We already know that a healthy diet, regular exercise and plenty of sleep are good for your health and can help you live a longer life. But what about meditation? Can practicing meditation help you live a longer and fuller life?
Studies show that meditation practices decrease wandering thoughts and reduce stress. Scientists found that aging can be measured by the length of a protective cap on the ends of our chromosomes called “telomeres” and by the presence of “telomerase,” an enzyme that protects the telomeres from the wear and tear of cellular division. The length of telomeres indicates the remaining lifespan of a cell, the amount that a cell can continue to divide and replicate normally. Telomeres naturally become shorter with age, but research shows this aging process doesn’t happen at the same speed for everyone. Shortened telomeres are associated with weakened immune system function, heart disease, and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. Many diseases previously common only in the elderly are now affecting many young people. Telomerase is an enzyme that prevents telomeres from becoming shorter. Plus it can also add length back to the telomeres, which increases cell longevity. Telomerase activity is a predictor of the long-term viability of cells.
A 2008 study showed that the stress hormone cortisol inhibits the activity of telomerase. The study showed that the greater amount of telomere shortening in the high-stress group indicates they had aged the equivalent of 9–17 additional years, compared with the low-stress group. The oxidative stress and inflammation which is the physiological fallout of stress appears to erode telomeres directly.
Meditation is known to reduce cortisol, therefore promoting telomere health. In turn, this will scientifically make us age at a slower rate. It is important we make time for meditation, and ultimately reduce out stress levels. I recommend setting aside some time every day to reduce stress, even if it’s only 10 minutes. I suggest meditating upon waking and again before going to sleep. Using this time to meditate and calm down can help you tackle the rest of your day with energy and enthusiasm, as well as help you age slower!