Research on the health benefits of meditation continues to grow. The practice of sitting quietly, paying mindful attention to one’s breath, has been associated with better cognition, a reduction in stress levels, and an improved immune system response. Now it appears that meditation may also be an important tool for combating loneliness, particularly among isolated seniors with few visitors or limited social interaction.
For the study, researchers at UCLA asked 40 adults between the ages of 45 and 85 to participate in an eight-week meditation program. The participants had to commit to one two-hour session a week in which they were taught the breathing and awareness techniques associated with mindfulness-based stress-reduction meditation (MBSR). They were also asked to meditate for 30 minutes a day on their own.
After eight weeks, the researchers recorded some significant results in favour of meditation. Not only did the participants who meditated report reduced feelings of loneliness, but they also had reduced the inflammation response in their bodies.
The significance of this positive association has real implications for long-term health. Science Blog points out that inflammation, which is essentially your body’s immune response operating in overdrive, has been linked to a number of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimers, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The thinking goes that if you reduce chronic inflammation you reduce your risk of developing these diseases. Sitting quietly for 30 minutes a day sounds like a fairly simple method for achieving such a feat.
Lead author of the study, Steve Cole summed up the results in a statement saying, “Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression. If this is borne out by further research, MBSR could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly.”
Do you practise meditation? If not, find out which type of meditation is right for you.