Scientists have shown that loving-kindness meditation has a positive impact at the cellular level.
The study examined how different types of meditation influenced telomere length, an indicator of physiological aging.
Cultivating compassion and friendly feelings towards others slowed the decline of telomeres.
Reflect On: Should mindfulness interventions be taught to us from a young age? Should they be included in school curriculums and perhaps implemented in the workplace? Should they be prescribed by doctors in certain circumstances?
In today’s world, where there’s no money there’s no attention. This is especially true when it comes to the medical-industrial complex, and it’s why the science behind health interventions that can be quite beneficial are not at the forefront of mainstream medicine.
The mind-body connection is one of these health interventions. A study published in 2019 is one of many that has provided proof of just how impactful mindfulness interventions can be on human biology. It’s titled “Loving-kindness meditation slows biological aging in novices: Evidence from a 12-week randomized controlled trial” and was published in the Journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
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The study suggests that loving-kindness meditation has a measurable positive impact at the cellular level. The study examined how different types of meditation influenced telomere length, which is an indicator of physiological aging.
Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA called chromosomes. With time they get shorter. For the most part, the more we age the shorter they get. Other environmental toxins, like smoking and unhealthy habits, also contribute to the shortening of our telomeres. There are also a number of habits and substances that have been shown to slow down this process & even lengthen our telomeres, like fasting for example, which in essence means one is reversing the aging process.
“Chronological age and biological age are not identical. The former is measured in years, whereas the latter is often indexed by telomere length,” the authors explained. “Telomeres progressively shorten with cell division (i.e., aging) in general but may also be replenished or lengthened by the enzyme telomerase.”
The study was 12 weeks long and comprised of 176 participants between the ages of 35-64 years old. All of the participants had little to no meditation experience and were assigned to a 6-week long loving-kindness meditation workshop, a 6-week mindfulness meditation workshop, or a waitlist control group.
Researchers collected blood samples at the beginning and end of the study in order to measure telomere length before and after the meditation intervention.
The mindfulness meditation workshop helped the participants focus on the present moment and develop a nonjudgemental attitude. It was simply used to help bring one’s awareness into the present moment, while the loving-kindness meditation workshop focused on helping participants cultivate warm and friendly feelings towards others.
The researchers found that telomere length shortened for everybody, which is normal, but the daily practice of the loving-kindness meditation created a buffer against the decline. The researchers explained that in the loving-kindness group, there was “no significant telomere shortening over time.”
These results correlate with other studies that have looked at meditation and telomere length. Research published in the journal Cancer in 2014 found that telomeres maintained their length in breast cancer survivors who practiced mindfulness meditation. Additionally, a 2018 study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that telomere length actually increased in meditation retreat participants after three weeks.
Feeling gratitude, which can be part of a loving-kindness meditation also changes the molecular structure of the brain. Neuroimaging studies have shown this to be true.
Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant. Now that’s a really cool way of taking care of your well-being.UCLA Newsroom, Joan Moran.
You can read more about that here.
Other fascinating research in this area has come from the scientists at the HeartMath Institute. Their research has also shown the importance of emotions not just on our own biology, but on others as well.