Loneliness can promote or worsen serious mental and physical health problems, such as inflammation and depression. Many seniors report feeling lonely, and a new research study looks at using mindfulness meditation as a way to reduce loneliness in this population.
In their weekly conversation, WHYY’s Behavioral Health reporter Maiken Scott and psychologist Dan Gottlieb discuss this new research.
In this study, David Creswell, Ph.D., from Carnegie Mellon University found that mindfulness meditation not only reduced loneliness but also lowered inflammation levels.
His findings are published in Brain, Behavior & Immunity. For the study, Creswell’s team recruited adults between the ages of 55 – 85, who were randomly assigned to take an 8-week course in mindfulness meditation or not.
In addition to taking the course, they were asked to practice mindfulness meditation exercises for 30 minutes each day at home and attended a daylong retreat.
Investigators determined that eight weeks of the mindfulness meditation training decreased the participants’ loneliness.
In discussing why mindfulness meditation might reduce feeling lonely, Dan Gottlieb said that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. “Loneliness is about pain, it’s about when you want this moment to be different, and it’s not, that’s what loneliness is.”
He added that “mindfulness teaches you to be able to take a look at whatever emotion you are feeling at the moment, simply watch it, and be with it, and watch it pass.”