At The Gardens at Barry Road assisted living community, we want residents to be healthy physically and mentally. Meditation can help with both, so we put together a quick guide.
Mindfulness is a state of mind where you look at your emotions, thoughts or events and become aware of them without value judgments. This mind-state has been used by a wide variety of people throughout history, from religious peoples trying to become more at one with God to warriors who needed to stay calm in the heat of battle. Mindfulness is a tool, and like all tools, the benefits that come from it depend on how you use it. You can use it to help with sticking to a diet or workout program, or you can use it to have more control over your emotions. If mindfulness is the tool, meditation is practicing with the tool.
Meditation can be practiced in many forms. The styles of meditation serve different purposes and bring different benefits. The best way to find the best style for you is to try them all. Here are a few of the more popular forms of meditation.
This is the most common form of meditation and is the style you will typically be taught on meditation apps. Mindfulness meditation is all about awareness. You just sit quietly and take note of what’s going on in the moment. One of the easiest ways to do this is by choosing one of your senses and focusing solely on that. For example, if you’re a more auditory person, you might choose sound to focus on and be aware of all the sounds around you. If you’re more drawn to touch and feeling, you could do a body scan and recognize any sensations in your body.
Mindfulness meditation is about focusing on and being content with the moment, but visualization is more about the future. Basically, this technique is just imagining yourself succeeding at something. The idea is that if you picture yourself doing it, you’ll be more confident. For example, if you have to speak in front of a large group of people and you’re nervous, you would visualize yourself doing really well and everyone applauding.
Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting on the floor cross-legged and humming. You can meditate anytime while doing anything. Active meditation is when you use what you’re doing as the subject for your meditation. Even if you’re just peeling potatoes, you can focus on what you’re doing and be mindful of the experience of doing it.
Meditative prayer is a great thing to add to your prayer ritual. Prayer is a conversation, and meditative prayer is the listening half of conversation. To practice this meditation, sit quietly and be aware of God. Listen for anything He tells you and enjoy your time in His company.
If doing meditation on your own is a little too confusing or you want something a little more structured, meditation apps can be helpful. These apps generally offer a timer and let you set reminders, so they’re useful for keeping a meditation habit. Some apps also offer guided meditations, which are great for beginners. Guided meditations walk you through the experience step by step, usually with calming voice recording. Most meditation apps take a fairly secular approach to the activity.
Headspace focuses on health holistically. Along with daily guided meditations, their app provides a "move mode" with workouts and movements to strengthen your mind and body. It also offers a variety of tools, such as bedtime sounds and sleep exercises, to help with falling asleep. Headspace’s focus on sleep might make it the best option because seniors 60 and older are more susceptible to insomnia. Headspace also sports a stylish minimalist look that makes it easy and stress-free to navigate. Headspace is free, but to unlock most of the features and content, you have to pay for the plus package.
This app is geared more toward emotional health, offering life coaching and therapy content along with guided meditations. A notable feature that sets Aura apart is its use of artificial intelligence. The app analyzes your activity and shows you the content that’s most relevant to you. Aura is also a paid service, but it does offer a free trial.
Atmosphere isn’t technically a meditation app, but it's an app seniors who are interested in meditation and mindfulness should know about. The app lets you pick from a variety of sounds and create your own atmosphere. This is fun to play around with, and it's a great tool for meditation because you can create a calming soundscape wherever you are. You can also use the app as a timer. Atmosphere is free to download and use.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues that go beyond taking some time out of your day to pause and breathe, seeing a mental health specialist is best. Mental health is just like your physical health; there’s nothing wrong with getting a checkup.