Mindfulness may explain why many older people feel their life has gotten better with age, a new study suggests.
Mindfulness is being aware of your experiences and paying attention to the present moment in a purposeful, receptive and non-judgmental way, and it can help reduce stress and promote good mental health, according to the Flinders University researchers.
The study authors conducted an online survey of 623 people, aged 18 to 86, and found that certain characteristics of mindfulness appeared to be much more common in older people than in younger people.
"This suggests that mindfulness may naturally develop with time and life experience," said study co-author Tim Windsor, an associate professor and behavioral scientist at Flinders University in South Australia.
"The significance of mindfulness for well-being may also increase as we get older, in particular the ability to focus on the present moment and to approach experiences in a non-judgmental way," he added in a university news release.
"These characteristics are helpful in adapting to age-related challenges and in generating positive emotions," Windsor said.
The study was published online recently in the journal Aging and Mental Health.
According to the study's lead author, Leeann Mahlo, "The ability to appreciate the temporary nature of personal experiences may be particularly important for the way people manage their day-to-day goals across the second half of life." Mahlo is a clinical psychology Ph.D. candidate who is investigating mindfulness in older adulthood.
"We found that positive relationships between aspects of mindfulness and well-being became stronger from middle age onwards," she said.
"Our findings suggest that if mindfulness has particular benefits in later life, this could be translated into tailored training approaches to enhanced well-being in older populations," Mahlo said.
Mindfulness skills can be developed and contribute to well-being at any age, she noted.
It's important to understand that your thoughts, feelings and situations exist in the moment and will not last, which can help you respond in flexible, more optimistic ways to challenging circumstances, including the coronavirus pandemic, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on mindfulness.