Tag Archives: Meditation

Study: Love/Kindness Meditation Slows Biological Aging & Protects DNA Strands

ARJUN WALIA
DECEMBER 27, 2021

The Facts:

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.

CONTINUE READING

2 Surprisingly Powerful Ways To Calm Your Mind

Nick Polizzi,
July 22nd, 2020

We are living through tumultuous times. Between the global pandemic and the worldwide outcry for social change, it is easy to become overwhelmed. I know I do.

Alarming footage is everywhere, there’s a hodgepodge of different ideas, and it seems like everyone is on edge.

That’s why it is incredibly important to cultivate a few practices that will calm and center you – within minutes.

If you’re in a constant state of fight-or-flight, your body’s vital processes slowly shut down, and your immune and digestive systems are the first to suffer. BUT – if you can catch yourself in those challenging moments before they turn into anxiety, your body can bounce back quickly!

Here are two of the biggest allies I have in my arsenal to nourish and calm my mind.

1) The magic of magnesium 

There are a lot of supplements out there and trying to find what’s right for you can sometimes be dizzying. But studies have shown that up to 75% of adults in the US are not meeting the 320 mg (women) or 420 mg (men) of magnesium needed daily.

Why is this a problem?

Magnesium is a vital nutrient that your body needs to make and use energy in your cells. It also stops your body from absorbing toxins that you come into contact with in your everyday life!

But the big reason you absolutely need magnesium is because it pulls the plug on your brain’s reflexive responses to stress, so you produce fewer stress hormones!

Otherwise, when you’re constantly stressed, your hippocampus creates an excess of cortisol, which eventually can lead to big problems like the inability to retain memories.

Here’s an awesome recipe for plant-based magnesium-rich granola bars!

Magnesium Power Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups oatmeal
  • ¼ cup almonds – 1 oz, 80 mg of magnesium
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds – 1 oz, 168 mg of magnesium
  • ¼ cup cashews – 1 oz, 74 mg of magnesium
  • ? cup honey/molasses/maple syrup
  • ? cup peanut butter + 2 tablespoons, 49 mg of magnesium
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, but yummy)
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt salt
  • ½ cup berries or chocolate chips (or both)

Instructions

  1. Pour oats and nuts onto a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. Shake the pan and flip larger pieces over. Then bake for another 3 minutes.
  2. Combine liquid ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Add in nuts and oats.
  4. Stir until completely combined.
  5. Transfer mixture to a large wax paper-lined cookie sheet and press flat.
  6. Freeze for at least 3 hours.
  7. Slice and enjoy

2) Deep Belly Breathing

First of all, what is “deep belly breathing”? Diaphragmatic breathing is when you breathe in with enough depth that your stomach (specifically the area of the diaphragm) expands followed by your lungs.

According to a study at Harvard, belly breathing helps oxygen travel all over the body. This calms down racing hearts and stimulates the vagus nerve which lowers the body’s need to produce stress hormones.

If you can get yourself into the habit of practicing deep belly breathing 1-4 times a day, you can ease tension in your body, decrease your anxiety levels, find deeper sleep, and boost your energy.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Find a safe place — somewhere quiet where you can lay flat on your back or sit with your back flat against a wall. When your back is straight, it’s easier to notice the depth of your breath.
  2. Take 3 normal breaths.
  3. Place your hands on your stomach, just above your belly button.
  4. Breathe in slowly through your nose and try to expand your stomach so much that your hands rise with it.
  5. Hold for just a second and notice how far your hands have risen on your belly.
  6. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth.
  7. Repeat 5 times. Each time, try to relax even deeper into the breath.

These are two incredibly simple, and surprisingly powerful, additions to your daily routine. Be sure to be kind to your mind every day, but especially during these stressful times.

About The Author

Nick Polizzi

Nick Polizzi has spent his career directing and editing feature length documentaries about natural alternatives to conventional medicine. Nick’s current role as director of “The Sacred Science” documentary and author of “The Sacred Science: An Ancient Healing Path For The Modern World” stems from a calling to honor, preserve, and protect the ancient knowledge and rituals of the indigenous peoples of the world.

This Japanese Buddhist Monk Creates Beatboxing Meditation Chants Using His Own Voice

John Vibes,
August 20th, 2020

A Japanese Zen Buddhist monk named Yogetsu Akasaka has recently gone viral with his beatboxing skills, but it is a skill that he has been developing for a long time. It came as a surprise to many people that a monk would be interested in something like beatboxing, but for the most part, monks are people with interests just like the rest of us.

