How Mindfulness Can Help with Healthy Aging
Recently, I came home to find my 23-year-old son sitting in our backyard with his eyes closed, legs crossed – meditating.
I laughed (to myself). This child has always marched to the beat of a different drummer.
His father, a high functioning busy-addict, can’t sit still at all. He also doesn’t like to be on his own.
“You can’t be in a room alone for two seconds,” one of my kids told him. “Alone with who?” he answered in all seriousness.
The contrast between my husband and my son is comical.
Over the years, I’ve learned to be alone, without becoming lonely.
But, I still don’t meditate. The thought of sitting still for long periods of time, thinking – without judgment, and worse – without a pen, sounds like torture. Just thinking about meditating is enough to make me jittery. Isn’t that the exact opposite effect it’s supposed to have?
Mindfulness is More My Thing
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is awareness. It’s being in the present moment.
That I can do!
What I didn’t know is that mindfulness is a form of meditating. It’s a simple meditation.
So, when I write, I’m practicing mindfulness. See Morning Pages, by Julia Cameron for additional inspiration.
And when I cook, I’m practicing mindfulness. “If you’re stirring the pot, just stir the pot.”– Michael Pollan.
I just didn’t know I was being mindful.
I hadn’t labeled it.
Could Mindfulness Help with Healthy Aging?
Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He studied how practicing mindfulness worked to better the condition of adults suffering from chronic pain.
He also did a study on people who felt high levels of stress. There was a control and a treatment group. The treatment group was taught mindfulness skills; and after three months, the group who practiced these calming strategies showed a significant decrease in stress.
The control group showed no change in regards to how they experienced stress.
Kabat-Zinn also found that attention is a trainable skill. And depressive ruminations may also be something our minds can be conditioned to control.
Mindfulness is a practice that asks us to pay attention to our hearts. This practice quiets our minds and calms our bodies.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that mindfulness is now being taught in schools. Research shows that children who are taught mindfulness techniques have less anxiety. They are better able to focus. They are less aggressive, less oppositional, more attentive and better able to express positive emotions.
If they can do it, we can! There are so many amazing things in this life to look forward to. Mindfulness can help us to keep our minds sharp and happy so that we can enjoy every single moment.
Now, if I could just get my husband to sit alone in the backyard…
Have you tried meditation or another form or mindfulness training? What was your experience? Do you agree that these kinds of activities are useful when it comes to healthy aging? Why or why not? Please join the conversation.
Corie Sutton Adjmi writes about relationships, family and community on her blog, FROM THE CORE. Corie’s work has been published in a number of literary journals including Diverse Voices Quarterly, Evansville Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Indiana Review, The North American Review and South Dakota Review. To read more of Corie’s work, go to fromthecore.net.