According to The American Institute of Stress and Gallup, more than half of Americans experience stress throughout their day.
When comparing Americans with other populations in the world, Americans rank among the communities that are most stressed out.
The effects of chronic stress can reduce a person’s lifespan.
This long-term stress condition can lead to significant health problems or worsen current health issues, including mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
It can also contribute to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and gastrointestinal problems.
Taking steps to manage stress better can help prevent these serious health risks.
Meditation proves effective at handling stress since it can focus your attention away from problems and create a deep state of relaxation and calm.
It is also effective at supporting bodily functions, such as reducing blood pressure and relieving pain.
However, scientists are finding that meditation may produce even more advantages than once thought.
Some studies show that meditation can help reduce cellular aging. When cells age, it increases the incidence of diseases.
Slowing down the aging process can help increase longevity.
In fact, practicing meditation can help buffer this process, and scientists are finding loving-kindness meditation may be the most effective meditation.
When you think of aging, you may likely think of your chronological age.
Chronological age is your age based on date of birth.
While chronological age plays a significant role in determining disease and death, biological age hones in on the cellular aging process.
Biological age relates to having the energy and activity of someone younger, such as a 30-year old when, in reality, your age is 50.
Continuous damage to a cell or the expression of predetermined information within the genetic structure of the cell affects the process of cellular aging.
Telomeres play a significant role in this process.
Telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes from damage and support the stability of the genome, so genes stay intact and don’t unravel or deteriorate.
Chromosomes are threadlike structures consisting of tightly wound DNA carrying genetic information.
Scientists often refer to telomeres as the plastic caps found on the end of shoelaces.
Chromosomes exist in the nucleus of each cell. As the cell divides, telomeres shorten.
The shorter the telomeres become, the less the cell can divide.
Eventually, the cell dies or becomes senescent or “zombie-like.”
The telomere shortening process is affected by age and lifestyle factors, such as reduced physical activity, obesity, and stress.
Telomere shortening raises the incidence of diseases that can increase the risk of death.
More studies have narrowed in on the link between telomere length and chronic stress. Some suggest meditation can help.
A study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences addresses whether or not meditation can slow the rate of cellular aging.
It examines the role of psychological stress cognitions.
These perceptions include exaggerated threats and consistent negative thoughts that prolong people’s reactions.
After reviewing numerous data, the study’s scientists suggest some forms of meditation can have a beneficial effect on telomere length.
The meditation can reduce cognitive stress and stress arousal, increase positive states of mind, and hormonal factors that may support telomere maintenance.
Some forms of meditation can increase awareness of thought, sense of control, and the acceptance of an emotional experience.
These effects help buffer stress and may slow the rate of cellular aging since meditative practice can improve the endocrine balance, decrease oxidative stress, and increase hormones that protect the telomere; thus, supporting longevity.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that focuses attention on the present moment. It directs a person to pay close attention to the body and breath.
It also encourages a sense of curiosity and an acceptance of any thoughts or feelings.
The effects of mindfulness meditation include decreasing emotional distress and enhancing well-being.
Practitioners often teach this type of meditation with variations of loving-kindness meditation, a practice that’s less studied.
Loving-kindness meditation encourages compassion for the individual and for others.
Not only does it increase empathy, but it also supports health and well being in general and boosts positive emotions.
Scientists suggest that this meditation can buffer the slowing down of biological aging and is likely the most effective meditation for longevity.
Some researchers decided to focus on loving-kindness meditation to compare its effects on telomere length with mindfulness meditation’s effects on telomere length.
The study appears in Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Researchers sought out 176 participants in parts of North Carolina. The participant’s ages ranged between 35 and 64 years old.
They divided the individuals into three experimental groups: loving-kindness, mindfulness meditation, and a control group.
They counted only the people who fully participated in the sessions. As a result, the final number of participants became 142.
Researchers measured the telomere length of the 142 adults two weeks before their meditation practice and three weeks afterward.
