7 tips for mindful self-care and better health

Excerpt: Mind-body activities and techniques offer special advantages for older adults in promoting self-care and healthy aging. Studies show that mind-body programs, tailored for older adults, can help improve sleep, anxiety and depression, boost resiliency and morale, and increase healthy, self-care behaviours. Mind-body activities, such as meditation, yoga and tai chi, can also lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and ease chronic pain.

International Self-Care Day,* celebrated on July 24, is an opportunity to look at how mind-body activities and techniques can promote self-care and healthy aging. Cultivating mindfulness and practicing techniques that reconnect the body and mind offer special advantages for older adults* in good health, and those who may experience chronic disease, pain and disability, according to The Gerontologist.

Here are some ways to experience the benefits of mindful activity:

  1. Get motivated with mind-body training
    Older adults with chronic illnesses who participated in classes that provided instruction in mind-body techniques, relaxation training and cognitive behaviour strategies improved their sleep and lowered pain, anxiety, and depression. They also increased healthy, self-care behaviours,* such as daily exercise, good nutrition, gaining interpersonal support and stress management, reported a Behavioural Medicine study.

  2. Boost resilience and morale
    Older adults who participated in a 9-week, Healthy Aging Mind Body Intervention program at Massachusetts General Hospital increased their levels of self-efficacy, resilience and morale,* reported a study in Advances in Mind-Body Medicine. Self-efficacy, a person’s belief in their ability to influence life’s events, is associated with increased self-care among seniors, positive changes in health behaviours, increased energy, better sleep, decreased pain and discomfort, and better overall health.

  3. Pay attention to the present moment
    People who practiced mindfulness meditation daily for eight weeks lowered their blood levels of inflammatory proteins, and the stress hormone cortisol,* according to a Georgetown University study.

  4. Engage the mind in movement
    Older adults who combined mind-motor training (a square stepping exercise) with regular exercise showed greater improvement in cognition and memory* than those who did exercise alone, reported kinesiology researchers at Western University in London, Ontario.

  5. Practice tai chi and yoga to ease pain
    Tai chi, yoga, hypnosis and progressive relaxation were associated with significant pain reduction* in people suffering from chronic, non-malignant pain, reported a Pain Medicine study.

  6. Meditate to lower blood pressure
    Practicing meditation can produce small, but meaningful reductions in blood pressure,* either alone or in combination with blood pressure medications, according to the International Journal of Hypertension.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers a wide range of activities and programs, including yoga and tai chai, meant to engage the mind, body and spirit, and promote healthy aging.

The following sources provides references for this blog:
1. International Self-Care Foundation. “International Self-Care Day.” (2019), online, http://isfglobal.org/international-self-care-day/
2. The Gerontological Society of America. “Mindfulness: Reconnecting the body and mind in geriatric medicine and gerontology.” (2008), online: https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/48/2/135/661207
3. Rybarczyk, Bruce, DeMarco, Gail, DeLaCruz, Marco, Lapidos, Stan. “A Classroom Mind/Body Wellness Intervention for Older Adults With Chronic Illness: Comparing Immediate and 1-Year Benefits.” (2001), online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271332667_A_Healthy_Aging_Program_for_Older_Adults_Effects_on_Self-Efficacy_and_Morale
4. “A Healthy Aging Program for Older Adults: Effects on Self-Efficacy and Morale.” (2015), online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271332667_A_Healthy_Aging_Program_for_Older_Adults_Effects_on_Self-Efficacy_and_Morale
5. American Public Health Association. “Self-rated health: a predictor or mortality among the elderly.” (1982), online: https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.72.8.800
6. The Telegraph. “Mindfulness meditation lowers stress hormone and decreases inflammation in the body, scientists find.” (2017), online: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/01/24/mindfulness-meditation-lowers-stress-hormone-decreases-inflammation/
7. Western University. “Mind-body maximizes benefits of exercise to seniors.” (2017), online: https://news.westernu.ca/2017/08/mind-body-maximizes-benefits-exercise-seniors/
8. Morone, Natalia, Greco, Carol. “Mind-body interventions for chronic pain in older adults: A structured review.” (2007), online: https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/8/4/359/1818722
9. Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Current perspectives on the use of meditation to reduce blood pressure.” (2012), online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303565/