So, start meditating even just a few minutes a day to start grabbing some big benefits.