Exercise, sunscreen, water, skin creams. A lot of us do what we can to slow down the aging process. But is it our meditation practices that are truly the fountain of youth? A newly published study says meditation could indeed slow biological aging.
What do you know about telomeres? Surely you’ve seen a double-helix model depicting strands of DNA. The section at the dual ends of each strand is called telomeres. These are like the ends of shoelaces encased in plastic.
On shoelaces, this material is there to prevent the lace from fraying, and the same applies to telomeres and the protection of our DNA. The length and strength of a telomere are reflective of our age, and it is our youth that protects us from illness, disease, and yes - wrinkles.
So, the longer the telomere, the more time is on your side. However, it is only natural that telomeres get shorter as the years pass by. After all, they’re not really shoelaces, they’re nucleotide sequences. Figuring out how to slow the telomere-shortening process is a prime focus of many anti-aging efforts in scientific research.
Many things have been studied in relation to telomere length, from antioxidant intake to specific diets. But more recently, the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology published a study claiming that meditation could potentially keep telomeres from shortening.
For six weeks, a group of more than a hundred middle-aged participants took a workshop in one of two kinds of meditation. One group studied mindfulness meditation, and the other focused on loving-kindness meditation.
According to the results of the study, “we found TL (telomere length) decreased significantly in the MM (mindfulness meditation) group and the control group, but not in the LKM (loving-kindness meditation) group. There was also significantly less TL attrition in the LKM group than the control group. The MM group showed changes in TL that were intermediate between the LKM and control groups yet not significantly different from either.”
So, any meditation practice, taken seriously, may help. But it’s loving-kindness in particular that seems to have an effect on telomere length.
What is Loving Kindness?
Here at the Silent Mind blog, we’ve covered the importance of self-compassion and acts of kindness. But what specifically is a loving-kindness meditation?
The focus of these meditations is, naturally, love and kindness. Giving it, receiving it, helping it grow. Also called Metta meditation, it helps us develop greater compassion. We use visualizations and mantras to send kindness and compassion to ourselves and others.
It’s good to start a loving-kindness meditation practice for yourself first. Sit in meditation as you normally would, and select mantras to repeat as you intentionally inhale and exhale. “I am safe and supported,” “I deserve happiness”, and “I am worthy of love,” are basic examples of these.
From there, experiment with loving-kindness meditations for others. Visualize people you love receiving many blessings, bathe them in healing white light and compassionate energy. See them prospering and happy.
In the future, step down and perform these meditations for people you have neutral feelings about, and eventually, people you need to forgive. In the end, you should be an expert in using meditation to distribute love, compassion, and kindness to every living creature on the planet.
And if that doesn’t sound worth it, remember that it might help you stave off a few fine lines and wrinkles.
Have you ever tried a loving-kindness meditation? Care to share your mantra? How do you feel about getting older? Let us know below!