Mindfulness for Sleep and other Health Problems
Adventures in Eldercare January 2018
Make it a goal in 2018 to become more present. This concept is called ‘mindfulness’ and by practicing this technique you will experience better health, more emotional stability and improved patience.
Mindfulness is a type of therapeutic practice where people are encouraged to be fully in the present moment and is used as a way of managing and accepting thoughts and feelings. The idea is to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations calmly and without being judgemental.
The beauty of mindfulness is that you do not have to take a class or join a group, you can practice mindfulness every day just by being conscious of what you are thinking and what you are doing. Unfortunately, many people do not consciously think about what they are doing. Examples that could affect your health or safety could be overeating when you are not even hungry or daydreaming while driving when you should be concentrating on the road. There are also subtle ways your quality of life diminishes when you are not in the present, like having to re-read a page or chapter of a book over and over or missing the point of a friends’ story.
Sleep disorders are a common health problem with seniors. A study in in Los Angeles of people aged 55+ who had trouble sleeping were asked to follow a mindfulness programme. After six weeks, the participants showed improvements in their sleeping. People in this meditation group also saw improvements in terms of their levels of fatigue and depression.
Here’s what you can do today to stay more in the present, to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness usually requires a commitment of about 15 minutes to an hour each day of formal practice. Sitting in a quiet place and training the mind to stop wandering and become more focused on observing the breath, relaxing the body, and accepting thoughts and feelings.
As you begin your day after your morning meditation it is often difficult to stay in the present moment. The Harvard Help Guide provides a simple way of training yourself to practice mindfulness as you go about your daily routine:
● Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body.
● Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.
● Now breathe out through your mouth.
● Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation.
● Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation.
● Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savour every sensation.
● If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment.
When you find your mind wandering take a moment to do the above exercise to re-focus your full attention at the task at hand.
As I sit here breathing, focusing on the article I just I wrote, the words of my editor, Dave, keep coming to the top of mind. “Bruce, make your articles more personal, you’re active and healthy and you’re almost 60 years old. Share your story, what’s your plan on ageing successfully.” I get it. This article is informative, but it is kind of generic.
What do I do? How do I stay in the present? I have practiced Hatha Yoga as taught by iconic Port Dover yoga instructor, Mary Goodlet for almost two decades. I stretch and breathe deeply every day and I use the focusing meditations that I talk about above. I also love to walk. Spending time on a Norfolk trail at any time of year is a wonderful and beneficial form of walking meditation. I don’t plan on changing this as I age and when I choose to wind down my career, I will just have more time to do more of these types of calming and nurturing activities. I make these activities a part of my life and they contribute to my well-being every day.
Dr. Bruce Veltri is the founder of Victoria Eldercare, a non-medical Home Care company serving Norfolk and Western Haldimand Counties. Please visit victoriaeldercare.com or our Facebook page for more information. Call 519-429-2644 for immediate assistance.