As we age, certain events in life can mean that some of us are left alone, without any friends or family. But loneliness is another thing entirely, and it can have significant impacts on the mind and body. A new study out of UCLA has found that practicing simple meditation could have a real effect on limiting feelings of loneliness.
In fact, feeling lonely has links to dementia, depression (of course), and even heart disease. Combatting its effects is important, particularly as we grow older. The new study showed that meditating for just two months reduced loneliness in older adults. Also: meditation successfully reduced signs of inflammation in their bodies.
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The purpose of meditation in this case was focused directly on reducing stress. The ancient practice helps guide the mind to think about the present, without lapsing into the past or worrying about the future. The present, after all, is all that we can control. This stress-busting meditation ended up working to curb loneliness.
What the study found most remarkable was that this practice altered the genes and protein markers of inflammation. This included the ever-dangerous C-reactive protein, which in high levels is a strong indicator of heart disease. It also included “NF-kB,” a signal in the body that triggers the inflammatory process. Chronic inflammation is a direct cause of a litany of serious diseases.
But it’s the improved quality of life that many will find immediate success with. The study included 40 adults between 55 and 85, who either meditated or did not. They used a scale to establish loneliness and took blood samples to measure inflammation.
The meditation group had two-hour meetings each week that taught them breathing and awareness techniques. Each day they practiced home-based “mindfulness meditation.” They went to a retreat once during the study period for a full day. These individuals reported a reduced sense of loneliness. And the blood tests showed a major drop in inflammation-related genes.
This is another positive sign for the entire host of alternative therapies that help use the mind to overcome health issues or mood issues. Others include yoga, Pilates, exercise, tai chi and Qigong. All represent ways you can influence your own moods and mind and help drive yourself down the road to better health. And shield yourself from disease.