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The Importance of Mindfulness and Gratitude in Aging

Stria Staff January 19, 2020

Gratitude and mindfulness have a positive impact on our journey throughout aging.

We have heard that there’s value in finding time to pause, be in the present and focus on gratitude. This practice of “mindfulness” has been shown to result in positive long and short-term effects. It can reset your day, offer perspective, and boost your mood and overall health.

So if gratitude and mindfulness have a positive impact, what role might they play in aging? What are some ways to promote mindfulness as we age and how can we help older people start their own practice?

The following articles highlight how older people can benefit.

Headlines & Insights: Curated excerpts from thought-provoking articles

What Do We Feed? Mindfulness and Resilience in Successful Aging
Journal of Aging Life Care | Lucia McBee

No matter what our circumstances, we will experience the good and bad, and there will be circumstances outside our control. This is increasingly apparent as we age and face losses of friends and family, physical health, and even living environments. Aging Life Care Professionals™/care managers face these losses both personally and professionally. We cannot change this fact, but we can change how we respond to it. Our innate capacity to face and handle life’s challenges-resilience– is an important factor in living a satisfactory life.

Mindfulness, the ancient art of paying attention non-judgmentally, can be an important key to cultivating resilience. 

Mindfulness Training for Healthy Aging: Impact on Attention, Well-Being, and Inflammation
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience | Stephanie Fountain-Zaragoza and Ruchika Shaurya Prakash

The growing interest in mindfulness interventions for use in aging samples has been met with promising evidence of cognitive, emotional, and physiological benefits…

Mindfulness training has gained increasing traction in recent years as a feasible and promising intervention for enhancing facets of both psychological and physical health across development…

The reviewed evidence suggests that mindfulness may be advantageous for promoting cognitive, emotional, and physical health within the context of advanced aging. Moreover, these beneficial effects are conferred to those with little to no psychological symptoms as well as those with diagnosed psychological or medical conditions. This suggests that mindfulness training might be easily integrated into a variety of contexts, such as senior centers and group homes, and that it would be valuable and appropriate for such heterogeneous audiences.

The Many Gifts of Gratitude
NCOA Blog, Aging Mastery Program | Susan Stiles

The upsides to expressing gratitude are many. Studies have shown that gratitude has a uniquely powerful relationship with health and well-being, both our own and of those around us.

When people have higher levels of gratitude, they tend to have lower levels of depression, better sleep quality, and stronger biomarkers, such as higher rates of good cholesterol. In addition, they are better able to handle stress and are more socially connected.

By practicing gratitude over time, we can learn to notice and appreciate not only the positives, but also develop better attitudes about the negatives … the challenges, losses, and frustrations that we all face as we age. Adopting an attitude of gratitude means tackling the negative things and challenging ourselves to find ways to be grateful for them.

Healthy Benefits of Gratitude
Àegis Living | Chris Corrigall

Overwhelmed caregivers of an aging parent may not feel particularly thankful every day.  They may be stressed juggling the demands of career, caring for a parent and raising a family.  But gratitude can change your perspective on life and help you better manage your stress.

“Caregivers can find gratitude even in the most difficult times,” says Emese Tuza Crumb, Certified Integrative Nutrition Holistic Health Coach. “Gratitude is like a muscle that needs to be exercised and strengthened, but the proven benefits extend beyond just a positive attitude and include real physical and neurologic health benefits.”

This story was created in partnership with students from the Department of Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Thanks to Alysia Leung for contributing research for this piece.

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