It’s no secret that we can live richer and more satisfying lives if we have a habit of making healthy choices. Exercise and proper nutrition are always a good idea. As we get older, it also becomes more important to take steps to maintain our cognitive health. But more and more research is showing that we can lead lives that are even more deeply fulfilling if we also focus on our spiritual health.
Just like a fitness routine or cognitive activity, spiritual wellness for seniors can take many different forms. The point, however, is always to discover a connection to something greater than yourself. The National Wellness Institute defines spiritual health as “the search for meaning and purpose in human existence.”
Benefits of Spirituality
Your spiritual well-being is an important aspect of your overall well-being, especially as you get older. Spiritual wellness for seniors has many proven positive effects:
- The sense of purpose it provides can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression.
- You may generally feel happier in your daily life when compared to people who don’t consider themselves spiritual.
- Your improved mood will take you in positive directions, helping you feel more grateful, social, creative and curious.
- You may be more resilient to stress, which can lessen the risk of conditions such as high blood pressure and stroke, and even lessen symptoms of IBS.
- Focusing on your spiritual health has even been shown to sometimes lessen physical pain.
- The sense of calm can lead to better sleep and all the health benefits associated with it.
Practicing spiritual wellness in some form can even help slow the cognitive decline associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s, according to the organization International Psychogeriatrics. Whatever a person’s level of cognitive ability is, repeating calming and fulfilling behaviors such as prayer or meditation has been shown to bring feelings of comfort and inner peace.
Striving to achieve spiritual wellness and fostering a social network of like-minded friends to talk to can also bring a sense of calm and clarity when considering the challenges associated with aging, or contemplating end-of-life issues. This can nurture overall feelings of peace and acceptance that are deeply beneficial to overall happiness.
Spirituality and Religion
For many people, spiritual wellness is based in religious faith and practices that center around the belief in God. This is a wonderful way for seniors to strive for spiritual wellness. Whatever your religion or individual point of view, religious practices such as prayer, congregational worship, religious education, and group discussion can bring a real sense of purpose and social connection to your life.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Whether you actively participate in religious practices or not, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation are clear. Every benefit listed above can be achieved regardless of your system of beliefs. And the best part about mindful meditation is that it can be done just about any time, any place, can be practiced for just a few minutes a day, and can lead to true spiritual wellness for seniors.
So, how do you start? Simply find a quiet spot to sit comfortably or lie down. When you’re inexperienced, you can try these techniques for maybe just five minutes or so. As you progress, you can work up to as much as 20 minutes or longer, but it’s best to spend whatever amount of time feels right for you.
Once you’re comfortable, start with simply breathing. Take deep, slow, easy breaths from your diaphragm. Try to think only about your breathing. Focus on each inhale and exhale. You may feel other sensations, like an itch or a sore spot. Just acknowledge these other sensations as they occur and bring your thoughts back to your breathing. If you’re in a seated position, occasionally check that your posture is straight and upright.
The goal you’re striving for is to clear your mind. This can be particularly difficult to achieve, especially at the beginning stages. Your mind will often wander to any number of places – thoughts, plans, memories, people, your to-do list. As each thought comes to you, acknowledge it and try to refocus only on your breathing. This clearing of your mind is intended to have you live right in that very moment of your life, without thought of the past or worry about the future. This practice of letting go of thoughts will feed your spirit, and your ability to do this successfully will increase with practice.
Spiritual Wellness for Seniors at Timber Ridge at Talus
At Timber Ridge, our philosophy focuses on myriad dimensions of wellness when it comes to the well-being of our senior living community residents. As part of our HealthyLife® Services program, we provide physical, emotional, vocational, environmental, social, intellectual and spiritual health services, all to ensure whole-life wellness.