Loneliness has a mental as well as physical impact on everyone, including the old. Old age and loneliness are almost synonymous. Researchers at UCLA, California, who have worked on an eight week meditation program, found that older adults who participated felt less lonely after the program. The research findings were published in the latest edition of the journal – Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
Study on meditation at the University of California
The sample size consisted of 40 elderly participants in the age group of 55 to 85. It was sub-divided into a meditation group and a non-meditating or control group.
A previously established loneliness scale was used as a benchmark against which each of the participants was rated before and after the program.
The researchers measured the outcomes of this study by measuring the inflammatory markers such as NF-kB and cardio vascular markers such as CRP (C-reactive protein) before and after the program.
The lead author of this study, Dr Steve Cole, introduced a group of senior citizens to the two-month long mediation program called mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR.
In that they were taught the active participants to practice living in the present (mindfulness) and aim at blocking brooding thoughts. They attended a 2-hour meeting every week where they were taught the technique and had to practice it for 30 minutes every day at home.
In addition they attended a day long retreat at the end of the program.
Results and recommendations
The results of the study are quite promising. Measurements and personal feed back of the respondents correlated giving the conclusion that calming techniques are indeed useful in fighting loneliness.
Lead researcher, Dr. Steve says that lonely people are known to suffer from chronic inflammation and heart disorders. Degeneratory mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s can be kept at bay by incorporating meditation into our daily routine. The MBSR program provided evidence of reduction in these numbers, thus proving the effectiveness of mindful meditation in countering loneliness among the elderly.
Practicing yoga, meditation, Tai Chi and other traditional calming and relaxation techniques has a slowing down effect on our system. We become more aware of ourselves and our surroundings and learn to live today than dwelling in the past. People who practice these techniques can not only have better mental health but also maintain a good amount of physical fitness. The overall quality of life improves.