Growing Younger and Living Longer through Meditation
Aug 29, 2013 03:08PM
● By Marsha Perry, RN
The influence of our mind and beliefs on aging is becoming more appreciated as documented scientific research confirms the wisdom that many cultures have held for eons. A landmark study by Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer, Ph.D., showed that the socalled irreversible signs of aging actually could be reversed through psychological shifts in awareness and increases in physical and mental activity. “Wherever you put the mind, the body will follow,” states Langer in Harvard Magazine. Research on the mind’s influence upon every cell within the body reveals that we can increase, decrease or reverse aging and disease.
Instead of health and aging predetermined by genetic predispositions, some scientists now believe that the trajectory of our longevity and vitality is linked to our conscious attention and intention for our daily choices of routines, thoughts and attitudes. We can truly transform our everyday experiences to decrease our biological age.
A simple solution to setting a trajectory towards growing younger and living longer is reducing stress and the effect of stress on our body and mind. The practice of Primordial Sound Meditation, used at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, in Carlsbad, California, is one such tool for creating a mind and a body that is resting, recovering and revitalizing.
The physiological and emotional responses to stress are well documented. Our bodies automatically respond to unmet needs with a stress response called fight-or-flight. If we respond that way to every need that’s not met, evidence shows that we will likely die sooner or live a more painful life. In his book, Secrets of Meditation, davidji, the lead educator at the Chopra Center, writes, “Fortunately, mediation offers us a tool that helps reverse the impact that fight-or-flight and ego responses have on our mind and bodies. Meditation is the tool that can unravel the cellular damage that stress has caused and alter our DNA hardwiring of the fight-or-flight response.”
Research by 2009 Nobel Prize winners Elizabeth H. Balckburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack Szostak discovered that our chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. These protective caps on the ends of the long, threadlike DNA molecules that carry our genes determine the very health of each cell as it is created. As lower levels of stress hormones are introduced into our system through a daily meditation practice, telomeres mend and our immune function rises. Emotionally, we start to respond more intuitively and less reactively, releasing us from the prison of ego response. In time, we will be moved from an existence of conditioned, limiting beliefs to a more unconditioned life, pregnant with infinite possibilities and better health.
Reducing and remediating the effects of stress by a practice of meditation allows us to daily grow a little younger and live with vitality a little longer. Meditation is a simple and powerful way to change the trajectory of our body and mind and the biological markers of age. As reported in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a research team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported the results of their study. Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program made measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. They were the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.
The analysis of MRI images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey matter density in the hippocampus (important for learning and memory) and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participant-reported reductions in stress also correlated with decreased grey matter density in the amygdala, (important for anxiety and stress). “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, Ph.D., first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University, in Germany.
Research shows people that meditate regularly develop fewer of the stress-related illnesses known to speed up aging. We have the power to nurture our mind and body and reduce the toxicity of stress in our life by incorporating a mediation routine into our daily life. The results can be very immediate and impactful. “How we treat ourselves in meditation is how we treat ourselves in life. So if we can make our mediation experience whole, complete and loving, we can flow that being out into the world,” states davidji.
Marsha Perry, RN, BA Ed, is a Chopra Center certified primordial sound meditation instructor. She will conduct a weekend event with davidji in Oct., offering instruction in Primordial Sound Meditation, a Chopra Center certified course. For more information, email [email protected] or visit PerfectHealthTucson.com.