Years ago, one of my patients told me that life was like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.
But what if there is a way to slow it down?
Meditation means different things to different people. For some people it is sitting in silence. For some it is prayer or listening to guided meditation. Others do their meditating by simply being in nature. And yet others find stillness in the rhythm of their breath with walking or running.
No matter how you define it, mindful stillness calms the both body and the mind, reconnects the two, and and allows both to reorganize from the stress we all experience. Meditation decreases the flight or fight or adrenaline-filled state so many of us live in constantly and increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows for better digestion, healing and relaxation. We instinctively know it’s good for us, but sometimes it’s hard to justify taking the time.
The cool thing is that the latest scientific research shows just how great this important practice is, even down to its influence on our genetics and our cells. At the ends of our DNA strands are something called telomeres, which are now being studied as a way of measuring the aging of our cells. Telomeres cover the ends of our chromosomes to stop them from fraying as our cells replicate. Think of a telomere like the plastic cap on the end of shoestring.
Telomeres get shorter as a cell ages. When they get very short, the cell can’t divide and it dies.
Stress, the perception of stress, and unhealthy lifestyle shorten the telomeres. Yes, that’s right, stress ages the human body at a cellular level.
But guess what? Meditation lengthens our telomeres!
It’s now possible to get a blood test to check your telomere length. Some people like to have this kind of information. It might help them make the lifestyle change they know they need to make. Others can simply slow down and listen to their body and know that this is good for them!