Akasaka says that he has been beatboxing since long before he became a monk, and that he first became interested in learning how to do it because he was astonished that people could make music with their mouths.

“It’s not that I wanted to gain attention for my ‘uniqueness,’ I just wanted to continue my passion for music. In the same way someone plays the guitar or the drums, I myself am just a normal performer…My friend had given me a CD of a Japanese beatboxer named Afra and said that he was performing using his mouth. I was absolutely shocked that people could do such things, and so I was interested in trying it. And then I realised, I was pretty good at it,” he said in an interview with Vice.

Akasaka began beatboxing about 15 years ago, when he was in his early 20s. He has only been a monk for about 5 years, which was a path that he chose to follow in the footsteps of his father. Before he was a monk, he traveled the world beatboxing on the streets for crowds in Japan, Australia, and the United States

Usually in Japan, people become monks because their family lives in a temple. But for my father, he was just a normal person who decided to become a monk. I was inspired, and decided I wanted to succeed in my father’s current role as an abbot in a temple in the Iwate Prefecture,” he said.

Akasaka said that he wanted to create upbeat and inspiring music, especially because monks are often thought to be solemn.

“I think in Japan, people often associate Buddhism with funerals, and the sutra has a little bit of a negative and sad image,” Akasaka said.

“I have had fans tell me that they were able to sleep well and relax due to my beatboxing videos, which is absolutely amazing. I am honored to be able to combine my passion with my religious beliefs, and that this has impacted people around the world,” he added.

Three Meditation Exercises to Practice at Home

Exploring Your Mind
August 24th, 2020

These meditation exercises derive from an ancient technique used for training your mind to reduce stress, anxiety, and, also, to connect deeper with yourself. In fact, just 30 minutes a day can considerably change these states of mind. Furthermore, not only does it lessen any discomfort you might have but it also helps you feel much better.

Although you may not know it, there are many advantages to meditating at home. However, you must find a place away from distractions to do so. It’ll help you feel much better and more protected. The best part is you can do it at any time of the day.

It can be a bit difficult to attain an optimal state of concentration and relaxation if you’ve never meditated before. However, just follow a few simple steps and practice it frequently, and you’ll see how soon you get it.

A woman meditating.

Firstly, create an appropriate atmosphere where to practice meditation exercises

Before preparing your meditation environment, you must decide whether you’ll do these exercises on your own accord or if you’ll follow the guidelines of an app or a video.

Apps are very useful. In fact, you can program the time you want to dedicate and the level from which you’d like to start. Also, they make this practice easier for beginners.

Once you’ve decided how to do it, you’ll have to take into account the following to make the most out of it:

  • Find a quiet place. It’s essential to find a corner that’s as silent as possible, where the possibility of interruption is either null or minimal. You won’t get good results in a spot where there are frequent interruptions.
  • Comfortable posture. The lotus position is the classic choice for meditation, but you can start with other postures. You can even meditate while lying down. The most important thing here is to be in a relaxed position in which your body isn’t a distraction.
  • Avoid distractions. As we indicated above, it’s essential to avoid all sources of distractions: turn off your phone, the television, close the door of the room, close the windows, etc. You must be relaxed enough to be able to focus on your bodily sensations.
  • Finally, find the right moment. Yes, meditation is good for reaching a state of relaxation. However, if you do it in a hurry or under pressure, you won’t be able to do it correctly and the practice will be pointless. As you can see, you must choose a time in which you feel well enough and you can put your mind into it.

Basic meditation exercises to practice at home

Although there are many techniques for meditation exercises, some of them are easier for beginners to meditate at home.

1. Breathing exercises

This is the most basic exercise for relaxation and meditation. All you have to do is concentrate on your breathing. Controlling this physiological mechanism is essential for you to be able to relax. Note that it requires practice and concentration in spite of how easy it seems to be.

Forgetting about external stimuli, begin to take deep and slow breaths. Pay attention to them and notice how your body relaxes. Try to ignore any thoughts you might have at the moment and give your body your full attention.

In addition to being very useful in itself, you’ll also use it during the other two. Thus, it’ll be your basis for meditation.

2. Objective observation

In the previous exercise, you were encouraged to avoid thoughts. Contrary to it, the goal of this exercise consists of relaxing your body and allowing your thoughts to flow.

Thus, it’ll be necessary to focus on “watching” your thoughts without trying to change them or intervene in any way. Simply pay attention to them and let them be.

Ultimately, this exercise is about being a witness to your thoughts without getting carried away by them. It’s about thinking about them without judgment and watching them go by without concentrating on any of them in particular.

