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Mindfulness and meditation are two words that are slung around like confetti in this current time, but don’t be too quick to discount them as just fashionable concepts that only those who want to be seen to be trendy follow. There are incredible benefits of mediation for women in midlife.
They are in fact two seperate concepts. Mindfulness is the idea that you go about your day being present. As you carry out tasks you mind is completely centred on what you are doing while you do it. Meditation, however is the targeted practice of being mindful. It is purposefully training your mind to be mindful. Like Monopoly’s version of “Advance to go” it’s the sped up version of getting to mindfulness.
And why would I need to meditate? That’s the big question and the answer is different for everyone. For me personally it’s stress relief, more understanding and empathy, better focus in the rest of my day and I actually enjoy it and the practice of being mindful.
It helps keep me keep calm in high stress situations like getting teenagers off to school in the morning, grocery shopping in a pandemic or helping two close family members who have chronic health issues. This is just the shortlist. There are others, and if I dwell on them my heart beats just a little faster and my doctor doesn’t like it when I tell her about that.
Meditation keeps me from dwelling on what is not right in my life and helps me to relax by just being present in the now.
Let me tell you, being completely present and focusing completely on what is right in front of you brings so much peace.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is the intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment or your breath while letting thoughts come but not attaching to them and letting them go without judgement.
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The Benefits Of Meditation In Midlife
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce the physical and mental issues that can become more prevelant for us in midlife. It may be that the ability to direct your focus away from negative things is the sole reason for this reduction. However I believe that the power of the mind is more than that.
I often talk about stress being the driver behind many health issues in midlife. By meditating and reducing stress the flow on effect can only be positive and balancing your hormones has both physical and emotional benefits.
Harvard has released a study which shows that after 8 weeks of meditation the brain actually shows signs of rebuilding itself.
Meditation is simple, easy to do and can provide a myriad of health benefits yet in our western world it is not widely practised. Read through to the end of this post or just click through to find out exactly how easily you can incorporate meditation into your everyday life.
The Health Benefits Of A Regular Meditation Practice
As meditation can help reduce chronic stress and calm your nervous system it may lower your risk of heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death world wide. Meditation is a useful tool when used in conjunction with more traditional and conservative methods of lowering cardivascular risk.
High Blood Pressure
Meditation is a good supplement to the more conventional pharmaceutical control of high blood pressure. A regular practice can fortify your stress response to allow you the space to process your thoughts when you are better able to do so.
Diseases that can cause chronic pain such as Osteoarthritus become more prevalant in midlife. Mindfulness meditation expands your brain in the areas of emotional awareness and self control giving you the ability to learn how to improve your response to chronic pain.
As with chronic pain, mindfulness can help you to target the pain of sore joints caused by conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritus. In controling the pain there is improved quality of life and therefore wellbeing in the long-term.
Meditation improves your fight or flight response to stress and activates your body’s “rest-and-digest” functions. Practicing daily has been linked to a lower heart rate and blood pressure.
The practice of mindfulness is a great place to start when trying to reduce menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and night sweats. A regular yoga practice is a great way to improve your overall health as it incorporates movement wtih focusing on the breath. This flow from one yoga pose to the next while keeping your breath in unison is a wonderful form of mindfulness that leaves you feeling the positive effects for the rest of the day.
For a selection of yoga asana’s which will fulfil your meditation and weight loss needs see my post 6 Best Yoga Asanas To Reduce Belly Fat: Women Over 50.
Good news! Studies have shown that people who meditate for at least 15 minutes reguarly are less likely to be admitted to hospital for various diseases and infections. That’s only 15 minutes out of your day to improve your chances of not succombing to an age related illness.
You don’t have to be sitting cross-legged on the hard floor, incense burning, and chanting “Oom” while rocking back and forth. That would certainly get some raised eyebrows around the office. We don’t want you known as “that weirdo in the corner”.
So in the interests of keeping things in the realms of normality and being able to fit mindful meditation into your busy schedule here are some ways you can practice meditation while you go about your everyday life.
Do you walk? It’s a great time to get into the here and now. While you walk practice some meditation.
The idea is to pay attention to the movement. Your feet hitting the pavement, the rhythm, your breathing. Allow yourself to hear the sounds around you and see what is in front of you but don’t let them become part of your thoughts. Let them melt into the background. I especially take time to enjoy gorgeous flowers or the majesty of huge trees.
My practice is to meditate for the first half of my walk then problem solve or plan my day during the second half when my mind is sharper.
2. Doing housework
If you’re like me you hate ironing, hoovering, dusting or any other mundane household task with a passion that would make your eyes water.
So this time is not a complete loss, meditate.
This is how. Switch off completely and focus totally on the task at hand. Become fully present in the now and aware of the stillness within you. I often find myself actually enjoying the time it takes to complete the task, not the task itself that would be a cold day in hell.
3. At work
If you have headphones put them on, they will help cut out some noise as well as discourage Miss Gabby at the next desk from trying to start up a conversation about the dreadful date she had last night with the spotty geek further down the office.
Set a timer for 5 minutes. Sit with feet flat on the floor, hands resting in your lap, back straight, shoulders relaxed. Focus on a point in front of you. If you are in a busy office you may need to make that your computer. You don’t want the spotty geek across the office to get any ideas about your intentions.
Now focus on your breathing. Keep it relaxed. When your thoughts stray away keep bringing them back to your breathing. The more you practice this the easier it will become.
4. At home in a chair
Find a comfy chair in which you can sit up straight.
Place both feet flat on the floor. Rest hands on your thighs palm up. Breathe deep two or three times then let your breathing return to normal.
Let thoughts come but don’t hold on to them. Let them pass on by.
See if you can feel a light breeze blowing across your hands and up over your head. When you do concentrate on a point just above your head. Relax.
You can find the full guide to the last meditation here.
Fashionable Concept Or A Gateway To Better Health
It’s plain to see that regular mindfulness meditation in midlife can lead to improved mental and physical health with reduced symptoms of menopause and a lowered risk of being affected by a chronic illness. The only cost to you is a small amount of time everyday and with many different techniques there is something for everyone.
The benefits become more far wider reaching the longer and more consistently you practice so keep it up.
The affects after several weeks of practice may not be immediately noticeable until you are impacted by a stressful situation. You may notice that your emotions remained on a more even level. Or it maybe that you notice you have more stamina when taking on large tasks. Your mind and ability to focus will go the distance just that bit further.
If you have an ‘anywhere’ meditation you use I would love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments.