04 Sep part 7 of 10:10 Ways To Bring Vitality To The Life Of Your Elderly Parent: Mindful activities for brain health
It’s often believed that cognition, memory and brain health inevitably decline with age. However, it is suggested that proactive care and intervention can slow any cognitive changes that occur as a result of age.
A healthy lifestyle that combines moderate exercise, a nutritious diet and regular mental stimulation can help prevent and slow the progression of many age-related neurological conditions. In addition, reducing stress and anxiety plays a significant role in improving and protecting brain health.
Mindfulness activities like meditation can be used to promote a healthier brain. These activities can be done from the comfort of home or in a group setting and act as an effective way to stimulate the brain while providing stress relief.
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While meditation is a frontrunner in mindfulness activities for seniors, there are other exercises that can help older adults practice mindfulness.
Deep breathing can improve blood pressure, relieve stress, lower heart rate and manage symptoms of anxiety.
Try this: Deep Breathing Circle
- Draw a large circle on a piece of paper.
- Make a small mark at the top and bottom of the circle (12 and 6 on the clock).
- In a clockwise direction, trace your finger along the circle from the top mark to the bottom mark. Inhale slowly as your finger moves towards the bottom of the circle.
- When you reach the bottom of the circle, begin to trace your finger back up towards the top, exhaling slowly as you go.
- Try to maintain a slow, steady pace as you trace the circle.
- Focus on the movement of air in and out of your lungs.
This simple exercise is a good way to begin practicing mindfulness. It involves centering your attention entirely on one object and can help seniors minimize worry while building focus.
While the exercise’s name suggests raisins, any food can be used. An unfamiliar food or one with unusual qualities works best.
The participant should pretend they have never seen the food before. They should then note or describe the following qualities of the food in detail:
- How it looks
- How it feels
- How it smells
- How it tastes
For many seniors, especially those living with memory loss and other cognitive conditions, it can feel as though thought and emotion control is impaired. Allowing the mind to focus on one object and its qualities can give mindfulness practitioners greater control of their feelings and enhanced awareness of their thoughts.
A body scan exercise is an effective way to increase awareness of oneself, noting any tension in the body and relaxing it slowly.
Try this: Head-To-Toe Body Scan
- Lie on your back or sit with your palms facing upward and your feet slightly apart.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath, making it steady.
- Move your attention to your feet, noting any tension you find and releasing it.
- Focusing on one area at a time, move slowly up the body until you focus on your head.
- Return your attention to the breath and observe any changes.
- Open your eyes and note any differences you feel within the body.
Other Mindfulness Exercises
In addition to the activities listed above, try these mindfulness exercises for added benefit:
- Start a gratitude journal
- Set three daily goals
- Enjoy nature
- Recite positive affirmations
- Focus on the outcome of an action
- Observe changes in mood
- Create a mind map
- Listen to calming music
- Create daily rituals
- Try therapeutic colouring
- Turn off the television
- Plan the following day
- Keep an evening journal
- Use aromatherapy
- Practice guided sleep meditation
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