Did you know ten minutes a day of mindful activity has the power to change your life? Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” (1). To put it simply, mindfulness is the intentional practice of being in the present moment, without trying to change or judge the situation. Like meditation, mindfulness has been shown to have many benefits. Just one short mindfulness practice a day could reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and help cope with pain (2). As a senior, these benefits can be life-changing. Try these simple mindfulness activities for seniors and see for yourself!
Physical Mindfulness Activities for Seniors
These practices focus on being in your body and experiencing physical sensation without judgment. They can be especially helpful for seniors struggling with pain or discomfort.
- Mindful breathing. Take a few moments to just breathe. Breathe deeply, and notice how your breath feels in your throat, lungs, chest, and back. Let go of any expectations and let your thoughts come and go, without trying to control them. Try this 6-minute mindful breathing practice if you would like more direction.
- Mindful walking. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you walk. Don’t chat with other people or listen to music or podcasts. Instead, notice the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, the air on your skin, and the sounds around you. Try to be completely present in your physical body as you walk.
- Mindful movement. Yoga is a particularly good exercise in mindfulness. Almost all yoga practices have some aspect of mindfulness, but vinyasa yoga can be especially helpful. Focus on your breath and the movement of your body. Some people find tai chi, running, or other forms of exercise to be meditative as well.
- Mindful eating. Eating mindfully is a great way to get more in tune with your body and hunger and fullness cues. This has lasting benefits on all aspects of your life. Pay attention to the taste, smell, texture, and appearance of your food as you eat. You might notice you even enjoy your food more!
- Body scan. Doing a body scan can be a way to find peace within your body. In a body scan meditation, you will notice, acknowledge, and relax each part of your body. Regularly doing these practices will allow you to be more present in all parts of your life. Check out a guided body scan here.
Psychological Mindfulness Practices
Some mindfulness practices focus more on what’s going on inside your head. These practices can be particularly helpful for seniors struggling with anxiety, depression, or stress.
- Mindfulness meditations. There are many different types of meditations available. Mindfulness meditations typically focus on clearing your mind and letting go of any thoughts you might have. Guided meditations are available from many different apps and online sources.
- R.A.I.N. RAIN is an acronym that stands for recognize, accept, investigate, and nurture. If you are struggling with a specific problem that is causing anxiety, stress, or depression, this can be a great practice to try. You will Recognize what is happening; Allow the experience to be there, just as it is; Investigate with interest and care; and Nurture with self-compassion.
- Gratitude. Being mindfully grateful can increase your joy and satisfaction with your life. By clearing your mind and focusing on all the things you are grateful for, you’ll be able to see the positive aspects of life more easily. You are training your brain to look for the good in the world.
- Be in nature. Being in the natural world can be a mindful experience in and of itself. Many people feel meditative near the ocean or rivers, or in the forest or mountains. Whatever type of natural elements are near you, seek them out and spend some time really experiencing them. . Being in the natural world can be a mindful experience in and of itself. Many people feel meditative near the ocean or rivers, or in the forest or mountains. Whatever type of natural elements are near you, seek them out and spend some time really experiencing them.
Relational Mindfulness Activities for Seniors
Did you know mindfulness can actually help improve your relationships? These relational mindfulness activities for seniors will allow you to become a better friend, parent, and member of your community.
- Mindful listening. The next time you are having a conversation with someone, try to listen mindfully. Focus on the person who is speaking and really listen to what they are saying, instead of thinking about what you are going to say next. By being present and judgment-free, people will feel more heard and understood when they talk to you.
- Pray. If you are religious, pray or meditate on your spiritual beliefs. Prayer often helps people feel more connected to a higher power and to others. This feeling of connection makes compassion and service come a little more easily.
- Loving-kindness meditations. These types of meditations help you have more compassion for yourself and others. By inviting more love and kindness in your life, you are likely to improve your relationships both with others and yourself. You can also find guided loving-kindness meditations to listen to online.
These are just a few ideas of simple mindfulness activities for seniors. If you incorporate one of these practices into your life every day, you’ll start to notice your life change for the better.