A sad fact of aging for many is a lack of companionship as loved ones pass on and children scatter.
Experts say the resultant loneliness is linked to emotional stress and declines in physical health. Indeed, feeling lonely has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and even premature death.
As such, interventions to relieve loneliness are in demand, yet prior strategies to relieve loneliness have had limited success.
Now, new research from UCLA scientists reveals that a simple eight-week meditation program may be all this is needed to reduce loneliness in older adults. Moreover, researchers discovered that mindfulness meditation also reduces the expression of inflammatory genes. Win Win!!
“While this was a small sample, the results were very encouraging,” said Dr. Michael Irwin. “It adds to a growing body of research that is showing the positive benefits of a variety of meditative techniques, including tai chi and yoga.”
This is an important finding as loneliness is known to activate inflammatory genes which, in turn, are known to promote a variety of diseases. The study is reported in the online edition of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
The benefits of meditation have received considerable recent study as Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor of psychiatry, published a study showing that a form of yogic meditation involving chanting also reduced inflammatory gene expression, as well as stress levels, among individuals who care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
“These studies begin to move us beyond simply connecting the mind and genome, and identify simple practices that an individual can harness to improve human health,” Irwin said.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR
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