Have you ever noticed how we all can get into a place where we are multi-tasking, we are reflecting on yesterday’s game, today’s meeting, the kids’ games, the weekend’s events and pretty soon we don’t just avoid stopping to smell the roses…we don’t even remember there was a rose along our path this morning. Scientists suggest that mindfulness is an alternative to the stress of multi-tasking. Mindfulness, they explain, is simply focusing on the present, not getting caught up in judging any aspect of it, and finding a calm within the chaos that seems to be ever-present in the 21st century.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School talk about readjusting how we view things in terms of mindfulness…that is being really in the present and just experiencing the present without judging it as bad or good…just experiencing it. It will take some practice because virtually all of us are really good at being stressed and overloaded. Yet, if we can learn this thing called mindfulness, we will have less stress, a better immune system and generally happier days.
It may be even more important for our older loved ones. They have a lot more yesterdays about which they can have regrets and a lot more losses they can grieve. No wonder depression affects about six million adults over the age of 65 each year…but it is not just a normal part of aging. It is their points of view.
The scientists tell us that mindfulness can improve gastrointestinal function, address heart disease, lower blood pressure, ease stress, enhance sleep, and moderate chronic pain. Practitioners are using mindfulness as part of the treatment for depression and anxiety, eating issues, alcohol and substance abuse and marital discord. They are even using it to address one of the big challenges of older adults – isolation and, yes, depression. Not being in the present also gives people way too much time to regret the past and fret about the future.
Try this yourself…and share with an older loved one:
- Sit in a comfortable, straight-back chair or on a cushion with crossed legs
- Relax – slowly breathe in through your nostrils and out through your mouth
- Focus on breathing…if you wander, bring your attention back
- Take note of the rest of your body
- After you establish this calm, then allow one thought at a time to enter
- Gently guide yourself back to just breathing to keep from scattering
Try this for 20 minutes a day…and later expand to 40-45 minutes. Try to bring some of the method to how you handle the rest of your life by single-tasking, add moments of single-focused thoughtfulness. Rinse. Repeat. And share.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.