But before would-be meditators get hooked on the wonderful benefits of practice, there are a sea of objections, hesitations, and queries that may keep them from finding that wonderful calm.
One of the obstacles may be that meditation seems like such a lonely activity. I was once told that meditation would be antisocial because it was me locking myself away from the world by literally crossing my legs and closing my eyes in isolation. Of course, the opposite was true—meditation allows me to engage my world without the filter of reactive mind chatter.
Research has now definitively shown that meditation can actually lessen the sense of loneliness among the elderly.
The issue has particular resonance because many senior citizens and those approaching their age tend to live alone. Their family is often farther away from them than at any point in their lives because they have moved to follow dreams or obligations. In addition, senior citizens may not have a partner.
A UCLA study focused on mindfulness meditation for older people. The researchers asked 40 people to join them for the study. Their age range was 55 to 85, and they were divided among those who would learn and use mindfulness meditation and those who would not.
The mindfulness meditation group had biweekly sessions. Members were also instructed to meditate for 30 minutes each day. Mindfulness meditation is particularly powerful because it is a form of meditation that focuses solely on the present moment—the only one that ever exists.
Whenever the participants would wonder due to a sensation, memory, feeling, or other stimuli, they were taught to gently bring their focus back to the present moment. After eight weeks of this form of meditation, the results were clear.
The group that practiced meditation felt very noticeably less lonely than the control group. What is more, the researchers discovered that the genetic information related to inflammation changed. The particular gene transcription factor that was altered, NK-kB, is related to heart disease.
Not only does mindfulness meditation bode well for the elderly’s sense of loneliness, it also has serious implications for their physical health. This gives seniors a way to mitigate certain negative feelings, such as loneliness, without resorting to the use of drugs.