We all know what it feels like when you don’t get a good night’s sleep. The next day your more irritable, tired and lacking that ‘bounce’ in your step. Your nighttime mental chatter that keeps your mind racing can make it difficult the next day to maintain focus, make good decisions and effect your energy level. Just thinking about working-out or doing your favourite sport feels exhausting. Daytime sleepiness can leave you feeling lousy and it may even harm your health. And, this worsens as we age.
Adding a little dose of Mindful Meditation can make a difference.
A small study in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal, suggests that mindfulness meditation — a mind-calming practice that focuses on breathing and awareness of the present moment can help.
The study included 49 middle-aged and older adults who had trouble sleeping. The first half of the group completed a mindfulness awareness program that taught them meditation and other exercises to help them focus on moment-by-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions. The other half completed a sleep education class that taught them ways to improve their sleep habits. As Julie Corliss, Harvard Heart Letter editor explains, after six weeks, compared with the people in the sleep education group, those in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression.
Meditation is a form of mental exercise that is fast becoming a part of many individual’s active aging practice. It not only improves our sleep but research seems to suggest that those precious few minutes of mindfulness can improve all kinds of other daily activities such as working, sports and studying. Regular meditation produces changes in our mental state and resting EEG which in turn helps us focus and think through various decisions, concerns and ideas.
A study from the US National Library of medicine suggested that regular meditation practice results in significant changes in cortical thickness in the brain. The results show that engaging in just over 10 min of mindfulness practice five times per week resulted in significant improvements in behavioral and general task performance. Plus, counteracting the cognitive effects associated with aging.
So, what does 10 minutes a day look like?
If you are not a’ sit-down-and-relax type of person’, 10 minutes may sound daunting but it need not be. Meditation can take many forms. Try moving meditation, clearing the mind as you take a 10-minute walk. Or if you have some private time during your day, just close your eyes and enjoy the quiet.
Beyond the physiologic changes that can improve health, meditation also improves the mind-body-spirit connection.
Swami Prakashananda, of the The Movement Center in Portland, Oregon suggests “Meditation improves your health because it improves access to your life force. It’s the force that makes us breathe and makes our hearts beat. It’s the energy that’s in everything.”
And isn’t that worth 10 minutes?