What's In Your Emotional Diet?
Has the spread of the virus stressed you out? Worried about an elderly relative – or yourself? Find your mind wandering while WFH?
While we’ve previously discussed how meditation can help with focus or stress management (see links below) we’ve recently come across some research that indicates that meditation may help us live longer and healthier. Here’s a little sciency background. Our cells contain telomeres. Telomeres are part of DNA. They cap the ends of each strand of DNA and protect the chromosomes. A common illustration technique is to think of them like the plastic wraps on the ends of shoelaces that keep them from raveling. Telomeres are necessary for complete DNA replication. Telomeres shorten with age. Shorter telomeres are associated with increased evidence of disease. One’s lifestyle can influence telomere shortening or lengthening. Lifestyle choices such as a healthy diet and exercise may lengthen them. Prior research has shown that meditation can have a positive effect on telomere length.
All that, of course is our layman’s view. Readers who are MDs and scientists know there is a whole lot more to that story. But it should be a sufficient predicate to the following research.
Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina, Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, is the Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab, and has a particular interest in the effect that positive emotions can have on health. She has a focus on cancer prevention and control.
Dr. Fredrickson led a study to determine if there were differences in the style of meditation and effect on telomere length. She recruited 176 test subjects who had no prior meditation experience. One group did mindfulness meditation (focusing on the present moment); a second group on loving kindness meditation (where one repeats messages such as “may you feel safe”); the third was the control group. Conclusions: at the end of six weeks of regular meditation, both meditating groups had longer telomeres than the control group, with the loving-kindness style having the longest.
From Dr. Fredrickson:
“The biggest news is that we’re able to change something physical about people’s health by increasing their daily diet of positive emotion, and that helps us get at a long-standing mystery of how our emotional and social experience affects our physical health”.
If you would like to learn more about meditation, we’ve covered some aspects of it before including:
An overview of the benefits that can be derived,
Using meditation to control stress (could be useful about now),
We have a limited supply of hard-to-find books on meditation, including Preston Bentley’s Meditation Made Easy and Suzy Yalof Schwartz’ Unplug, if you are thinking about trying it, or exploring different meditation techniques further.
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