Life really gets better with age: older people are more ‘aware’, allowing them to focus on the present – reducing stress and helping them deal with challenges in a positive way
- Australian researchers examined more than 600 adults and their mindfulness
- Notable features include momentary attention and non-judgment
- This crucial quality can, of course, be accompanied by time and life experience, they claim
- The study authors suggest mindfulness apps such as Insight Timer and Smiling Mind
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
A study finds that middle and older people have gained a higher degree of “mindfulness” through life experience, reducing stress, and generating positive emotions.
Australian researchers who studied more than 600 adults ages 18 to 86 found that older people have the wisdom and experience to use mindfulness to get through life.
Mindfulness is a ‘natural human ability to be aware of someone’s experiences’ and use it to deal with challenges in a positive way.
This positive quality, in turn, leads to better emotional well-being, the behavioral scientists say.
Such a quality is vital for those who need to adapt to both the physical and mental challenges of aging, especially during the lockdown caused by the corona virus.
For younger people and anyone who finds it difficult to maintain mindfulness, the researchers propose apps such as Headspace, Insight Timer and Smiling Mind.
According to the researchers, mindfulness refers to the “natural human ability to be aware of someone’s experiences” and to pay attention to the present moment in a purposeful, receptive and non-judgmental way.
“The importance of mindfulness to well-being may also increase as we age, especially the ability to focus on the present moment and approach experiences without judgment,” said Professor Tim Windsor, behavioral scientist at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.
Participants completed questionnaire measurements of notable features.
These can be defined as follows:
– Current attention: The ability to pay attention to the present.
– No judgment: Rather than judging, this is defined as the ability to change our relationship with our judgments.
– Interoception: Retain a sense of the internal state of the body.
– Acceptance: The ability to accept the reality of a situation.
– Not attached: The ability to go through life without consistent attachment to things, people or concepts.
– Decent: The ability not to be central to someone’s thoughts and desires.
“These traits are helpful in adapting to age-related challenges and generating positive emotions.”
The 623 adult participants completed an online questionnaire that measured ‘perceptive’ traits, such as attentional attitudes, acceptance, non-attachment, non-judgment, and decentralization – the ability not to be central to a person’s thoughts and desires.
From middle to older respondents, such qualities showed more than the younger participants, they found.
Links between current attention and well-being, as well as non-judgmental attitudes and well-being, were significant in adults from about 40 years of age.
“The ability to appreciate the temporary nature of personal experiences may be especially important in the way people manage their daily goals during the second half of their lives,” said study lead author Leeann Mahlo.
“We discovered that positive relationships between aspects of attention and well-being became stronger from middle age.
The tendency to focus on the present moment and adopt a non-judgmental orientation can become especially important for well-being in old age
“Our findings suggest that if mindfulness has special benefits in later life, it can be translated into tailored training approaches for greater well-being in older populations.”
The study authors say certain features of mindfulness are more prominent in older people than younger people – and suggest ways that all ages can benefit.
Tips to improve mindfulness, including becoming aware of a person’s thoughts and environment and paying attention to the present “in an open and non-judgmental way.”
Mindfulness can be particularly important during the coronavirus pandemic, as more people are sent within four walls for an extended period of time
These tips could help young people stop focusing on the past or worry about the future, the researchers said.
They can be particularly helpful during the global coronavirus pandemic, allowing people to respond more positively to challenging conditions.
There are also programs and techniques through apps designed to improve mindfulness, the authors say, which can help during the current crisis.
In particular, the researchers highlighted Insight Timer, a meditation app with a free library of guided meditations, and Smiling Mind, which describes users’ daily meditation and mindfulness exercises and links to Google Home.
The study is published in the journal Aging and mental health.
TIPS FOR DEVELOPING MINDFULNESS
Tips from researchers at Flinders University to develop mindful techniques include:
– Become aware of our thoughts and environment and pay attention to the present moment in an open and non-judgmental way. This can prevent us from focusing on the past in useless ways or worrying about the future.
– Understand that our thoughts, feelings and situations exist in the moment and will not last long.
This can help us respond in a flexible and optimistic manner to challenging conditions, including those we face with concerns related to COVID-19 disease.
– Learn about mindfulness through app-based programs such as Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, Smiling Mind and Stop, Breathe & Think.
Available for use on computers or smartphones, these provide flexible ways to learn and practice mindfulness, including for people who now spend more time at home.