Meditation is associated with many psychological and physical benefits.
- Memory. "Meditation is associated with enhanced short- and long-term memory," says neuropsychologist Jean Lengenfelder, assistant director of traumatic brain injury research at the Kessler Foundation.
- Cognitive decline. A 2014 review of a dozen studies involving older adults, published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, suggested that meditation was linked to positive effects on attention, memory, executive function, processing speed and general cognition.
- Digestion and circulation.When in stress mode, our body no longer focuses on everyday functioning, like digestion - everything becomes secondary to our body's "fight or flight" survival response. Of key importance to the digestive system, especially the stomach and intestines, blood oxygen levels and circulation are multiplied during meditation.
- Stress. Meditation has been shown to decrease stress and have a calming effect on older adults," Lengenfelder notes. "That can help them organize their thinking and give them a clearer perspective. They have improved focus, and their mind is sharp."
- Inflammation: Meditation has been shown to improve inflammation as well
- Blood Pressure: Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure
- Chronic Pain: Mediation has been shown to improve pain better than morphine.
- Anxiety: Experts say that those with anxiety have difficulty in coping with stress and are shown to have physiological effects including raising heart rate and blood pressure and increasing one's risk for heart attack and stroke. Meditation reduces anxiety and rumination that leads to anxious thoughts and feelings.
- Loneliness: It has been shown that lonely older adults have increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes and both were reduced by meditation.
- Aging related decline: Lazar in 2008 showed that cortical thinning (which plays a part in the executive functions of organization, self-monitoring and impulse control) due to aging was strengthened; increased gray matter in insula, hippocampus (which is responsible for memory and detecting threats) was found by Holzel in 2008
- Immune System: Davidson in 2003, and Tang in 2007 found proof of improved immune system. An extensive insurance study also showed that meditators’ doctor visits, hospital visits, and medical costs where much lower than non-meditators when matched for race, gender, and other similar traits in the control group.
Dr. Stephanie Cheng sees older patients regularly. She has noticed that some of her patients who meditate are able to reduce medications (such as antihypertensives and antidepressants). She also notes that she has seen their blood pressure, stress and depression decrease and on the upside, experience greater well-being, increased peace and quality of life. "One thing I see commonly is people noticing the blessings and abundance in their lives. It increases gratitude for what they have," she says.
"It can be transformative," Dr. Moria Smoski, a psychiatrist agrees. "I've seen meditation help people feel more grounded as they're going through difficult situations. It improves their sense of resiliency."
No one is too old to begin The Art of Ascension. It’s simple and charming to the mind. No postures are required, so no need to worry about forming into a pretzel to learn this practice.