3. Body scan

Another simple exercise to meditate at home is the body scan technique. For this exercise, you must be in a comfortable position while controlling your breathing. Also, you must focus on the various areas of your body and the sensations you’re experiencing at that particular moment.

To do this, you first have to try to clear your mind and leave it blank while you focus on your various muscle groups.

For example, start by connecting with your feet; feel them, without judging them, and notice the sensations you have in them. Then, move on to your legs and notice the weight, the heat, the shape, and so on until you go through your entire body.

A woman practicing meditation.

Progress after practicing meditation exercises

As with every form of exercise, you must be constant and patient. You probably won’t notice much difference and will be a little disappointed at the beginning. This is normal.

However, it’s hard to get short-term benefits with this practice. To do it, you must give yourself time and continue to try it even though it doesn’t go as you thought it would.

Some people think you have to do something for about 21 days in order for it to become a habit. However, you must go beyond and try to build a new lifestyle. In other words, integrate this new activity into your routine and try to find the right time and environment for it. Especially when it comes to working on your emotions. Progression is slow when it comes to meditation but the benefits are well worth it.

More Public Schools Are Choosing Meditation Over Detention

 Alanna Ketler
June 17th, 2020

Public schools in Pittsburgh are now joining the growing number of forward-thinking educators by bringing mindfulness practices into the daily schedule for students. As more observe the beneficial outcomes from the practice of meditation rather than what many feel to be archaic methods of disciplinary tactics, the more we begin to see these practices catch on.

We already know that the traditional education system needs some work, in more ways than one. Many children are faced with a lot of stress and pressure from the demands of the public education system. Children are also subject to various social pressures that arise at school. Robert Scherrer, Superintendent at North Allegheny, brought mindfulness practices into his schools for this exact purpose, he commented,

“We realize that a number of our students were experiencing tremendous amounts of stress. We wanted to teach them some strategies and techniques that could really help them deal with that stress.”

School children, especially those attending schools in the U.S. are under even more pressure and stress because of the much-too-frequent school shootings and thus increased security, lockdown drills and a rising tension in their environment. No doubt that meditation can help the students to remain calm and hopefully release any fear and anxiety that may be lingering because of these unfortunate acts of violence.

Meditation Instead Of Detention

Some schools are opting to try meditation before detention to get the results they are after and also to try and prevent the issue from happening again. Pittsburgh wasn’t the first school to do this, San Francisco has had great success with these programs a few years ago, NBC News reported,

NBC correspondent Cynthia McFadden asked O’Driscoll what he first thought of this new tactic,

So did you buy into this in the beginning, or were you like, hold on a minute, meditation?

I thought it was a joke. I thought, this is ‘hippie’ stuff that didn’t work in the 70’s so how is it going to work  now?” O’Driscoll admitted.

But it wasn’t long until the skeptical coach was made a believer. Four years after ‘Quiet Time’ was introduced into the daily regime of the grade school students, some remarkable results were shown, including a 79% decrease in suspensions, an increase in attendance to 98.3%, and an overall increase of GPA by .4.

Today, over 1500 students and 170 staffers have been trained in transcendental meditation in four schools, including Burton High, a place once known as ‘fight school’.

Bill Kappenhaggen, principal at Burton High, admitted he was initially worried about taking time out of the student’s academic schedule, so he increased the school day by half an hour to make time for meditation. But his worry proved wrong, as the school has already seen a 75% decrease in suspensions and a successful jump from the bottom of California’s academic ladder to a rightful spot in the upper middle level of achievement. 

Some of the students from Burton high explained what this new practice has done for them,

It makes you more conscious of your actions,” one female student explained.

It brings you down to that [level of] ‘calmness’,” another male said.

A young student named Tobias revealed that meditation even helped him deal with his insistent anger, “[Before this], I always wanted to fight everybody for some reason.” 

In a closing interview, McFadden asked Principal Kappenhaggen if he really thought it was possible for meditation to change the violence and stresses outside the school walls, to which he responded, “I do not, but I do believe [that it] can help change the way the [students] deal with the violence, the trauma, and the stresses of everyday life.”

With Awareness Comes Change

Seems like finally, we are coming to terms with the fact that the old methods of doing things, including many in the public school sector, simply aren’t working anymore. Out with the old, it’s time to embrace the new. Hopefully, the alternative of teaching students these mindfulness practices will continue to spread so these kids can gain the tools that may help them with stepping into their potential and being able to maintain a healthy state of mind.