The meditation workshops occurred weekly for six weeks.
The participants received homework assignments and audio-recorded guided meditations to develop a daily meditation practice.
The mindfulness meditation practice focused on the body, emotions, thoughts, and choiceless awareness.
The loving-kindness practice focused on oneself, an acquaintance, a difficult person, and all beings.
The participants of this practice also learned warmth, kindness, and social connection.
The results showed that telomere shortening occurred for all participants; however, participants practicing loving-kindness meditation experienced significantly less shortening.
The Effects of Stress
People experience stress and deal with stress in a variety of ways.
Good stress, often called eustress, can motivate people into action and bad stress can impact the body’s functions and increase the risk of health problems.
Good stress is absent of threats and embraces new experiences and encourages us to accomplish more.
It is the stress that gets our hearts pumping and our adrenaline running.
It can include activities such as completing a challenging fitness routine, starting a new career, getting married, having a child, or starting the first day of school.
Bad stress is chronic stress that affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It’s the heavy toll of encountering challenges and obstacles that prevent the ability to gain relief or relax.
Mentally and emotionally, you feel as if you are experiencing a constant attack or a lack of control.
Bad stress can result from activities that include a considerable workload, taking care of a family, and finding ways to pay bills.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the physical effects of chronic stress include headaches, muscle tension, an upset stomach, and lack of sleep.
The stress may bring about anxiety, lack of motivation and focus, the feeling of being overwhelmed as well as anger, irritability, sadness, or depression.
As a result, these moods may cause us to eat more or less, unleash an angry outburst, misuse drugs and alcohol, and withdrawal from social activities.
People are often encouraged to find activities to help them feel relaxed, such as participating in hobbies, spending more time with family and friends, and practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation.
The Effects of Meditation
The use of meditation among U.S. adults is increasing. A 2017 National Health Interview Survey discovered that the amount of U.S. adults using meditation tripled between the years 2012 and 2017.
Meditation has a long history. It is a mind and body practice or training used in several communities throughout the world.
People often associate meditation with spirituality as well as relaxation and stress reduction.
It also helps to increase self-awareness, focus, imagination and creativity, patience, and tolerance.
Many researchers conducted studies on meditation to understand its effectiveness, and the results suggest evidence of its usefulness for a variety of health conditions.
They also demonstrate how meditation supports longevity.
The Exploration of Consciousness Research Institute, or EOC Institute, reviews the latest research on meditation studies from scientific journals.
Its Guide to Anti-Aging, Longevity and Life Extension, highlights the many benefits of meditation.
Meditation can boost the production of glutathione, an antioxidant found within the cell, which can help ward off oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can damage and alter cells. It can also cause telomere shortening.
Early studies show that meditation can help increase nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide helps increase blood flow by relaxing the inner muscles of blood vessels and regulating blood pressure.
Meditation can increase telomerase.
Telomerase is an enzyme that helps manage telomere shortening, so the telomere doesn’t shorten too much during cell division.
Meditation reaps the benefits of resveratrol found in red wine. It increases Sirtuin 1 levels, which resveratrol activates.
Sirtuin 1 is a prominent member of the sirtuins, a family of proteins that help monitor the health of a cell and support longevity.
Meditation boosts the brain neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This protein acts as a neurotransmitter modulator and is critical for learning and memory.
Chronic stress can contribute to an assortment of health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Take steps to control your symptoms and visit with a health provider to identify underlying causes.
Start incorporating meditation into your daily routine. Begin by finding a quiet location with no distractions and a comfortable seat where you can sit straight with your feet flat on the ground.
Close your eyes, rest your hands on your lap, and focus your attention on taking deep breaths to calm your mind and body.
When encountering negative situations, “letting it go” and “dusting the dirt off your shoulder” can go a long way to improve your health and your lifespan.
Controlling your mind and thoughts through meditation can help manage your anxiety, stress, and depression, and happy and compassionate thoughts can produce positive emotions that may enhance your longevity.