If you want to live longer, and not just live longer but reduce mental aging and overall mental health, learning about meditation and telomere length may help.
As I rapidly approach my mid-forties I start to think a lot more about how I can keep healthy both mentally and physically.
Normal aging means that I’m likely to learn slower, remember less, and find it more difficult to hold a triangle pose in yoga class. Fortunately, there is now science-backed evidence to show that regular meditation training can change your DNA which can reduce the mental aging process, and improve overall health.
Telomeres protect portions of our DNA strands that naturally shorten during aging. Regular mindfulness meditation and mindfulness practices have been shown to reduce telomere shortening and preserve brain health.
What Is Telomere Length, and Why Does It Matter?
If you haven’t heard of telomeres, I don’t blame you. We’re not all scientists, and we’re not all interested in reading up on the intricacies of cellular aging.
Put simply, telomeres are tiny bits of genetic material that sit on the end of our chromosomes. The best example I’ve found to understand them is shoelaces.
If you look at a shoelace there’s the lace and at each end, there’s the plastic seal. Imagine the shoelace is your DNA with all the information about how your body should grow, and the plastic seals at the end are the telomeres. Longer telomeres mean your DNA – and you – stay younger.
Why Does Telomere Length Shorten?
Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. This process happens because of telomerase, an enzyme that naturally breaks down our telomeres. Over time, as our cells continue to divide, the shortening of our telomeres accelerates, leading to what we know as aging. (Boo!)
But aging isn’t the only thing that causes telomeres to shorten. Oftentimes stress and unhealthy habits can also cause telomeres to shorten faster than they typically would, leading to premature aging. It’s actually possible to slow down or even reverse this process, as studies have found that telomere length increases with healthy lifestyle habits.
So, Why Is Telomere Length So Important?
A longer telomere length has been linked to several benefits including:
- improved life expectancy
- reduced biological aging
- physical health
- mental health
- reduced risk of developing certain diseases
People with longer telomeres typically look younger, live longer, and are much less likely to suffer from age-related illnesses.
It stands to reason that anything we can do to lengthen telomeres could benefit our overall health and well-being. And that’s where meditation comes in.
How Does Meditation Fit Into the Picture?
So, how do meditation and telomere length come together to form a possible solution for healthier aging? Well, it turns out that regular mindful meditation practices can actually increase the length of our telomeres. This means that our bodies are actually gaining a protective layer of genetic material when we meditate, which can help us stay healthier for longer.
The science behind this is still being explored, but a growing body of research suggests meditation can increase our telomere length and improve telomerase activity. Here are three incredible findings from the research so far:
1. Loving-kindness meditation significantly increases telomere length
A recent study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology revealed the effects of loving-kindness meditation on telomeres, which are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes responsible for aging.
The study involved adults, ages 18 and up, with either extensive training and experience with loving-kindness meditation or none at all. The participants’ telomere lengths were assessed before and after the 6-week workshop, showing that those with many years of loving-kindness meditation had significantly longer telomeres than those who did not meditate.
These findings suggest that a consistent loving-kindness meditation practice can effectively slow down the aging process by reducing telomere deterioration and attrition.
2. Mindfulness meditation increases telomerase activity
Another study published by the same journal examined the effects of mindfulness meditation on telomerase activity. Through their review of four separate studies, researchers found that those who engaged in regular meditation showed a higher level of telomerase activity than those who did not.
Telomerase activity is an important process as it helps protect and maintain the length of telomeres, which are essential for healthy cell division and longevity.
This study suggests that mindfulness meditation can play an important role in promoting improved health and longevity through its positive influence on telomerase activity.
3. Meditation and yoga can reverse cell damage
Finally, a study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity demonstrated the impact that regular yoga and meditation practices have on cellular aging in healthy individuals. The 12-week study tracked the changes in cellular marker levels for 12 weeks.
It found that yoga and meditation significantly improved genomic stability, telomere metabolism, the balance of cellular oxidative stress, stress and inflammatory responses, and more.
In other words, the participants had reduced cell damage and greater protection against age-related illnesses due to their regular meditation practices.
This study provides evidence that meditation can effectively combat the effects of aging by reversing some of the damage caused to our cells, which is incredibly exciting!
How Many Minutes of Meditation to Improve Telomere Length Are Needed?
The amount of time that you need to meditate to see the benefits is not that well established. But if the time needed to lengthen telomeres is the same as the time taken to see changes in the brain, then 13 regular minutes of meditation training for at least 90 days should have an impact.
But in any case, this shouldn’t be seen as a countdown, committing to a long-term practice of mindful meditation should benefit telomere length. Why not look at some meditation apps to help your practice?
How to Integrate Meditation Into Your Life
By now, you’re probably sold on the idea of meditating for a longer, healthier life. But how do you actually go about doing it? Well, there are a few simple ways you can start bringing mindfulness into your life. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Telomere length is necessary for understanding how we age and our overall health. Mindfulness meditation and other healthy lifestyle habits can help keep telomeres long and lead to a healthier life. So take some time to slow down, tune into your breath, and start unlocking the secrets of longevity!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.