There’s no such thing as the mind and the body as separate, independent units.
Our bodies aren’t shells or housing for our minds either.
Body and mind are inextricably intertwined, and the thoughts that we think, and the activity of the mind, determine the health and expression of our DNA.
Researchers measure the health of DNA by measuring something called telomeres.
Telomeres are stretches of DNA that cover the ends of our DNA strands. Think of them as the protective plastic tips that cover the ends of shoelaces.
Without telomeres, DNA would become damaged and tattered at the ends, just like your shoelaces without the aglet (I did a google search for that!).
One of the more widely accepted theories on why and how age affects the human body is the theory of telomere deterioration. Or in other words, the aglets wear away and the shoelace becomes a frayed mess at the end.
In general, older and less healthy people have shorter and less intact telomeres. Younger and healthier people have longer and more intact telomeres.
Telomeres are measurably shorter in people with chronic and degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, and high stress.
Needless to say, measuring telomeres is pretty interesting to researchers because some think they hold the key to longevity and vitality.
Once something can be measured, it can be studied…
People enrolled in mindfulness training maintain telomere length compared to control groups whose telomere length shrank. Cancer and heart disease patients are frequently studied.
Meditation and mindfulness practices preserve telomere length.
There are two mechanisms that lead to telomere preservation.
One is the increase of an enzyme called telomerase. Telomerase directs the addition of DNA to the ends of the chromosomes, and mindfulness and meditation increase telomerase.
The other mechanism is via the reduction of cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that (among many other things) increases inflammation.
An entire book can be written on the damaging effects of inflammation, but for here I’ll say that inflammation is at the root of chronic disease and pain.
People who meditate have higher antibody titers against the flu virus.
They have less anxiety, a greater attention span, and reduced age related memory loss.
Meditation improves sleep, reduces cravings, reduces blood pressure, and helps control pain.
Whatever stereotypes you have about meditation, you can release them.
Start with short and simple meditation sessions. Even a couple minutes a few times a day has a positive impact.
You don’t have to silent your mind. If that’s hard for you, focus on your breath, a pleasant sound or image, or a mantra (word).
Try sitting with eyes closed and just thinking or saying the word “release” each time you exhale.
Or sit or lie quietly and count your breaths.
A form of meditation called Samu involves mindfulness in motion, and you can read about that here:
You DO have say over your health.
Your heredity does not have to be your destiny.
Your body can and will heal! Have more faith in the power that made your body, because it also heals your body.
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Originally published at Change Your Mind Change Your Life on Medium.com